There’s no question the 2016 Dallas Cowboys had the most dominant offensive line in the NFL. But will they regret not re-signing Ronald Leary?
The Dallas Cowboys will go into the new regular season with several question marks. They have, what is essentially, a brand new secondary, and a pass rush that on paper looks mediocre at best. But perhaps their newest area of concern could be what was actually their major strength from last season– their offensive line.
The Cowboys have lost two key starters from last season– right tackle Doug Free to retirement, and left guard Ronald Leary to free agency. If they had only lost Free, I think most Cowboys fans would agree that the offensive line probably wouldn’t miss a beat with La’el Collins stepping into Free’s old spot. But losing both Free and Leary, a vastly underrated player, could loom large for Dallas.
No one could blame Leary for going to the Denver Broncos in free agency. The dude got paid by Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway–to the tune of four years, $36 million, with a whopping $24 million guaranteed. Elway has been wildly successful in free agency during his tenure in Denver’s front office, and it’s not surprising he paid the big bucks to get a guy like Leary.
It’s also tough to blame the Cowboys for not matching such an incredibly large contract. They’ve already paid Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick serious cash, and will soon have to do the same for Zack Martin. There’s no way they could shell out that much money for four offensive lineman.
But did the Cowboys front office at least make an offer to keep Leary? Who knows, maybe he would’ve given the team that kick started his NFL career a small discount if they made him a respectable offer.
The problem is, Leary’s play was largely overshadowed by Smith, Frederick and Martin — arguably the best three players at their respective positions. But that’s not to say Leary wasn’t a huge part of the Cowboys’ success on the ground.
Leary was arguably the second best run-blocker on the Cowboys’ line. And although he struggled at times in pass protection, he was stout in that department as well. The plethora of talent the Cowboys had on their offensive line made it tougher to notice Leary’s mauling play style, but he was nevertheless incredibly effective in his role.
When Collins went out for the season with a toe injury, the Cowboys’ line actually played better once Leary was back in the fold.
That’s why it’s tough to say the Cowboys will be as dominant on the offensive front without Leary. With Ezekiel Elliott facing a possible suspension, and first round bust Jonathan Cooper seemingly stepping into Leary’s old spot, the Cowboys could face an uphill battle to start the season.
Although it’s clear the Dallas Cowboys didn’t want to shell out big-time cash for a guy like Ronald Leary, it is fair to wonder if Dallas made the right choice in the end. With the season opener just around the corner, we will most certainly see if the Cowboys made the right call.