Patriots give Cowboys perfect Tyron Smith contingency plan before free agency

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

Free agency will be here before we know it and the Dallas Cowboys have a shopping list of players slated to hit the open market. They won't be able to make major moves until they sign Dak Prescott to a contract extension, but it seems leadership is motivated to get a deal done before the legal tampering period.

In terms of the Cowboys' most important free agents, left tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Stephon Gilmore headline the list. Fans would like both players back, but it goes without saying Smith should be the priority.

We like to think Smith will give the Cowboys first dibs at signing him, because make no mistake: despite Smith's lengthy injury history he will be a highly sought-after player on the open market. Say Dallas lowballs the eight-time Pro Bowler and he signs with a higher bidder. What then?

The front office should be prepared for any and all outcomes. Luckily, the Patriots all but confirmed tackle Trent Brown will hit free agency. Brown didn't receive a contract extension from New England, so his contract voided on Monday.

Patriots OT Trent Brown would be perfect Tyron Smith contingency plan for Cowboys

Brown is widely viewed as the second-best tackle set to hit free agency. Tyron Smith unsurprisingly tops the list. The 30-year-old Brown is comfortable playing at either tackle position. After a brief period of playing exclusively right tackle, Brown has played all 1,609 snaps at left tackle over the last two seasons.

If the Cowboys lose Smith, they'd obviously need dependable LT to protect Prescott's blindside. Brown is one of the best pass blockers in the game. He's rattled together six straight seasons with a pass-blocking grade of 72.0 or higher, per PFF.

In 12 games this season, Brown allowed just three sacks and six QB hits. His eight allowed hurries were second-fewest among tackles and his 17 pressures were the fifth-fewest. He also finished with a dominant 80.7 run-blocking grade that ranked fifth-highest at the position. Not a single Cowboys offensive linemen finished with a run-blocking grade higher than 70.5, which happened to be Smith.

The great part about Brown is his versatility would allow the Cowboys to surive a potential injury crisis. If Terence Steele were to go down, Brown could shift to right tackle and Tyler Smith could convert to left tackle, where he played almost exclusively as a rookie season before his All-Pro campaign at left guard this year.

The Cowboys will likely select an OL high in April, but the odds of them getting a readymade tackle are slim. They're at the mercy of the draft board. That makes Brown a plug-and-play left tackle if Smith were to leave in free agency.

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