Terence Steele

Latest On Cowboys’ Offensive Line

An avulsion fracture cost Tyron Smith most of last season, and the All-Decade tackle has missed at least three games each year dating back to 2016. The Cowboys are retaining their longest-tenured player on a restructured contract, however, and he is likely moving to right tackle on a full-time basis.

Jerry Jones said the Cowboys are planning to roll out a Tyron Smith-Tyler Smith setup at tackle. That will leave two-year right tackle starter Terence Steele, the team’s preferred La’el Collins successor last year, without a starting role. But the Cowboys prioritized Steele via a second-round restricted free agent tender, doing so despite his lack of a clear path to a first-string gig. He remains in the team’s plans, just not as a starter at present.

Steele is primarily set to become Dallas’ swing tackle, Jones added. This would be a significant downgrade for the quality starter in a contract year, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill notes (via Twitter) Steele will be considered at guard. Steele graded as a top-25 option at tackle last season, per Pro Football Focus, who also viewed Tyler Smith as a top-25 tackle. This would be a good problem for the Cowboys, who have needed to make adjustments in recent years due to Collins and Tyron Smith running into injury trouble.

He’s such a top tackle … as we have it right now, he should be the backup tackle on both sides as we would look at it right today,” Jones said of Steele. “That’s a lot of position flex right there. You say, ‘Why don’t you move Tyler in [to guard]?’ but we also know that Tyron and Tyler both would make quite a tandem out there. The smart play would be to have outstanding depth there and Steele gives you that.

Jones also mentioned a possible rotation, which would seemingly involve Steele and Tyron Smith. Even as the organization has moved Tyron off his longtime spot (left tackle), Hill adds it views the Hall of Fame candidate as a superior pass-blocking option to Steele on the right side. Tyron finished last season as Dallas’ primary right tackle, replacing Steele after the younger blocker suffered a torn ACL. For now, the Cowboys will carry all three at tackle.

PFF slotted Steele as a top-10 run blocker at the position, which could open the door to a guard path. Steele was a four-year starter at Texas Tech but played either right or left tackle for the Big 12 program. Dallas did lose its starting left guard in free agency for a second straight year, with Connor McGovern (Bills) following Connor Williams (Dolphins) to the AFC East. Jones pointed to the draft or another in-house solution, mentioning Matt Waletzko or Matt Farniok, as routes the team could take to replace McGovern. The Cowboys chose Waletzko in the 2022 fifth round and added Farinok in the 2021 seventh. Farniok started two games at guard last season; Waletzko played just three games before a shoulder injury shut him down.

Cowboys Reach Restructure Agreement With Tyron Smith

MARCH 15: The Cowboys have reached a restructure agreement with Smith, according to the team. This move, which Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (via Twitter) will involve converting part of the All-Decade-teamer’s $13.6MM base salary into incentives, will reduce his $17.6MM cap number.

FEBRUARY 28: Tyron Smith remains attached to the NFL’s longest-standing contract, an extension he agreed to back in 2014. The All-Decade tackle has finally reached a contract year.

The Cowboys drafted Tyler Smith in the 2022 first round and plugged him in at Tyron’s longtime spot, after the elder Smith suffered a significant hamstring injury that kept him off the field for most of the season. But the Cowboys look to envision the Smith-Smith setup persisting for at least one more season.

The team expects Tyron Smith back in the fold in 2023. The final year of Smith’s contract calls for a $17.6MM cap number and $13.6MM base salary. Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones did not rule out another restructure, a well the Cowboys have gone to a few times with the Hall of Fame-caliber blocker.

I mean, we always do reworks and things of that nature. That could come up with him,” Jones said, via ESPN.com’s Todd Archer (on Twitter). “We have the ability to do that and, but right now, we’re comfortable where we are.”

The Cowboys restructured Smith’s deal in 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2021. It remains interesting Smith’s eight-year, $97.6MM extension has lasted this long. The 6-foot-8 blocker, however, ran into a host of injury issues over the course of this contract. The most notable setbacks came during the 2020s, with a neck malady sidelining him for almost all of the 2020 season and last year’s avulsion fracture shelving him for 13 games. Smith also underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason. The injuries notwithstanding, Smith has piled up Pro Bowls to assemble a quality Canton case.

Where Tyron Smith lines up next year will be one of the key Cowboys storylines coming out of the offseason. The team still has Terence Steele in its plans. The team’s post-La’el Collins solution at right tackle, Steele is recovering from ACL and MCL tears. The young blocker is ahead of schedule in his rehab, Archer tweets, and on track for training camp. The Cowboys have not determined which RFA tender will be applied to the former UDFA, but Archer adds the rarely used first-round tender ($6MM this year) is in play. The second-round tender is set to cost $4.3MM.

