5 options for Cowboys to replace Tyron Smith at LT

The NFL combine offers more than just an opportunity to get a look at the upcoming prospects, it’s also a place to kickstart the offseason. Teams use the annual get together to seek clarity with their own players ahead of free agency.

For the Dallas Cowboys, it was time to find out where they stood with left tackle Tyron Smith. Those conversations didn’t go as some hoped as the team and the 13-year veteran couldn’t agree on Smith’s value, and he’s set to become a free agent for the first time in his career.

Smith’s absence leaves a hole on the Cowboys’ offensive line that needs to be addressed. It can be argued whether it’s the right move for the team at another time, but for now, the task is finding his successor. Here are the best options for the Cowboys to replace Smith at LT.

Move Tyler Smith to LT

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

This might be the easiest solution for the Cowboys. The team drafted Tyler Smith to be the LT of the future in the 2022 draft, but with the elder Smith staying relatively healthy last season, the second-year man out of Tulsa didn’t have to kick out to tackle.

As a rookie, Smith fared worse as the team yo-yoed him between LG and LT, but Dallas was asking a lot from the young offensive lineman. Smith was much better in year two staying in one position, blossoming into an All-Pro at LG. The Cowboys do see the potential for Smith to be one of the game’s best, no matter where they line him up.

That’s high praise from Stephen Jones, but thus far Smith has proven to be a better guard than tackle, would they really want to move him again?

Putting Smith at LT also opens up the LG spot, which means the team is still searching for a starter on the left side of the line. T.J. Bass acquitted himself well at LG in limited duty as a rookie, but it remains to be seen if the team trusts that he can do it full-time.

Smith is the best in-house replacement at LT, but that might be creating more problems than it solves. Still, Smith is an excellent option, and at just 23-years old, there’s little doubt he could get the job done.

Draft Smith's replacement

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Losing Smith would be a blow, but there couldn’t be a better time to be looking for his successor. The 2024 draft is one of the deepest drafts for offensive line prospects in a long time.

There are at least 10 tackle options that fall into the top 75 players on most experts’ draft boards, so the Cowboys could pick one with either of their first two selections. Mock drafts had the team grabbing a tackle in the first two rounds even before the Smith news dropped, and it makes even more sense now.

The top tackles in the first round likely includes Georgia’s Amarius Mims, Alabama’s JC Latham, Arizona’s Jordan Morgan, and Washington’s Troy Fautanu. Any of those options would be a solid pick and help the Cowboys replace Smith while keeping the rest of the offensive line in place.

Second-round choices could be Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton, Yale’s Kiran Amegadjie, or Houston’s Patrick Paul.

It’s still early in the draft process with the combine just concluding, so there could be other prospects to pop up. Two years ago, there weren’t many calling Tyler Smith to the Cowboys, but he emerged as a player late in the process and he’s worked out well.

Drafting Smith’s replacement is another top option for the Cowboys and the timing couldn’t be better.

Have Asim Richards take over

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys were planning for this day when they drafted Asim Richards in the 2023 draft. Perhaps they had hoped to give the former North Carolina product another year to grow, but that doesn’t look like the case now. Richards will need to show some vast improvement if he wants to win the job.

The fifth-round selection last year showed some promise in the preseason and got some valuable experience in the regular season as well. Richards had a steep learning curve as a rookie, but if he makes the second-year jump, he could make the case to take over for Smith.

It would be a leap of faith to watch Richards in the offseason program and believe he can play LT at a high level, but the Cowboys have worked well with late-round picks and undrafted free agents before. Terence Steele is a starting RT and wasn’t drafted, so it’s tough to slam the door on Richards’ potential.

Replacing Smith with Richards isn’t nearly as good as the first two options, but he could surprise.

Sign a free agent

Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Usually this is a dead-end avenue for the Cowboys since they rarely use the open market to find a quality player. However, if they are looking for a suitable replacement, the team could find one in free agency.

Ironically, Smith is the best tackle available, but there are other options. Veteran Trent Brown has played for three teams over the course of his career and has a Pro Bowl on his resume. Brown will be 31-years old come September and he’s another player who’s had issues staying healthy, playing a full season just three times in nine years.

Another option could be Donovan Smith, a former second-round pick in 2015 who will be 31-years old in June but has started 136 games in his career. Neither Brown nor Smith are the player that Tyron Smith is, so they would be downgrades.

Younger options include Jonah Williams and Mekhi Becton, both of whom were the 11th overall pick in back-to-back years, and Michael Onwenu, a sixth-round pick who’s grown into one of the more versatile young offensive linemen in the league. Williams and Becton have underachieved, but a change of scenery could be the answer.

Using free agency would be nice, but considering they weren’t willing to pay for Smith, it’s doubtful they want to spend big money on another veteran option. That leaves some stopgap types of OTs who aren’t very appealing.

If the right deal came along, the Cowboys could pony up some decent money for one of the better tackles in free agency. It just isn’t likely.

Trade for a LT

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cowboys had holes on the roster last offseason, they got aggressive in the veteran trade market. The team dealt for WR Brandin Cooks and CB Stephon Gilmore in exchange for Day 3 draft picks. The moves paid off, both veterans had some gas left in their tanks and played well in Dallas.

If the team can identify the right LT and can pry them away for cheap, it might be the right option. An issue in going down this path is cost, how much does the veteran make and can the Cowboys afford it?

Also, the team doesn’t have as much draft capital to make a deal this year, so that’ll weigh on their minds in any possible deal. Jerry Jones isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a trade, but the organization would need to fit the right fit.

Trading is a tough option. Finding a team willing to rid themselves of an offensive lineman in a league that is desperate for talent on the OL is a difficult proposition.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire