DALLAS (CBS SPORTS) — Now that the Dallas Cowboys have a gazillion dollars sunk in quarterback Tony Romo, they must take the next step to protect that investment. They must spend their first draft pick on an offensive lineman.
It’s a no-brainer. Take a tackle. Take a guard. I don’t care. Just do it.
Of course, that’s not the history of the Cowboys. They spent just one first-round pick on an offensive lineman over the past three decades, and that was left tackle Tyron Smith. But the Cowboys chose him with the ninth overall selection in 2011, so they demonstrated they’re willing to break from tradition.
Well, then, do it again … and I wouldn’t stop with the first choice. I’d make two of my first three draft picks offensive linemen, and I’d even consider investing all three in them.
Look, I don’t care what you think of Romo, but by making him the highest-paid player in franchise history with a six-year, $108 million contract extension, the Cowboys told you what they think of the guy — and they think he’s a franchise quarterback. OK, fine. So give him an opportunity to excel by surrounding him with weapons, a rushing attack and reliable pass protectors.
Dallas already has Miles Austin and Dez Bryant as wide receivers, as well as one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the business in Jason Witten. What it doesn’t have is a decent offensive line or a commitment to the running game, and both serve as protection for the quarterback. With the money the Cowboys sank in Romo, you’d think they’d want to take care of it.
So take care of it. With the 18th pick, choose right tackle D.J. Fluker from Alabama or guard Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina. Fluker should be there. Cooper probably won’t. So then consider moving down the board to choose tackles Menelik Watson, Kyle Long or Terron Armstead.
The draft is loaded with offensive and defensive linemen, and Dallas must choose the best offensive lineman with its first choice. Then it should reach for an offensive lineman in the second or third rounds, with the second a perfect spot to land a center, and guards always available in the third.
People tell me that’s drafting for need, and, yes, as a matter of fact it is — because there’s a glaring need to upgrade the Cowboys’ offensive line. Dallas is strong at left tackle, but that’s about it. Right tackle Doug Free is a liability, the guards are barely adequate and neither Ryan Cook nor Phil Costa is the answer at center.
Improve the line, and you might improve the league’s 31st-ranked running game and cut down on Romo’s 36 sacks and 19 interceptions. Better yet, you might improve a team that hasn’t won more than eight games in each of the past three seasons.
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