After spending his first five years with the Dallas Cowboys, Ronald Leary looks to be moving on to a new challenge. The 27-year-old offensive guard reportedly agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the Denver Broncos worth $35 million.
Leary's days in Dallas looked to be numbered last spring.
ESPN.com's Todd Archer reported in May that Leary was seeking a move away from Dallas. While Leary signed a one-year free-agent tender in April, Archer noted the move was done in hopes of completing a trade before the draft.
The Cowboys held onto Leary, which proved to be a shrewd move. La'el Collins suffered a torn ligament in his foot that kept him out for the rest of the year after appearing in three games. That thrust Leary back onto the first string, and he started the team's remaining 13 games.
The veteran lineman also helped one of the better run-blocking teams in the league. According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys ranked fifth in adjusted line yards and fifth in stuffed rate, which records the number of runs that fail to advance past the line of scrimmage.
By failing to trade Leary, on the other hand, the Cowboys all but guaranteed they'd lose him this offseason for nothing. According to Spotrac, they're a little under $5.8 million in the hole in terms of salary cap space.
I thought about it a lot after the game. I kind of stayed on the field a little bit because I've been here the last five years of my life. That's just as long as you're in college, so I've grown close to a lot of players here, a lot of staff. It's tough to think about, because you don't know the future when you hit the market like that. It's tough, but it's part of the game.
Leary's arrival will bolster the interior of Denver's offensive line, but David Helman of the Cowboys' official site noted he comes with some health risk:
Leary has osteochondritis dissecans, a degenerative knee condition, and in May 2012, ESPN.com's Calvin Watkins explained the condition could hit at any time and knock him out of action.
Jonathan Vilma also has osteochondritis dissecans. He had a season-ending knee injury in 2007 and became dogged by knee problems later in his career. A three-time Pro Bowler, Vilma was out of the league after turning 31, and he officially retired in 2015.
Leary should immediately take over as the team's starter at left guard. The line figures to go through some substantial changes after ranking in the bottom half of the league in both run blocking and pass protection last season, per Football Outsiders. Signing him is a strong start to the process.
It's impossible to predict whether Leary's condition will ever become a major issue while he's a player, so the Broncos would be gambling in that respect. As long as he stays healthy for the next few years, this deal should work out well for Denver.