Dallas Cowboys: Jeff Faine

Free-agency series: Centers and guards

March, 5, 2013
This is third in a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position by position:



What should the Cowboys do to improve the interior of their offensive line?


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Who’s on the roster: G-David Arkin, G-Mackenzy Bernadeau, G-Ray Dominguez, G-Kevin Kowalski, G-Ronald Leary, G-Nate Livings, C-Ryan Cook, C-Phil Costa.

Analysis: The Cowboys signed Costa to a two-year deal and, at least for right now, he's the projected starter for 2013. Kowalski and Bernadeau can also play center, which gives the Cowboys position flexibility. The guard position has veterans Bernadeau and Livings, but Leary impressed the coaches as the season progressed, and he'll push to make the active roster this season. It's probably time to see if Arkin and Kowalski can prove to the coaches and scouts that they can play in this league. Both won't replace Livings or Bernadeau, however, and the Cowboys do need quality backups in the interior.

NFL free agents of interest: G-Derrick Dockery, G-Brandon Moore, G-Donald Thomas, G-Kevin Boothe, C-Jeff Faine.

Need meter: 4. The Cowboys might get a guard in the draft, which could push Arkin or Kowalski off the roster. What's left of the roster in the interior needs to improve badly. The Cowboys will most likely pass on Dockery, who filled in when needed last year. Thomas is an interesting pickup and should challenge for a starting job if given an opportunity. Faine had some injury problems last season, but he is a veteran who could provide security if there are problems with Costa and Cook.

Cowboys look to sign center soon

August, 11, 2012
OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys are seriously considering signing a center this weekend, director of player personnel Stephen Jones said.

Starting center Phil Costa (back) is doubtful for Monday night’s preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders, but he is expected to be able to practice next week. An MRI did not reveal any disk damage, owner/general manager Jerry Jones said.

However, depth at center is still a concern with backups Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski out indefinitely due to ankle injuries. Coach Jason Garrett said Nagy will probably have to undergo surgery.

“There’s a chance that we’ll have (a center) in here tomorrow,” Stephen Jones said after Saturday’s practice. “That’s something we’re looking at doing – getting a little insurance – but we really feel good about Costa.”

Asked about Andre Gurode, Garrett said that the former Cowboys Pro Bowler was on the team’s short list. However, Jerry Jones said that later that Gurode was not among the centers that the team had contacted recently.

Stephen Jones declined to discuss specific centers, such as ex-Bucs starter Jeff Faine or ex-Rams starter Jason Brown. It is clear, however, that the Cowboys aren't searching for a center to replace Costa as the starter.

The Cowboys want to sign a center by Sunday because players are required to wait three days after joining a roster before practicing. The Cowboys’ next practice is Wednesday, so a Sunday signee would not have to miss any practice time.
OXNARD, Calif. -- The Cowboys aren’t blind, so they’re not in love with their center situation.

They just apparently don’t like any of the options on the open market.

The Cowboys are aware that recent starters such as ex-Buccaneer Jeff Faine, ex-Ram Jason Brown, ex-Eagle Jamaal Jackson and ex-Cowboy/Raven Andre Gurode are available. They just don’t believe that signing one of those centers is in the Cowboys’ best interests at this point.

“Trust me, we’ve scoured the short lists,” said Garrett, who mentioned conditioning as a concern for currently unemployed centers. “We’ve talked to different agents about trying to address that. Right now, we feel like the best way to address it is with the guys we have in house. If someone comes available that is attractive to us, we’ll certainly address it that way.”

Phil Costa struggled in his first season as a starter last year, and there isn’t really any competition for him on the roster right now.

Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski, the young players the Cowboys expected to compete with Costa, are sidelined for at least the remainder of training camp with ankle injuries. Mackenzy Bernadeau, who will take part in contact drills for the first time Thursday afternoon, will get some work at center but focus primarily at guard.

David Arkin is the second-string center at the moment. As Garrett said, the coaches have had to “cue the circus music” because of Arkin’s botched snaps on many occasions.

As flawed as the Cowboys’ center situation is, they’d don’t see a fit among the current free agents.
OXNARD, Calif. – It doesn’t appear as if Phil Costa will have to put up a fight to keep the starting center job.


Which player is the Cowboys' best option at center?


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His competition keeps getting hurt.

Mackenzy Bernadeau might have been the guy, but the Cowboys just want the free-agent addition to focus on guard after he recovers from hip and knee surgeries.

Bill Nagy or Kevin Kowalski could have had a shot at it, but they both look like long shots as they nurse ankle injuries. Nagy is probably out for the rest of training camp after suffering a high ankle sprain during the first practice. Kowalski is still out indefinitely with an ankle injury that sidelined him for all of the offseason workouts.

David Arkin, the fourth-round guard who was inactive for every game as a rookie last season, played some center during Tuesday’s practice. The results weren’t pretty. He was part of a handful of botched center-quarterback exchanges.

There are some decent options on the open market. That includes two unsigned centers who were starters last season: ex-Buccaneer Jeff Faine and ex-Ram Jason Brown.

A source said the Cowboys are aware of the options outside of the current roster, but they don’t feel a sense of urgency to bring in another center.

“You try to create competition certainly for a spot on a team – a guy trying to make a team, have a spot on the team, have a role or be a starter on a team,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You try to do that as best you can, but for Phil Costa, it’s pretty competitive for him every time he breaks the huddle and has to go against our defensive linemen. That’s a competitive environment we’re similarly trying to create.”

Even that is too easy for Costa right now, with Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff out indefinitely due to a foot injury.