I believe it’s time for this Dallas Cowboys front office to think about how they made the decision to use the money saved by releasing right tackle La’el Collins to put tight end Dalton Schultz on the franchise tag.
In my opinion, this was a mistake that the front office needs to avoid making again. Right now, their situation at swing tackle is far from ideal and they have tight ends Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot both possibly making the final roster, giving them a wealth of depth at tight end.
We know that there were other factors involved in the decision to release Collins outside of just his health and availability on game day, but to put a $10.9 million price tag on a tight end that can make plays in the passing game but is a liability at times in the running game isn’t the right move.
This is especially true for a team that is relying on depth at one of the most important positions on the field (tackle). The replacement options are very dismal, too. One is 2021 draft pick Josh Ball who was out all of last season with an ankle injury. The other is 2022 draft pick Matt Waletzko who is currently out with a serious shoulder injury. International player Isaac Alarcon has had a few nice moments but nothing strong enough to warrant a starting job.
This was all true and scary before veteran Tyron Smith went down with a brutal hamstring injury in Wednesday’s practice. The Cowboys knew Smith’s durability was always a liability, but now the injury bug has reared its ugly head far sooner than most thought it would.
Zack Martin and Terence Steele are the only solid pieces of the offensive line with meaningful experience at the moment right now. That’s very scary for an offense that wants to still rely heavily on the run.
If they truly do believe that Steele gives them the best opportunity to win starting at right tackle, that’s fine. But unless you have somewhat of a guarantee that the person replacing Collins (a former Pro-Bowl tackle) as your swing tackle, then you don’t make that move.
Effective offensive linemen are tough to find in the NFL. Serviceable tight ends can be found a lot easier. That was proven in what the Cowboys were able to find during the draft and after the draft in Ferguson and Hendershot.
We know the Cowboys don’t have a magic wand with the ability to go back in time, but if they did, they would surely be changing the way this situation has played out. Unless someone decides to release or trade an experienced tackle with the ability to play on both the left and right side, this will be a lingering issue all season. One that quarterback Dak Prescott can’t afford to think about before each snap.
The Cowboys should have kept Collins altogether or used the franchise tag money to get a legitimate veteran OL option on the depth chart. Because they didn’t, Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, and the entire offense will feel the negative effects of the front office’s poor decision-making all year long.