Newly-released 2021 draft bust is perfect Cowboys reclamation project to strengthen OL

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders / Chris Unger/GettyImages

We're just hours away from the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster crunch. There's excitement and optimism for the 2023 season, but the front office will have some difficult decisions to make by Tuesday's 3 p.m. CT roster deadline.

While the Cowboys are blessed with depth at several positions, offensive line depth is the single biggest concern as Week 1 approaches and the unit took another hit in Saturday's preseason finale when Josh Ball left with a hip injury.

Ball drew the start at right tackle, but his injury will sideline him for two months, which not only jeopardizes his spot on the 53-man roster -- not that it was safe to begin with -- but further depletes Dallas' versatility in the trenches.

With Chuma Edoga also injured, it stands to reason the front office will peruse the waiver wire and trade market for reinforcements.

If the waiver wire piques the Cowboys' interest, the Bears surprisingly released guard Alex Leatherwood this weekend.

Should the Cowboys sign recently-released OL Alex Leatherwood?

Does Leatherwood not fit the bill of a Jerry Jones reclamation project? Unlike previous controversial signings during the Jones era, though, Leatherwood doesn't have a history with off-field incidents that would otherwise make it difficult for fans to root for his success.

Leatherwood was the No. 17 overall pick in the 2021 draft, but seemingly nobody expected him to get taken that high. Most experts had a second round or late first round grade on him and the Raiders, then led by Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden, made him the fourth offensive linemen off the board.

As a left guard, the Alabama product won the Outland Trophy in 2020 as the nation's top offensive linemen. Despite having a higher ceiling (and floor) at guard, Gruden moved Leatherwood to right tackle as a rookie and his 6-foot-5, 312-pound frame struggled to contend with speed off the edge.

Leatherwood was waived after 2022 preseason and was claimed by the Bears the next day. He appeared in four games for Chicago but totaled just 32 offensive snaps. Again, he played most of his snaps at right tackle.

At this point, it's obvious Leatherwood is best suited at guard, preferably on the left. He needs to develop into a starter, but the Cowboys wouldn't need him to start unless they experienced an injury crisis. In the worse-case scenario, he could plug a hole at RT, though fans would likely prefer rookie Asim Richards.

Either way, Dallas would have options, which is something that currently can't be said.

Undrafted rookie T.J. Bass was the only Cowboys linemen who didn't allow a single pressure in preseason and Matt Waletzko has performed well, too. That said, Richards, Bass and Waletzko are inexperienced and don't offer nearly enough coverage behind the starting five.

A move to the OL-needy Cowboys could be just what Leatherwood needs to get his career off the ground. He's not blameless for the slow start by any stretch, but it's clear he was mismanaged in Vegas and Chicago.

He's worth a dart throw at the very least.