It is difficult to find serenity in an offseason that saw the Dallas Cowboys make several tough roster decisions. Initially, the addition by subtraction method seems like a hard way to improve several dismal positions on the roster. With that being said, there is at least one positive thing the Cowboys can hang their hat on: they are quietly building the league’s best offensive line.
In 2012, Pro Football Focus ranked the Cowboys’ offensive line 24th overall in the league. Additionally, they ranked 26th in pass blocking and a shameful 32nd in penalties.
Looking back on 2012, the team’s offensive line had a laundry list of problems. Tackle Doug Free regressed tremendously, a revolving door at center led to troubling inconsistency, and Tyron Smith experienced growing pains after transitioning to left tackle.
The franchise went to work repairing the offensive line following the 2012 season. They started by reducing Free’s salary to better reflect his performance (or lack thereof) from the previous season. The overhaul continued in April when they drafted center Travis Frederick in the first round of the draft.
2013 saw a dramatically improved offensive line. Frederick performed surprisingly well, helping to solidify an interior line that was putrid the year before. Smith settled in nicely at left tackle, earning his first Pro Bowl as well as 2nd team All-Pro consideration. Finally, Free enjoyed a season much improved from the previous year. Pro Football Focus ranked the offensive line 4th overall in 2013; 9th in pass blocking and 2nd in run blocking.
The team has continued to improve the line this offseason, drafting tackle Zack Martin in the first round of this year’s draft. With his addition, the Cowboys now boast three first round picks from the last four drafts. The trio of Smith, Frederick, and Martin now gives them one of the most talented young offensive lines in football.
With no member of their first round trio over the age of twenty-three, the team can count on long term growth and success. Though Doug Free will likely be playing his final season with the Cowboys in 2014, they can rest easy knowing that as far as the offensive line goes, the worst is finally behind them.