The sentiment regarding Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith was altered from optimistic immediately following his injury sustained last night to crippling once it was learned hours later that he had suffered a torn hamstring. More has come out today regarding his recovery plan, and the options Dallas now has to weigh.
Smith will undergo surgery tomorrow, reports ESPN’s Todd Archer (Twitter link). As had been thought, the timeline to recover from the procedure will keep him sidelined until at least December. That represents, of course, a major blow to Dallas’ offensive line, but leaves open the possibility that the 31-year-old could return in time for the postseason.
Smith’s absence leaves plenty of question marks throughout the o-line. Projected starting left guard Connor McGovern – who head coach Mike McCarthy indicated is still ahead of first-round rookie Tyler Smith – was scheduled to start at center during the Cowboys’ preseason finale. “Connor also has value at other positions, which I value a lot,” McCarthy added, via the team’s website, referring to his ability to play as a jumbo tight end or fullback as well.
With Tyron Smith on the shelf for the foreseeable future, though, Tyler Smith may be needed at either tackle or guard earlier than the team envisioned. The latter is dealing with a minor ankle injury, though owner Jerry Jones indicated that he is not concerned about his Week 1 availability. Missing the team’s final preseason game, though, would be significant given the shuffling now required amongst the starters.
In the aftermath of Smith’s diagnosis, Jones said that the front office is “giving thought” to the idea of adding a veteran blindside protector in free agency (Twitter link via Archer). On that point, Archer’s colleague Ed Werner tweets that Eric Fisher “wants to play this season” and has already received offers from nine teams. The former No. 1 pick is being “selective,” as evidenced by the fact he has still not signed despite widespread interest. Fisher played 15 games for the Colts last season, after his eight-year Chiefs tenure ended with a torn Achilles.
As noted by Jon Machota of The Athletic (subscription required), Dallas has internal options to consider, including swing tackle Josh Ball and fifth-round rookie Matt Waletzko. The Cowboys also have the third-most cap space in the league ($21.5MM), however, so signing someone like Fisher, Jason Peters or Daryl Williams would be feasible. The same could be true of a trade acquisition; Machota names former Patriots first-rounder Isaiah Wynn as a potential target.
Regardless of how they replace Smith, the Cowboys’ decisions along the o-line will go a long way in determining the offense’s effectiveness during a season once again filled with expectation.