Latest draft buzz is bad news for longtime Cowboys starter

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Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys hardly filled any holes in free agency, so the pressure to crush the upcoming NFL Draft goes without saying. Confidence might not be high in that regard given how the 2023 draft unfolded, but the Cowboys' overall track record in the draft is among the best in the league.

Fans are eager to learn which positions the Cowboys target early. The loss of Tyron Smith makes an offensive tackle a no-brainer target, but defensive tackle, linebacker, running back and wide receiver could all be under consideration for the first three rounds.

By and large, though, it's widely expected Dallas will take an offensive linemen in round one, whether it be a tackle or the top center. Left tackle and center are vacant and there's no clear answer in the pipeline.

Might the Cowboys be setting the stage to replace another position on the offensive line? The latest buzz leading up to the draft seems to hint at that possibility.

Cowboys reported interest in Taliese Fuaga is bad news for Terence Steele

There are numerous OL prospects the Cowboys could draft at No. 24 overall, but David Moore of the Dallas Morning News listed three in particular to keep an eye on: Oregon State tackle Taliese Fuaga, Duke guard Graham Barton, who can play all five positions but projects as an interior starter in the NFL, and Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson.

Most draft experts view Fuaga as a plug-and-play right tackle. He's regarded as the premier RT in this class and he has the versatility to kick inside and play either guard position. It's unclear whether Dallas views Fuaga as a tackle or guard, but he played exclusively right tackle in college.

Regardless, the Cowboys' interest in Fuaga is bad news for Terence Steele. It speaks volumes that Moore listed him first among Dallas' potential OL targets. That may hint they regard Fuaga as the best offensive lineman in the draft, or the best lineman they could potentially take in round one.

Coming off a career year (and torn ACL) Steele inked a massive five-year, $86.8 million extension last summer. Steele struggled post-ACL surgery and was arguably the worst RT in the league. The team is confident Steele will bounce back a full season removed from the injury, but there's a potential out of his contract -- which seems like a massive overpay after one year -- in 2025.

According to Over The Cap, the Cowboys can release Steele next year with a post-June 1 designation and save $14 million on the cap. They would inherit a lowly $3 million dead cap hit. Given how Steele performed in 2023, that idea looks pretty attractive.

Ideally, Steele will return to being one of the best RTs in the game. However, if Dallas drafts Fuaga, that could lay the groundwork to potentially get out from under Steele's contract as soon as next year.

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