The Dallas Cowboys are well aware that their offensive line is the weak link on their team. As it stands today, the starting offensive line will be Tyron Smith, Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau, and Doug Free. Frederick and Leary have looked surprisingly good so far in limited action in the preseason, and reports out of camp are that they have performed well there also. While Leary will be looked upon as the starter, Wednesdays news of Leary having to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee puts his status for the season opener in jeopardy. Luckily for the fans and organization, this procedure is on his right knee and not his left, which is what caused him to go undrafted in the 2012 draft even though he had a 3rd-4th round grade coming out of college. With Bernadeau’s return from injury early in camp, the line was starting to gain some much needed chemistry as the season opener is roughly 24 days away. Smith’s play has been up and down (partly due to going against Ware every day in practice), and the team is hopeful he can make the jump to elite status this season. Free has been looking better than he has in recent seasons, which is welcome news for Cowboy fans as he seems to finally adjusted his play to Bill Callahan’s scheme.
The quality of depth behind the starters is questionable with Phil Costa, Kevin Kowalski, and Ryan Cook competing as swing guys (guard/center). The back-up guards vying for roster spots are David Arkin, Ray Dominguez, Dennis Godfrey, and Nate Livings. The back-up tackles trying to make the team are Jermey, Parnell, Demetress Bell, Edawn Coughman, and Darrion Weems. As it stands today the team will likely keep ten linemen. Behind the starting five, I’d estimate that Costa, Kowalski, and Parnell are locks to make the team bringing this total to eight. For the last two spots Cook, Arkin, Livings, and Bell will have to stand out to be the last two in this group to make the final roster. Both Arkin and Livings chances of making the final roster improved with yesterday’s news of Leary’s knee procedure, and Arkin will be taking over Leary’s LG spot this weekend against the Cardinals.
The team has not been pleased with the quality of the depth on the line and reached out to and had an agreement in principle to sign Brandon Moore. He would had most likely came in and been a starting guard, but instead opted for retirement. The team has also registered an interest in Brian Waters, who last played in the 2011 season for the New England Patriots and is now 36 years old. He missed the entire preseason prior to signing with the Patriots, but walked into a starting position and was named to the Pro Bowl roster at the end of the year.
Waters played high school ball at Waxahachie High School in Waxahachie, TX and college ball at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. Both cities are less than 45 minutes away from Dallas. Waters did not play in 2012 due to only wanting to play for a Texas team so he could be near his family. Neither the Texans nor Cowboys came calling, so Waters stayed home. The team reportedly has a standing offer on the table to Waters, and it seems as if he is trying to get himself into shape before taking the team up on the offer. Also contributing to this drawn out courtship is the fact that Waters hates participating in training camp, so he longer he delays signing, the less camp time he’ll see. A new wrinkle in this back and forth between Waters and the team is the procedure that Leary will undergo on his right knee. With the team more desperate to get Waters signed sooner, Water’s price and leverage have now only gone up.
While being a 6x Pro Bowler (2004 – 2006, 2008, 2010-2011), his role will likely depend on his condition once arriving. Waters will most likely start the season as a back-up unless he proves to be a major upgrade over Bernadeau once arriving and showing he can still play at a Pro Bowl level. He could also take over Leary’s spot if he is unable to go Week 1. Regardless if he is a starter or first guard reserve that dresses on game day, he would be a major addition to the team at this point and would provide valuable leadership and experience to a line that is lacking in that department. Lastly, Waters signing could allow the team to end the Nate Livings experiment and get his contract off the books. With Tony Romo’s monster extension this past summer and numerous young players due for extensions soon, the team must continue to try and get their cap situation in order.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH