The Dallas Cowboys find themselves in a rough spot, needing to replace their starting left tackle two weeks before the start of the 2022 NFL season.
Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Tyron Smith suffered an avulsion fracture in his left knee during Wednesday's practice and will require surgery that will keep him out until at least December.
Injuries have long been a problem for Smith. The eight-time Pro Bowler missed 19 games in the past two seasons combined, and he hasn't played every game in the regular season since 2015.
The Cowboys seemed to acknowledge Smith, who will turn 32 on Dec. 12, was nearing the end of his peak when they used the No. 24 pick in the 2022 NFL draft to select offensive tackle Tyler Smith.
When Tyron Smith has been healthy, he's continued to play at a high level. Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus named him the 41st-best player in the NFL right now after allowing 17 pressures on more than 500 pass-blocking snaps in 2021.
Head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Tyler Smith missed Tuesday's practice with a minor ankle injury. The Tulsa alum had a strong showing as a pass-blocker at left guard in Dallas' 32-18 preseason win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Aug. 18.
If the Cowboys feel confident in Smith's ability to move outside and handle left tackle, they may not have to go outside of the organization to replace their two-time All-Pro.
Asking a 21-year-old to play the most important position on the offensive line is a lot, especially for a team that has playoff aspirations.
There are multiple veteran free agents who could be on Dallas' radar if Jerry Jones decides to look for help. Jason Peters, Eric Fisher and Nate Solder are the biggest names still available with experience at left tackle.
Peters, who turned 40 in January, told SiriusXM NFL Radio last month (h/t Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk) he's staying in shape and is looking to play for a club with either an "upcoming offensive line" or is a playoff-caliber team.
A nine-time Pro Bowler, Peters started 15 games for the Chicago Bears in 2021. He finished last season as the 20th-ranked offensive tackle by PFF grades.
Fisher made 15 starts for the Indianapolis Colts last year, an impressive feat since after tore his Achilles in the AFC Championship Game the prior season while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. The former No. 1 overall pick was better as a run-blocker than in pass protection in 2021.
The Cowboys could look to run the ball more this season with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. Their receiving corps isn't as strong after losing Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson in free agency.
There is also the potential for a trade to emerge if the Cowboys want more certainty than the free-agent pool has to offer.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer noted in his MMQB column this week that the New England Patriots have talked to teams about 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn. The Georgia alum appeared in a career-high 16 games at left tackle last season.
The Cowboys have $18.1 million in cap space, more than enough to fit in Wynn's $10.4 million salary in 2022. He does have injury concerns of his own after missing all of 2018 with a torn Achilles, eight games in 2019 with a toe injury and six games in 2020 with a knee issue.
Coming off a 12-5 record last season, the Cowboys are in a state of flux right now because of Smith's injury and key players being moved. They're still good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but the hole left by Smith at left tackle could cause the offense a lot of problems if they can't find a suitable replacement.