Commentary

Cowboys need to draft O-line help

Free agency was a start, but Jerry Jones & Co. should continue to improve unit

Updated: March 22, 2012, 8:50 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

Jerry Jones began to address the Dallas Cowboys' needs on the offensive line last week when he signed free agents Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings to contracts totaling $30 million.

Jones should continue working on the offensive line in the 2012 draft.

When the Cowboys draft at No. 14 overall, Jones needs to select an offensive lineman. Again.

[+] EnlargeStanford's Andrew Luck and David DeCastro
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesDavid DeCastro, who helped protect Andrew Luck at Stanford, is projected as the best guard in the draft.

Last year, the Cowboys improved the offensive line by drafting Tyron Smith. He was projected as a right tackle with the ultimate goal of moving to the left side. That switch will happen this season after Smith outplayed left tackle Doug Free as a rookie.

Protecting Tony Romo is essential in the Cowboys' rebuilding project after missing the postseason the past two years.

Stanford guard David DeCastro is projected as the best at his position. Cordy Glenn, a 6-foot-5, 345-pound guard/tackle from Georgia, is also highly thought of. Peter Konz, a 6-foot-5, 314-pound center from Wisconsin, would be an upgrade from a size standpoint over last year's starter, Phil Costa (6-3, 314).

If Jones declines to take an interior lineman in Round 1, then in Round 2 he can select Georgia guard Ben Jones, Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler or maybe Michigan center David Molk, who is a little small but effective.

When the Cowboys were winning Super Bowls, they had talented offensive linemen who controlled the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys didn't have that last year. And when the running game was its most effective, most of the praise surrounded fullback Tony Fiammetta. Fiammetta is gone now, replaced by Lawrence Vickers, another free-agent pick-up.

The Cowboys have elite players at several top positions: quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver, outside linebacker, nose tackle and inside linebacker.

They had average players along the offensive line. Smith is an emerging talent, and Free regressed last season.

If Smith becomes what many project him to be -- elite -- and Free rebounds, the new additions to the offensive line should make that unit what it hasn't been in a few years -- good.

Now to the mailbag.

Q: Calvin, I love the idea of building along the offensive line, so I'm hoping the Cowboys draft another offensive lineman in Round 1 and would love Cordy Glenn. Am I crazy to think Jerry Jones can go two years in a row without drafting a flashy player in the first round? -- Travis Stahl (Columbia City, Indiana)

A: It's not about drafting a flashy player, it's about getting the best player available. The Cowboys drafted Tyron Smith last year, and now you have the left tackle for the future. It's more about finding the right fit for your football team, guys who can make an impact right away. The Cowboys did that last year and need to continue that this season.

Q: Calvin, with all the success the Cowboys had signing seven free agents this offseason, I'm pretty sure that a lot of Cowboy fans are questioning a Super Bowl appearance in 2012. What is your take on the Cowboys becoming Super Bowl-bound in 2012? -- Roscoe (Petersburg, Va.)

A: I do like the moves the Cowboys made in free agency, yet don't like the safety situation or the offensive line. There's still some uncertainty there before the draft. We like what DeMarco Murray did for the Cowboys last year, but we need to see it again to become believers. Saying that, I'm not sure if the Cowboys are better than the Saints, Packers, 49ers, Eagles and the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. Those are good teams. Carolina, Detroit and Chicago should be good in 2012. The NFC East -- and the NFC overall -- will be hard to navigate. I wouldn't say the Cowboys are Super Bowl-bound right now.

Q: Calvin, what could we get for Felix Jones on the trade market? I get that he's a great number two, change-of-pace back, but we just hit on a third-round draft pick and I feel like we can do it again every year. Why not use him to get more picks? -- Brad Girson (New Orleans)

A: Cowboys officials probably thought about trading Felix Jones, but it won't happen. You can't score on a third-round pick every year; you get the best player available at that specific spot and hope he develops. Now Jones, in the last year of his contract, should be motivated to not only prove to the Cowboys he's an elite player, but to the rest of the league, as well. Jones is a good No. 2, and if something happens to DeMarco Murray I have no problems starting him again.

Q: Calvin, does a move like adding a Ted Ginn Jr. make sense for "us" with the conditioning troubles that Dez Bryant showed throughout the previous season (along with injuries)? This would answer (potentially) "our" return team issues. Thanks, I'll hang up and listen. (Sorry always wanted to say that last part.) -- Darron Cameron (Tyler, Texas)

A: Dez Bryant is a better wide receiver than Ted Ginn Jr. Simple as that. A younger wide receiver at No. 3 is better for the Cowboys at this stage. I understand the concern about Bryant's health. But he nearly had 1,000 receiving yards last season while being nicked up. He proved his toughness to the team by playing through some issues. He developed a better understanding of the offense in the late stages of the 2011 season and should be better this season.

Q: Why not [Michael] Floyd from Notre Dame in the first round to move Miles [Austin] into the slot now that a lot of the defensive issues have been addressed in free agency? -- Eric Posadas (Mercedes, Texas)

A: The Cowboys lined Austin up in the slot at times last season. That's not an issue. Austin needs to stay healthy because the team sorely missed him in 2011. Now, saying that, Floyd is the second-best wideout in the draft, but the Cowboys don't have a need to draft a wideout in the first or second rounds. They need to find more talent along the offensive line and possibly the secondary to improve the team. Drafting a wideout isn't that high on the priority list on the first two days of the draft.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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