Cowboys saved money, avoided major headache letting former OL leave in free agency

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots / Winslow Townson/GettyImages

It's always a fun exercise to look back at recent offseason decisions and determine whether the Dallas Cowboys made the right call.

Trading Amari Cooper for what amounted to pocket change is a prime example of a move the Cowboys regret. Brandin Cooks might fill the Cooper void this season, but the lack of a second WR behind CeeDee Lamb last season was one of Dallas' major pitfalls and it loomed large in the playoff loss vs the 49ers.

At the same time, though, the Cowboys have been right on the money over the years with some big decisions. For example, letting Xavier Woods walk in 2021 and signing Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker as part of an overdue overhaul at safety looks brilliant in hindsight.

Another move Dallas got right? Allowing Connor Williams to sign with the highest bidder last offseason. While Williams delivered quality guard play for the Cowboys, he morphed into a high-level center in 2022 with the Dolphins.

After a breakout season, Williams is holding out of Dolphins mandatory minicamp purportedly in search of a new contract.

Former Cowboys OL Connor Williams absent from Dolphins minicamp

By no means do the Cowboys have left guard sorted out long-term, but Tyler Smith is well established as the best guard on the roster not named Zack Martin, and he played almost exclusively at left tackle as a rookie filling in for the injured Tyron Smith.

As far as the center position is concerned, Tyler Biadasz is arguably the most overlooked player on the entire roster. The former fourth-round pick was named as a Pro Bowl alternate last year and has started 33 of a possible 34 regular season games at center spanning the last two seasons.

Biadasz enters the final year of his rookie deal in 2023. It's unclear if Dallas plans to re-sign him, but he'll likely make that decision for them if he turns in another strong season.

In that scenario, it stands to reason he'll cost significantly less than Williams, who reportedly is seeking to become a top-five center in the league in terms of annual salary. That would put Williams in the $12-14 million range per year. On his current terms ($7.017 million), he's the NFL's seventh-highest-paid center.

Williams has every right to maximize his potential earnings, but he's putting the Dolphins in a precarious position by skipping minicamp. He's not the only player entering the final year of his contract, either.

A standout DL in the league, Christian Wilkins will pocket $10.75 million this year after Miami exercised his fifth-year option. Wilkins has been present at OTAs and minicamp as he and the Dolphins negotiate a new deal.

It's impossible to say Williams would be causing a similar distraction if he re-signed with the Cowboys, but it's pretty clear Dallas saved significant money -- and avoided a real offseason headache -- by letting him walk last year.

The front office is still working to find a long-term solution at left guard, but they have a budding stud in Tyler Smith to fill the void this year until the urgency ramps up next offseason ... and several potential in-house candidates whom could position themselves to compete for the job.

Best of luck to Williams, but the Cowboys are better off.

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