Building a Dallas Cowboys Roster that will Contend in 2012, Part 1: Offense

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OFFENSIVE LINE POSITION

Returning: Tyron Smith (LT1), Bill Nagy (LG1), Phil Costa (C1), Kyle Koser (RG1), Doug Free (RT1), David Arkin (LG3), Kevin Kowalski (C2)

Lost:  Derrick Dockery (UFA), Montrae Holland (UFA)

Possible Loss:  Jermey Parnell (ERFA)

  • POSITION NEED:  STARTING VETERAN CENTER ; RESERVE / STARTING GUARD
  • (Position Want:  Starting Top 10 Guard)

2012 Outlook/Analysis – Center:

Oct 5, 2008; Miami, FL, USA; San Diego Chargers center Nick Hardwick (61) during the first quarter against the Miami DOlphins at Dolphin Stadium. The Dolphins defeated the San Diego Chargers 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The decision to invest in a top Free Agent center over guard revolves mostly around the grossly subpar play of Phil Costa in 2011.  Grading out at 59 of 64 NFL centers last year is not even remotely gonna cut it.  With hopes to elevate the porous rushing touchdown total vastly above the 5 TD’s from 2012, a change here is paramount.  Overpowered in both the running and passing game, Costa graded out negatively in all areas aside from penalties.  Allowing a whopping 3 sacks and 15 QB hurries from the center position easily displays his inability to handle powerful defensive lineman.

The second reason I chose adding a starting center over a starting guard is the price tag discount.  A top flight guard like Carl Nicks will cost his new team $9+ mil per season or more.  Dallas can avoid depleting so much of their available funds, and still increase the strength of the interior line.  By adding a high quality, veteran center like San Diego’s Nick Hardwick (12th best center in 2011) or Green Bay’s Scott Wells (4th), the Cowboys would strongly improve in the middle.  And this addition would cost substantially less than a top-flight guard like Carl Nicks or Ben Grubbs.

Another option would be to add Jeff Saturday of Indianapolis with a two-year deal.  Yes, Saturday is 37, but graded out as the 5th best center last year, even above Hardwick.  His 5th place ranking among centers in 2011 was even higher than his respectable 2008 and 2009 rankings.  Quality production for a year or two would be very possible with this move.  Each of these three center options would produce a cap hit south of $6 mil.  In the meantime, Costa will have ample time to increase strength, improve his game, and learn from a solid veteran.

2012 Outlook/Analysis – Guard:

Most Cowboys fans would be shocked to learn Montrae Holland logged BY FAR the highest grade of all Cowboys guards.  Actually Holland was the only Dallas guard with an overall positive grade.  In 2011, Holland graded 16th out of 137 guards and had a positive score in all areas besides penalties (1 penalty every 2 games).  Grades for the rest (100 snap minimum) … Dockery (84th), Kosier (97th), Nagy (106th).  All three graded out on the negative side overall.  So isn’t that proof Dallas must sign a guard?  Sure it’d be ideal but not the best value for a substantial interior upgrade with such limited funds.  Those bent on signing a stud guard at all costs should realize that cost very well may be Laurent Robinson, or that back-up veteran QB I side-stepped earlier.

The production and communication of the new center will help Nagy and Kosier elevate their games.  And re-signing Holland is a must to provide insurance if Nagy doesn’t improve or Kosier’s game stays inconsistent.  It’s very possible if Holland comes ready to play in camp, he could steal one of the starting guard spots.  Of further consideration is the development of the young interior linemen.  With a full off season under their belt, a new strength and conditioning program, and a new position coach…who knows if Costa, Kowalski, or Arkin could make a vast leap and wrestle away a starting guard spot.  As for the back-up slots, it’s really a free-for-all between these guys for the guard spots, Costa will back-up the center.

2012 Outlook/Analysis – Tackle:

By flipping Tyron Smith to left tackle and Doug Free to right tackle, the benefits will be immediate.  Doug Free is a natural right tackle.  Most forget just a few years back Free was the top rated Free Agent offensive tackle in the entire NFL.  In 2009 (first year starting), he graded 26th of 129 offensive tackles, and in 2010 he graded 4th of 121.  In my opinion 2011 was just a very off year for Free as he graded 108th of 133.  How does one drop 104 spots in a year?  I believe having a full offseason, a new o-line coach, and the switch back to right tackle will do Doug Free a world of good as he regains his high-quality form.  As for Tyron Smith, I’m certain he has the strength, quickness, and agility to capably man the left side.  After all, the rookie graded 4th of 133 tackles in his very first season.

While it would be great to sign a solid veteran swing tackle to back up Smith and Free, the limited funds don’t support the move.  The coaches seem to be high on Jermey Parnell and for now I’ll have to resort to staying put at this position.  If things don’t pan out for Parnell in camp, there usually is a mid-grade, reasonably inexpensive tackle seeking employment in August.

Moves to Make:  Sign a high-quality, veteran to assume the starting center position.  Re-sign Montrae Holland to compete for a starting guard spot, yet also provide quality back-up insurance.  And re-sign Jermey Parnell at the ERFA tender amount.

  • Projected Cost$5.0 – $6.5 million (FA Center  $3.5 – $5 mil ; Holland: $800k – $1 mil ; Parnell: $540k)
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Topics: Center, Contract, Cowboys, Dallas, Dallas Cowboys, Depth Chart, Doug Free, Draft, Free Agency, Guard, Kellen Moore, Laurent Robinson, Martellus Bennett, NFL Draft, Offense, Roster, Salary Cap, Stephen McGee, Tackle, Tony Romo, Tyron Smith

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