The Dallas Cowboys already had question marks on the offensive line heading into the 2022 season, yet face a major problem after Tyron Smith went down with an avulsion fracture of the knee and is out until at least December.
Smith’s loss is huge for Dallas, especially given how good he’s been when on the field. Even though he missed five games with an ankle sprain last year, Smith only allowed two sacks and 10 pressures in 416 pass-blocking snaps. Smith is still one of the game’s best run-blockers, the driving force behind the explosiveness of Tony Pollard and the effectiveness of Ezekiel Elliott.
With Smith out, the Cowboys have a massive hole to fill at left tackle. This is in addition to replacing Connor Williams at left guard and La’el Collins at right tackle, two key departures from this offseason. Dallas will have to fill three of the five spots on its offensive line for Week 1, a major obstacle toward repeating as NFC East champions.
How will Dallas replace Smith? Simply put, it won’t be easy.
Tyler Smith was a left tackle in college and was drafted as the heir to Tyron Smith. The Cowboys may have to lean on Smith now, even though the 2022 first-round pick has played left guard throughout camp. Smith is an excellent run blocker and led the FBS in big-time blocks last year, but his pass blocking needs some work.
Smith needs significant work on his fundamentals, which is why he was at guard in the first place. Might be better to keep him there during his rookie year.
If the Cowboys do move Smith to left tackle, Connor McGovern can play left guard. The left side of the offensive line could be a major problem regardless.
A left tackle at North Dakota, the 2022 fifth-round pick has excellent foot quickness — but his strength has a lot to be desired. He’s a developmental project and has the potential to start in the league, but throwing Waletzko to the wolves in Week 1 is a major reach.
A 2021 fourth-round pick, Ball has gotten work at left tackle when Smith has been out. Ball struggled his rookie season as he adjusted to playing right tackle and learning the swing tackle role. He didn’t play an offensive snap last year and has allowed five hurries and four pressures in 43 pass-blocking snaps this preseason.
Asking Ball to start at left tackle in Week 1 is another huge reach.
Dillard is a starting left tackle for multiple teams in this league, but his path is blocked by Jordan Mailata in Philadelphia. Mailata is a top 10 tackle in the league and has the potential to become one of the elite tackles in the game, which leaves Dillard as a valuable backup.
The Eagles place a high value on Dillard in case Mailata goes down, so trading for him won’t be easy — especially since the Cowboys are a division rival. That price won’t be cheap, even if Dillard is the best option.
A starting left tackle for the Patriots the past three seasons, Wynn has moved over to right tackle as Trent Brown has taken over the left tackle position. The Patriots have talked to teams involving Wynn, as they are tight in cap space.
Wynn is available, but allowed six sacks and 27 pressures in 491 pass-blocking snaps last year. He is in the final year of his rookie contract, a $10.4 million fifth-year option by the Patriots. Wynn has missed 34 of the 65 regular season games he’s been NFL eligible for since 2018, so he’s not been reliable on the field, either (even though he played 16 games last year).
The Patriots know the Cowboys will be desperate for Wynn, so Dallas will have to part ways with a high draft pick.
Solder has a wealth of starting left tackle experience in the league, but has been one of the worst pass blockers in football over the last few years. Playing right tackle last year, Solder allowed seven sacks and 33 pressures in 547 pass-blocking snaps. Soldier allowed 18 sacks in his first two seasons at left tackle with New York, which ended up being one of the worst free agent contracts in recent history.
The Cowboys could bring Solder in for a look. Perhaps playing for another organization and a better coaching staff than the one in New York could help his career.
Fisher is still on the market after struggling last season with the Colts. (He allowed nine sacks and 40 pressures in 457 pass-blocking snaps — by far the worst season of his career. Fisher dealt with knee and pectoral injuries toward the end of last year, on top of being months removed the torn Achilles that ended his 2020 season — and career — with the Chiefs.
Perhaps a full year removed from the injury, maybe the Cowboys will get a better version of Fisher. He’s still only 31 years old and might be the best available option.
Peters started 15 games for the Bears last season at 39 years old, but was far from the former All-Pro who terrorized the Cowboys defensive line when he was with the Eagles. He allowed six sacks and 23 pressures in 485 pass-blocking snaps last season, with a pressure rate allowed rate of 4.7%.
Already 40 years old — and still wanting to play — Peters can provide valuable depth to a roster, but asking him to start in a 17-game season is a monumental task.