Cowboys questions at Offensive Tackle

The Cowboys spent a lot of money on a 2nd contract for Terence Steele as he was coming off a knee injury that knocked him out of games to end the 2022 season, and the playoffs. In 2023, Steele had a down year, breaking his upward trajectory. He started playing better near the end of the 2023 season. In 2022, he was a force in the running game, but still needed a lot of work in pass protection. Can Steele get back on that upward trajectory that took him from an undrafted player in 2020 to a guy who received a 5 year contract paying him an average of $16.5M per season?

Since acquiring Steele (age 27) in 2020, the Cowboys have spent 6 draft picks on Offensive Tackles in the last 4 drafts

  • 2021 – OT Josh Ball, Marshall – 4th round, 138th pick (age 26)
  • 2022 – OT Tyler Smith, Tulsa – 1st round, pick 24 (age 24)
  • 2022 – OT Matt Waletzko, North Dakota – 5th round, 155th pick (age 24)
  • 2023 – OT Asim Richards, North Carolina – 5th round, 169th pick (age 23)
  • 2024 – OT Tyler Guyton, Oklahoma – 1st round, 29th pick (age 22)
  • 2024 – OT Nathan Thomas, Louisianna – 7th round, 233rd pick (age 22)

In addition to those players drafted, the Cowboys also brought in two veteran free agents, and two more undrafted free agents that were highly sought after, and paid large signing bonuses for undrafted players

  • 2023 – OT Chuma Edoga, USC – former 3rd round, 92nd pick by Jets in 2019 (age 27)
  • 2023 – OT Dakoda Shepley, British Columbia – former 1st round, 5th pick in Canadian Football Leage (age 29)
  • 2023 – OT T.J. Bass, Oregon – undrafted FA, (age 25)
  • 2023 – OT Earl Bostick, Jr., Kansas – undrafted FA (age 25)

It is unfair to classify all of these players as NFL offensive tackles. The Cowboys have a habit of only drafting players who played offensive tackle in college, and converting them to guards in the NFL. Even perennial All-Pro Guard Zack Martin played OT at Notre Dame, and prior to Tyler Smith moving inside to guard, the Cowboys had drafted Connor Williams, who was an OT at Texas. The only interior college linemen that they draft tend to be those they want to play Center – which happened in 2020 for Tyler Biadasz, and in 2024 for Cooper Beebee. Only Connor McGovern was a drafted interior lineman in the last 10 years who actually started at Guard for the Cowboys, and then only for one season. McGovern now plays Center for the Bills, which he also played at Penn State.

Looking at the 10 offensive tackles the Cowboys have acquired over the past 4 off-seasons:

  1. Tyler Smith – played one year playing well at LT, and then moved inside to become a 2nd team All-Pro Guard.
  2. Chuma Edoga – started 6 games in 2023 at both Tackle and Guard.
  3. T.J. Bass – was immediately moved to guard, and started 2 games as an injury replacement in 2023. He is being cross-trained at center, and will likely be a key back-up in 2023 at all 3 interior line positions, unless he can outright win the starting center job, or if Smith or Martin get injured.
  4. Asim Richards – appeared in 8 games in 2023 with no starts. He has played both Guard and Tackle, and it is an open question where he fits in the Cowboys Offensive line rotation.
  5. Josh Ball – after flaming out at Tackle in his first two preseasons, was moved inside to back-up Zack Martin in the 2023 offseason. By all accounts, he was having a good preseason, but as in his previous two seasons he was injured in training camp, and he has now spent three years on injured reserve.
  6. Matt Waletzko – has been injured in preseason 2 consecutive year, and spent both of his seasons on injured reserve.
  7. Earl Bostick, Jr. – was paid the highest signing bonus by the Cowboys of any undrafted free agent in 2023, and his rookie contract was guaranteed. But he spent his 1st season on the Practice Squad
  8. Dakoda Shepley – after spending a year in the CFL, Shepley has bounced around the NFL as a backup player or practice squad player. He spent parts of both the 2022 and 2023 seasons on the Cowboys practice squad, and is unlikely to make the team in 2024
  9. Tyler Guyton – is a rookie that is being penciled in as the presumed starter at Left Tackle to replace perennial All-Pro Tyron Smith. But he still must win the position. If he doesn’t win the job, then the Cowboys need another player to step up. If one doesn’t step up, the Cowboys have the option of moving Tyler Smith back to Left Tackle, but they would prefer keeping Smith inside.
  10. Nathan Thomas – is a rookie that has so far received high praise from veteran players, but it remains to be seen if he’ll play tackle or guard for the Cowboys.

In addition to finding their future left tackle, the Cowboys need a reliable swing tackle to emerge from this crop of 10 players. Moving Smith back to Left Tackle would open up another hole on the interior of the offensive line.

Bottom line: The Cowboys have spent a ton of capital to find a replacement at left tackle, and a swing tackle to back up both positions. But questions still remain at both tackle positions. Can Steele have a better season in 2024? Will a candidate emerge at left tackle? Who will be the swing tackle. Which of these college OT’s will be guards for the Cowboys, and not NFL tackles?

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