The Dallas Cowboys headed into the 2013 NFL Draft with obvious holes in both their offensive and defensive lines to fill. At least most fans thought so. After the draft, only offensive center/guard Travis Frederick was picked to aid the O-line, leaving the D-line untouched. So how will these needs be addressed in free agency?
Post-draft, owner and general manager Jerry Jones was insistent the he and the Cowboys’ coaching staff are happy with the current state of their defensive line. With veterans DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer both moving to defensive end, and Jay Ratliff with Jason Hatcher at defensive tackle, the only question is their depth. Sean Lissemore and second year Tyrone Crawford will back-up on the inside of the line. While former linebacker Kyle Wilber will make the transition to defensive end. In an interview with season ticket holders on Wednesday, Jones addressed questions about the defensive line:
“The defense should be the strength of our team…Our defense will fit Monte Kiffin’s scheme. It actually will be a simpler defense for this group to get. The adjustment from where we were in the 3-4 to the 4-3 will not be as significant as it might appear.”
The biggest question surrounding the Cowboys’ offensive line is what will ultimately become of tackle Doug Free. Most think Free will be released on June 1st so Dallas can benefit from the $7 million dollars of cap space it would generate. The other options include simply keeping the six year veteran or trying to make him accept a reduced salary amount. It appears Free is currently weighing his options, which appear to be get cut or take a pay cut.
It is assumed that the rookie Frederick will take a starting role at center or guard on the offensive line. This leaves either Phil Costa, Nate Livings or Mackenzy Bernadeau on the outs. My money is on the latter. Livings and Bernadeau were brought in last year as free agents to help bolster the O-line, but both underwhelmed at the guard positions during the season. Tackle Tyron Smith is the only “sure thing” on the line for now. Back-up tackle Jermey Parnell split time with Free last year and performed well. And second year undrafted free agent guard Ronald Leary started his career by showing some potential, but tailed off as the season progressed.
The Cowboys appear to be looking to address their offensive line in free agency, but have done little more then simply inquiring about players. Names like Eric Winston and Tyson Clabo have been circling Valley Ranch for weeks. Yet, nothing has been set in concrete and those players continue to be shopped around the league. Dallas apparently reached out to 11-year veteran tackle Bryant McKinnie this week, but he resigned with the Ravens late Thursday.
The real question is: Which line needs a veteran presence more? Is it the defensive line who has to learn a new scheme under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin? Or is it the always-in-flux offensive line who have major questions surrounding Doug Free?
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