Steele, 25, certainly could generate interest if a second-round tender is applied. The Cowboys would collect a second-round pick if they failed to match an offer sheet for the 40-game starter. Steele returning would restore the uncertainty regarding the Smiths’ positions. Rather than slot Tyron Smith at his blindside post, the Cowboys used the 12-year veteran to replace Steele. Moving Tyler Smith back to guard, his position during training camp, could stunt his growth. The Cowboys expect Tyler Smith to be their long-term left tackle, potentially pointing to Steele or Tyron Smith needing to move off right tackle.

Cowboys To Place Second-Round RFA Tender On RT Terence Steele

The Cowboys were recently said to be weighing their options with right tackle Terence Steele with respect to a restricted free agent tender. A decision has reportedly been made on that front.

Dallas will place the second-round RFA tender on Steele, per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Doing so carries a value of $4.3MM for 2023, a figure which comfortably surpasses the $2.295MM he has earned to date on his rookie contract. The first-round tender would have cost the team just over $6MM.

Steele, 25, has played in 45 games across his three seasons with the Cowboys. He has logged 40 starts over that span, primarily at right tackle. His level of play at that spot allowed Dallas to move on from La’el Collins and commit to the Texas Tech alum full time in 2022. Steele took a step forward in PFF rating for the third straight year, generating an overall grade of 73.9. That figure ranked 23rd out of 81 qualifying tackles. As Gehlken notes, that makes him part of the Cowboys’ long-term o-line plans.

Steele’s 2022 campaign was cut short by ACL and MCL tears. However, his recovery is going well so far, and a return in time for training camp is expected. Before that point, Steele’s financial future will likely become clearer. Their chosen tender will earn the Cowboys a second round pick if Steele signs an offer sheet with another team and they decline to match it. Given his age and experience, it will be interesting to monitor if a multi-year deal worth notably more than the tender’s value is put on the table, and how the Cowboys would respond to it. Steele can negotiate with teams up until April 21.

This news comes as Dallas faces the problem of trying to keep all three of their top tackles in the fold for 2023. Longtime blindside protector Tyron Smith has just one year remaining on his current deal, at a cap hit of over $17.6MM, while 2022 first-rounder Tyler Smith filled in at LT for much of his rookie season. Deciding on the elder Smith’s future and the latter’s best short-term position could become part of their offensive line equation if Steele draws considerable outside interest.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/14/22

Here are today’s minor transactions from around the league:

Arizona Cardinals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Cowboys RT Terence Steele Suffers Torn ACL; Latest On Tyron Smith

10:55am: Confirming the team’s worst fears, Steele has suffered a torn ACL (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler). That will end his season, and leave the Cowboys with a significant hole to fill on the right side of their o-line.

9:59am: The Cowboys survived an upset scare versus the Texans on Sunday, but their offensive line lost a starter for what could be an extended stretch. Right tackle Terence Steele suffered what is feared to be serious knee injury, as noted (on Twitter) by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Steele, 25, was assured the full-time right tackle role this offseason when the Cowboys let La’el Collins depart in free agency. The Texas Tech alum had seen plenty of playing time prior to that, of course, but the decision represented a vote of confidence in him. To date, Steele had proven to be worthy of the first-team role, continuing his career progression.

The former UDFA earned an underwhelming PFF grade as a rookie, but took a step forward last year. That continued into 2022, as Steele’s 75.3 rating ranks him in the top 20 in the NFL amongst offensive tackles. Any extended absence would therefore be notable for Dallas and their offense; Rapoport adds that more will be known following Steele’s MRI.

In more positive news for the Cowboys, Tyron Smith could suit up in Week 15 against the Jaguars. The eight-time Pro Bowler returned to practice this past week, opening the team’s three-week window within which they must activate him if he is to play in 2022. Rapoport notes that Smith made sufficient progress during the week that suiting up against Jacksonville is “very possible.” That would provide the team with a significant boost up front, and help offset any absence necessitated by Steele’s injury.

Smith’s return, it is already known, will see him take up his familiar spot as a blindside protector. That will move first-round rookie Tyler Smith inside, giving the team several other options at guard including Connor McGovern and veteran free agent signing Jason Peters. How they respond at the spot opposite Tyron Smith, however, could be worth watching in the latter stages of the regular season.

OL Notes: Fins, Steele, Colts, Jets, Seahawks

After the Dolphins drafted him to be Laremy Tunsil‘s left tackle successor, Austin Jackson finished his second NFL season at guard. Pro Football Focus graded Jackson as the Dolphins’ worst regular starter last season and tabbed Miami’s unit as the league’s worst. The team has since made changes, signing Terron Armstead to a big-ticket deal and adding guard Connor Williams. With Robert Hunt at right guard, the Dolphins are looking to try Jackson at a third position soon. They are planning to see how the USC product fares at right tackle, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. The Dolphins also figure to try 2021 second-rounder Liam Eichenberg on the right side, with Armstead having replaced him at left tackle. Hunt, whom PFF graded as the team’s top O-line regular last season, began his career at right tackle. But the Dolphins would prefer he stay at right guard, Jackson adds. This figures to pit Jackson and Eichenberg in a position battle. Eichenberg, who replaced Jackson on the left side last year, made 16 starts as a rookie.

Here is the latest from the O-line ranks:

  • The Cowboys made La’el Collins a cap casualty, but the team is confident in the player poised to replace him. Dallas views Terence Steele as a potential “decade-long” option at right tackle, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes. A UDFA out of Texas Tech, Steele has made 27 starts over his first two seasons, subbing for both Collins and Tyron Smith. The Cowboys turned to Steele during Collins’ five-game PED suspension last year and used him as their primary right tackle starter in 2020, when Collins missed the entire season. This has given Dallas a notable evaluation period on the oft-used backup. Steele is not eligible for unrestricted free agency until 2024, giving Dallas more time to determine his future.
  • Matt Ryan will join a Colts team that houses some of the league’s best O-linemen, and Quenton Nelson is on track to join center Ryan Kelly and right tackle Braden Smith in being extended. But the team has a hole at left tackle again. With Eric Fisher unlikely to return, the Colts may not be ready to spend on a replacement. Swingman Matt Pryor stands to be given the first look at replacing Fisher, Mike Wells of ESPN.com notes. Pryor made guard starts for the Eagles in 2020 and started at three positions for the Colts last season, a five-start year in which he replaced Fisher, Smith and Nelson at various points. The ex-sixth-round pick is signed through the 2022 season.
  • The Jets reunited Mike LaFleur and Laken Tomlinson, giving the ex-49ers guard a three-year, $40MM deal during the legal tampering period. Tomlinson will receive $13.9MM fully guaranteed, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets, adding that Tomlinson’s 2022 cap charge comes in at just $5.4MM. Tomlinson’s 2023 base salary ($12.7MM) shifts from an injury-only guarantee to a full guarantee on Day 5 of the 2023 league year. Tomlinson’s cap number spikes to $17.4MM in 2023.
  • The one-year, $4MM deal the Seahawks gave Austin Blythe comes with a $2.5MM signing bonus and a $1.5MM base salary, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. Blythe can earn up to $500K in playing-time incentives. With Ethan Pocic unsigned, Blythe has a clear path to becoming a starting center again. The ex-Rams guard and center starter backed up Creed Humphrey throughout last season with the Chiefs.
  • Will Richardson‘s one-year Jaguars deal is worth $2MM, Wilson adds (on Twitter). Jacksonville is guaranteeing the veteran backup $975K.

Cowboys Place OT Terence Steele On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Cowboys are dealing with a bit of a COVID problem. Per Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, the club has placed right tackle Terence Steele on the reserve/COVID-19 list after a positive test. As Watkins’ colleague, Michael Gehlken, tweets, Dallas’ O-line coach Joe Philbin, O-line assistant Jeff Blasko, offensive assistant Scott Tolzien, and strength and conditioning coaches Harold Nash, Jr., Cedric Smith, and Kendall Smith are also on the list following positive tests.

Neither Steele nor the staffers (with the possible exception of Cedric Smith) will be available for the Cowboys’ game against the Saints on Thursday. La’el Collins will get the start at RT in Steele’s absence.

Steele, a 2020 UDFA, served as Collins’ primary replacement last season, which Collins missed due to hip surgery. This year, Collins was hit with a five-game PED suspension, and starting left tackle Tyron Smith has missed time with an ankle injury. So Steele has played both LT and RT in 2021, and Pro Football Focus’ metrics paint him as the 53rd-best offensive tackle out of 81 qualifiers.

To combat further spread of the virus, the Cowboys will be working virtually through Monday and will have daily testing through Tuesday. The good news is that WR Amari Cooper, who has missed Dallas’ last two games due to a positive COVID test of his own, should be back in action for the Saints game, as Watkins writes.

The Cowboy’s other top wideout, CeeDee Lamb, who missed the club’s Thanksgiving loss to the Raiders due to a concussion, is also expected to clear protocols and suit up against New Orleans (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com).

La’el Collins To Play Reserve Role Coming Off Suspension

La’el Collins‘ five-game PED suspension has elapsed, and the high-end right tackle returned to practice this week. But the Cowboys are not giving Collins his starting job back — at least not yet.

Terence Steele will remain Dallas’ starting right tackle this week, Mike McCarthy said Thursday. A former UDFA, Steele served as Collins’ primary right tackle fill-in last season — which Collins missed due to hip surgery — and returned to that role after Collins’ PED ban became official this year.

McCarthy said Collins will play a swing role to start out post-suspension, playing behind Steele and working as a reserve left guard, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. While Collins began his pro career at left guard, he has been Dallas’ top right tackle since the 2017 season. Collins, 28, is signed to a $10MM-per-year extension that runs through 2024.

Obviously, LC has position flexibility,” McCarthy said, adding that he needs to see Collins go through practices before reinstalling him as a starter. “We are going to start the week with Terence at right tackle. So LC gives us some great competition in there. We are going to try to work him as much as possible.”

Pro Football Focus graded Collins as one of the NFL’s best right tackles in 2019, but he has missed 21 of the Cowboys’ past 22 games. After rating Steele as one of the league’s worst starting O-linemen last season, PFF slots the Texas Tech product 27th among tackles this year. Whichever way the Cowboys end up going at right tackle, the player that ends up as the reserve stands to create some plus depth for the NFC East leaders.

Cowboys Move Micah Parsons To DE

The Cowboys could not resist selecting Micah Parsons with the No. 12 overall pick of the 2021 draft, despite their existing depth at linebacker. Parsons was widely regarded as the best off-ball LB in this year’s class, but recent losses along Dallas’ D-line have forced the team to move its top draft choice to DE, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes.

The club’s top pass rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence, will be sidelined for the next six to eight weeks due to a broken foot, and fellow DE Randy Gregory has found himself on the reserve/COVID-19 list, leading to an immediate need for reinforcements. Luckily, one of Parsons’ key attributes is his ability to get after opposing quarterbacks, and the Cowboys trained him as a designated pass rusher during offseason workouts.

Depending on how long Parsons remains at defensive end, and how successful he is in his new role, the transition could theoretically impact Dallas’ future plans. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is eligible for free agency following the 2021 campaign since the Cowboys declined his fifth-year option, and Gregory is also in his platform year. Dallas does not plan to entertain extension talks with either player during the season. Plus, free agent acquisition Keanu Neal is being deployed as a linebacker, and LB Jaylon Smith is signed though 2025, though the Cowboys could get out of his contract after this season if they choose.

In short, there are a lot of ways Dallas could go with respect to its front seven. Obviously, the expectation is that Parsons will eventually move back to the position that he was drafted to play, but a successful stint as a DE could change things and will only enhance his value.

In related news, Terence Steele is expected to get the nod at right tackle while La’el Collins is serving his five-game suspension (Twitter link via Todd Archer of ESPN.com).

Cowboys’ La’el Collins Uncertain For Week 1

Injuries have been a fairly steady presence during La’el Collins‘ NFL career. Although Collins missed only one game from 2017-19, the Cowboys’ right tackle starter missed most of 2016 and all of last season. He is in jeopardy of missing the start of this year’s Dallas slate.

Collins has been out of practice since last week due to a neck issue, and Mike McCarthy expressed uncertainty regarding the talented blocker’s Week 1 status. Collins is in a “holding pattern” with his latest injury, per McCarthy.

The seventh-year lineman has fully recovered from the hip injury that knocked him out of the 2020 season, but the prospect of a backup Cowboys right tackle facing the Buccaneers is firmly in play because of what the Cowboys have called a neck stinger. Should Collins be unable to go, McCarthy said either free agent acquisition Ty Nsekhe or holdover Terence Steele would start, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter).

It would seem Nsekhe would receive the call, having signed to help the Cowboys at swing tackle after the team lost Collins before last season and Tyron Smith early in that disappointing campaign. Nsekhe, however, will turn 36 this season. Dallas signed the former Washington and Buffalo spot starter to a one-year, $1.75MM deal ($500K guaranteed); Steele is a second-year UDFA who graded as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-worst full-time tackle last season. Steele worked as Collins’ primary fill-in in 2020, starting 14 games.

Collins, 28, ended the 2019 season as one of the league’s top right tackles, having experienced a run of good health after missing 13 games in 2016 due to a toe malady. The Cowboys have given Collins two extensions, the most recent being a five-year, $50MM re-up in 2019. With Smith having not surpassed 13 games played since the 2015 season, the Cowboys are counting on Collins to return to full strength soon.