Two days after signing cornerback Brandon Carr, the Cowboys linked free-agent guard Nate Livings to a four-year, $19 million deal. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the contract includes $6.2 million in guaranteed money.
Shortly after the end of a disappointing 2011 season, cornerback and interior offensive line were identified as need areas for the Cowboys this offseason. Singing Carr crossed cornerback off the list, and Livings should mean the interior of Dallas' offensive line is settled for 2012.
However, adding Livings may not represent a huge upgrade over what the Cowboys had inside in 2011.
According to Pro Football Focus, Livings ranked as the No. 56 overall guard in the NFL last season after struggling with both run blocking and penalties. He did give up only one sack and six quarterback hits in pass protection.
Dallas guards Kyle Kosier and Montrae Holland both ranked considerably higher overall than Livings last season, and Bill Nagy is considered a young player with potential on the interior of the offensive line. Signing Livings may be nothing more than a lateral move at the guard position.
Despite some of his struggles, Livings has started all 32 games for the Cincinnati Bengals over the last two seasons and should help the Cowboys in pass protection as a potential starter at right guard. Given how often the Dallas throws the football, adding a better pass protector may have ruled the decision.
Signing Livings also allows the Cowboys to be even more creative with their first overall pick. While most assumed Dallas would take a cornerback or guard at No. 14 overall, those two needs do not seem as pressing now.
Instead of picking of player such as Stanford's David DeCastro, the Cowboys can focus on acquiring an elite pass-rusher or another impact player in the secondary, such as a safety.