We get to breathe a sigh of relief today after MRI results on Guard Zack Martin were negative for any major back issues. But for that period of worried anticipation, there was some comfort in knowing we have a capable player in backup Joe Looney in case there was bad news.
While not an All-Pro like Martin, Looney has proven himself a starting-quality player in his three years with the Cowboys. That was especially confirmed in 2018 when Joe started all 16 games at center during Travis Frederick’s battle with a neurological disease.
Even with the added challenges of the center position, Looney helped keep the line stable and the Cowboys get back to the playoffs. It’s a safe bet that, if he had to step in at guard, Joe would once again prove himself an asset and a contributor to a winning team.
This is worth noting because some, including myself, have suggest Joe Looney could be a solid trade candidate at final cuts. He has an expiring contract and will likely find a starting job somewhere in the NFL in 2020. If there’s a team needing help this year, Dallas might be able to get a mid-round pick if they move Looney now.
But a future draft pick can’t step in and help you at center or guard this season, and that’s what Zack Martin’s injury scare reminded me of. Sometimes, you just have to hang on to your depth.
Sure, the Cowboys still have 3rd-round rookie Connor McGovern and veterans Xavier Su’a-Filo and Adam Redmond. Any of these guys could be passable if needed, but they would all likely be a downgrade from Joe Looney.
McGovern was drafted with 2020 in mind; a potential replacement when Looney hits free agency and perhaps even a starting guard option if Connor Williams gets moved to tackle. But despite his upside, the idea of him starting this season is scary given Dallas’ lofty goals.
It’s easier to consider these other options when we’re talking about guard. But imagine if this was Travis Frederick getting an MRI or having some other problem; how much more would we be grateful for Looney’s presence?
That’s the issue; feeling comfortable at any of these interior OL positions changes the minute one of our starters goes down. We take for granted that players like Martin and Frederick will be out there for every snap because, before 2018, they always were.
But all other issues aside, Travis and Zack are now entering their seventh and sixth NFL seasons. And Connor Williams, while still young, missed games last year with injury. We can’t feel as confident about everyone making it through the year as we used to.
So while trading Joe Looney for some 2020 draft capital sounds good on paper, it’s still a significant gamble. As savvy as it may sound from on perspective, the loss to Dallas’ offensive line depth could wind up costing you heavily if one of the starters misses time.