Roster Holes Cowboys Must Fill Before Training Camp

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2022

Roster Holes Cowboys Must Fill Before Training Camp

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    As the Carolina Panthers' trade for Baker Mayfield last week showed, it's never too late in the offseason for NFL teams to improve their roster.

    While the Dallas Cowboys don't have a need at quarterback—you can bet that they're happy to have Dak Prescott healthy and under contract—the Cowboys could continue filling holes just as the Panthers did.

    Dallas has all seven of its 2023 draft selections and $20.3 million in cap space, which means both trade and free-agent options could be targeted for help. The question is, where do the Cowboys need help heading into training camp?

    Below, we'll examine the three biggest holes on the Cowboys roster. We'll dive specifically into the positions that need to be improved and how Dallas could go about plugging holes in the coming weeks.

Right/Swing Tackle

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    The Cowboys offensive line is in a state of flux. Left guard Connor Williams and right tackle La'el Collins departed in the offseason, and Dallas used a first-round pick on a promising but raw prospect in Tyler Smith.

    "Smith has the physical traits and aggressive nature to become an eventual NFL starter," Brandon Thorn of the Bleacher Report Scouting Department wrote before the draft. "However, he is as raw as sushi and a penalty machine who needs to reconfigure his technique from the ground up before he can see an NFL field."

    Smith should slot in at left guard to replace Williams, while Tyron Smith and Zack Martin hold down the left tackle and right guard spots, respectively. Tyler Smith may also be developed as Tyron Smith's backup on the left side.

    "So far, it seems like Smith might be a better fit at guard—which is good, because there's a starting job open — but he also might be the best backup option for Tyron Smith," Rob Phillips of the team's official website wrote.

    Collins' departure—the Cowboys released him after failing to find a trade partner—opens a significant hole at right tackle, though. Terence Steele should have first crack at the job after playing 910 snaps last season, but penalties were an issue for him. He was responsible for eight of them to go with two sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Dallas also has fifth-rounder Matt Waletzko, but it would make a ton of sense to bring in an experienced starter and/or swing tackle—and Tyron Smith's injury history plays a role in the need for a swing.

    Trading for a starting-caliber lineman this late in the offseason may be too tall an order, but free agents like Bryan Bulaga and Daryl Williams are available and should at least be considered before camp.

Center

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    Right tackle isn't the only hole on Dallas' line. The center spot is also a question mark with Tyler Biadasz entering his second season as the starter.

    Biadasz was serviceable in 2021 and didn't allow a sack. However, he was mistake-prone and did not make fans forget about Pro Bowler Travis Frederick, who retired after the 2019 season. According to Pro Football Focus, Biadasz was responsible for 11 penalties last season.

    Now is a good time to point out that Dallas received more penalties than any other team last season, according to The Football Database.

    If the Cowboys are looking to cut down on mistakes along the line—and they should be—it would make a ton of sense to explore alternatives before the start of camp. One possible target, J.C. Tretter, should be at the top of the wish list.

    Tretter was remarkably durable and consistent over the last five seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He started every game but one (reserve/COVID-19 list) and played 100 percent of the offensive snaps when on the field according to Pro Football Reference.

    Considering Dallas has the cap space to sign a player like Tretter, it's a mild surprise that he hasn't been in for a visit yet. Other free-agent centers who are still available include Nick Martin and Matt Paradis.

Linebacker

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    Defensively, Dallas could use a boost to its run defense. Dallas ranked just 23rd in yards per carry allowed (4.5) on the year and surrendered an average of 130 yards per game over the final 10 weeks of the regular season.

    Specifically, the Cowboys could use another run-stopping linebacker or two, as the depth behind Micah Parsons and Leighton Vander Esch is questionable—and Parsons spent a lot of his time last season serving as more of an edge-rusher.

    "The linebacker room would get even thinner if Micah Parsons moved to more of a full-time edge-rusher role out of necessity, as he did last year at times while DeMarcus Lawrence was injured," Phillips wrote.

    The Cowboys are banking heavily on Kearse and his hybrid role and on second-year linebacker Jabril Cox, who is coming off a torn ACL. Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones is a logical trade candidate for Dallas—in Atlanta, he played under Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn—even though he's recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

    "Once a top-10 fixture, Jones appears to be on the trading block after six seasons in Atlanta," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote.

    Free-agent options include Dont'a Hightower, Joe Schobert and former Cowboys Anthony Hitchens.

    *Cap information via Spotrac.

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