There were already significant concerns about Dallas’ depth at offensive tackle behind Tyron Smith and Terence Steele. Now, with Smith out until at least December, Dallas is scrambling to find its left tackle for 2022 just 17 days before the season opener.
The starting lineup looked good in theory. Tyron Smith is still great when healthy (we now know what a massive caveat that is). Tyler Smith has looked good at left guard. Tyler Biadasz has been decent at center. Zack Martin is the best guard in football. Terence Steele has played well at times.
There wasn’t serious concern about the top five. The concern was primarily with the poor depth at tackle, and given Tyron Smith’s recent health struggles (Smith has played in just 13 games since the beginning of 2020), that concern was justified. Josh Ball has struggled mightily all preseason and doesn’t appear to be a serious answer at offensive tackle. Matt Waletzko is an incredibly raw prospect that needs a lot of development (and is also dealing with a shoulder injury).
You figured they could survive without Tyron Smith if he missed a handful of games, like they did last year. But missing most/all of the season is a nightmare scenario. That nightmare was confirmed this morning and has left the Cowboys reeling.
#Cowboys standout LT Tyron Smith actually suffered an avulsion fracture of the knee, meaning the hamstring tendon that sits at the back of the knee pulled off the bone and he needs surgery, sources say. If he’s back at all, it’ll be December. A tough loss.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 25, 2022
Whether or not this is the last we see of Smith in the NFL is a conversation for another day. Dallas is hopeful he can return sometime in December, but you cannot count on that. What exactly are the Cowboys’ options at left tackle in 2022 without Smith?
An in-house solution
There’s several iterations of this. At this point, the most likely option seems to be moving 2022 first-round pick Tyler Smith out to left tackle. He played left tackle in college, and split between guard and tackle in offseason programs. But in training camp, he has exclusively been at left guard.
Smith was the heir apparent to the elder Smith at left tackle, but this injury may have seriously sped up that timeline. Asking Smith to move out to left tackle on such short notice after working on the interior all of training camp might be asking a ton, but it also might be their best option.
You could also argue that moving Smith out to left tackle and sliding Connor McGovern in at left guard makes two positions worse. Smith might not be ready at left tackle, and McGovern has struggled at left guard in the past. McGovern was certain to be the swing guard behind Tyler Smith prior to Tyron Smith’s injury.
Terence Steele played six games at left tackle in 2021 when Tyron Smith was hurt. But he looked significantly worse on the left side than he did on the right side, and I don’t think Dallas wants to move Steele out of that right tackle position.
Zack Martin has kicked out to tackle before, but he was injured in the process and he was vocal that he does not want to be moved again. Martin has earned that right, plus there is some validity to the point that moving around on the OL can cause injury. Dallas obviously cannot afford to lose Martin as well.
I seriously doubt Ball or Waletzko are being considered as options to step in. Maybe at this point they are even more important depth pieces, but they cannot roll either of them out to protect Dak Prescott on a regular basis.
Free agency or trade
There are some options out there for Dallas. The cruel irony is that they had La’el Collins signed through 2024 at a very affordable $10 million per season, and voluntarily opted out of that. On top of that, they did nothing to replace the tackle depth and now are scrambling on *checks calendar* August 25 to figure out not just who the left tackle will be, but who the swing tackle will be. Addressing this when there are plenty of viable options available in March or April seems to be an obvious answer, here we are, looking through the August free agency scraps.
Dallas could explore the trade market. The Patriots have been rumored to be shopping Isaiah Wynn and Jane Slater floated the idea of Josh Jones of the Cardinals.
Veteran FA market right now? Eric Fisher, Jason Peters. Another hypothetical…just from talking to league sources…trade with AZ for Jones or NE for Wynn? How about Andrew Whitworth here’s all the cash 🤷🏼♀️ that’s where we are at right now.
— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) August 25, 2022
Wynn could be an option, but he is due around $10 million this season and the 2018 first-round pick has had injury issues. I imagine Dallas is calling New England to at least see what the asking price is. The other sticking point with Wynn is that he was recently moved to the right side, so that would require another positional switch.
Eric Fisher played 15 games at left tackle for the Colts in 2021, but struggled and tore his Achilles in the 2020 season. 40-year-old Jason Peters is an option, or Dallas could beg Andrew Whitworth to come out of retirement, but neither of those options seem too likely.
It seems likely that Dallas kicks Tyler Smith out to left tackle and the opening night offensive line reads (from left to right): Smith-McGovern-Biadasz-Martin-Steele. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore might need to involve some more 12 personnel groupings to help out his tackles, so the adjustments will be something to monitor.
Keep an eye on Tyler Smith’s status for Friday’s preseason game as well. I imagine Dallas would now like to get him some game reps at left tackle, but he has been dealing with an ankle issue and his status for Friday is uncertain. In the same breath, Dallas also cannot afford an injury to Smith at this point. It will be an interesting decision to monitor.
Regardless of who Dallas rolls out at the left tackle position, it seems unlikely the swing tackle is currently on the roster. The Cowboys need to find a solution to their offensive tackle crisis right away, because a disaster at offensive tackle is something that can wreck a season.
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