As the Cowboys 2012 season came to a screeching halt against RGIII and the Redskins this past December, there were multiple factors that contributed to another .500 season and a missing of the postseason once again. Some of these factors have at least been addressed (first round draft pick on the offensive line and a durable running back prospect) while others have really not been. Having written first about offensive play calling (which was finally addressed by the team this past Tuesday), the second installment of this series covered the lack of experience and options the team has at the safety position. The third issue that remains unsolved is a real upgrading of the offensive line.
The team wanted an offensive lineman in the first round. However, all of the top rated OL prospects dropped off the board as the Cowboys stood pat at #18. Instead of taking the best talent available (i.e. Sharrif Floyd, DT) the team decided to trade down, get an additional third round selection, and then use the first round pick to get their “top rated remaining” offensive lineman on their draft board. This selection was Travis Frederick (whom the team graded a second round selection), who can play both center and guard. As of this writing it looks as if the team plans on using him at the center position. Blogging the Boys was able to recreate the Cowboys draft board through pictures taken when Jerry Jones was conducting interviews while the board was in the background. This recreated board shows the team giving a first round grade to Floyd, and also how the team rated Frederick (second round grade).
If Frederick ends up being a solid selection and contends for multiple Pro Bowl appearances, the way the Cowboys played the draft will be brushed aside. All indications as of today is that he is smart and looks to be adapting well to what the team has asked of him so far.
With the left tackle (Tyron Smith) and center (Travis Frederick) positions being considered “solid” spots along the line, the guard and right tackle positions look to have the same group of players returning for the 2013 campaign that were here for 2012. This group consists of Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau at the guard position and a combination of Doug Free and Jermey Parnell at right tackle. The team also furthered their commitment to Bernadeau with a restructuring of his contract which lowered his cap number for 2013, but gave him more guaranteed money down the line in future seasons. If his level of play does not improve, this could be another bad cap management move by the team. The team did do well with the restructuring of Doug Free’s remaining two years and $15 million plus and got it basically changed to a one year deal worth $3.5 million. If Free cannot turn back the clock on his level of play, he will be wearing a different uniform in 2014. The other players that will compete for spots on the active roster and practice squad include Phil Costa, Kevin Kowalski, Ronald Leary, David Arkin, Ryan Cook, and Darrion Weems.
The only new blood that was brought in for 2013 was Frederick. This group of linemen could have used a second draft pick to work into the mix as well as a free agent also. With some of the more high profile guys already signed, Brandon Moore and Erik Winston are a few names still available to bring in that could be potential solutions. With Bill Callahan going into his second season with the team, maybe some improved continuity can occur on this line with the addition of Frederick in the middle of it. The line was very poor last year, could not protect Romo, and could not get a push in the running game. The Cowboys organization has basically stood pat, but is hoping for big changes all the same. Although the team has lots of nice offensive weapons, they will have minimal impact if there is no time for the quarterback to throw, allow plays to develop, or get movement along the line in the rushing attack. With Jerry Jones clearly wanting the team to win now as he is getting in to his 70s, it would be prudent to bring in a veteran or two to help with the competition and depth along the line. As it stands now, Frederick better really be a star, or this line and team as a whole could be in trouble again in 2013.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH