Stephen Jones expresses confidence in Cowboys’ young OL

Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989. He had not drafted an offensive lineman in the first round until taking Tyron Smith ninth overall in 2011.

Jones then took center Travis Frederick (31st, 2013), guard Zack Martin (16th, 2014) and guard/tackle Tyler Smith (24th in 2022) in the first round. All proved successful draft picks.

It is widely presumed that after losing Tyron Smith and starting center Tyler Biadasz in free agency this offseason that the Cowboys will draft another offensive lineman in the first round next week.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones doesn’t see the same urgency as Cowboys fans. Or he’s just playing coy.

“We just think you have to continue to evolve as an offensive line,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. “Certainly, you hate to lose a player like Tyron Smith, who’s in my opinion going to be a Hall of Famer. I think he’s going to be wearing a yellow jacket. But at the same time, unfortunately, Tyron’s had to miss a lot of games, and at some point, you have to make those tough decisions.

“Certainly, you hate to lose Tyler at center in terms of what he had done for us. But at some point there, you’ve got to make a tough decision that we can have him go to another team, and we can replace him hopefully and have a center who’s better. We like the young guys that we’ve brought in over the years, not unlike Connor McGovern. [He] stepped up after being a backup for three years. He stepped up and played really good at guard and then got awarded a contract in Buffalo.”

Jones then offered praise of the offensive linemen on the roster who have a chance at bigger roles with the departures of Tyron Smith and Biadasz.

Offensive tackle Matt Waletzko was a fifth-round pick in 2022 but has played only four games in two seasons because of shoulder subluxation issues. Offensive tackle/guard Asim Richards, a fifth-round pick in 2023, played 39 offensive snaps and 39 special teams snaps in eight games as a rookie. T.J. Bass, an undrafted free agent last year, was active for all 17 games as a rookie and started one game at right guard and one game at left guard. Brock Hoffman, an undrafted free agent who originally signed with the Browns in 2022, started two games at center last season and has played 18 other games.

Bass and Hoffman could compete for the center job, or Bass could take over at left guard if the Cowboys move Tyler Smith to left tackle. Or Waletzko and Richards could compete for the left tackle job.

Much depends on what the Cowboys do in the draft.

“We have guys like Waletzko and Asim Richards, young players who are on the come up,” Jones said. “T.J. Bass played really well for us last year. Obviously, they are guys that our fans aren’t as acquainted with as much because they hadn’t played as much, but we feel they can step up — not unlike Tyler did as a rookie at center — and play really well.”

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