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Mackenzy Bernadeau is the most vulnerable starter of an improving Dallas Cowboys offensive line

Dallas Cowboys Free Agency Needs: Though the offensive line was greatly improved in 2013 it remains a position to focus on for the Cowboys

By Matthew Postins

PostinsPostcards.com

Cowboys 2014 Free Agency Needs: Offensive line

RattleandHumSports.com is breaking down the free agent needs at every position group for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys. Today it’s the offensive line.

Tackles: Tyron Smith (starter), Doug Free (starter), Jermey Parnell (backup), Darrion Weems (backup). Guards: Ron Leary (starter), Mackenzy Bernadeau (starter). Centers: Travis Frederick (starter), Phil Costa (backup).

Other notable players: Center Ryan Cook (spent entire season on IR), guard Brian Waters (signed just before start of season, played 7 games and finished season on IR).

Cowboys offensive linemen entering free agency: Waters, Cook.

Free agency need?: 5 (out of 10, 10 being most pressing).

Why: The left side of this offensive line seems set. Left tackle Tyron Smith finished this season with his first Pro Bowl selection and a second-team All-Pro nod. Left guard Ron Leary acquitted himself nicely in his first season as a full-time starter after joining the Cowboys two years ago as an undrafted free agent. Center Travis Frederick, the Cowboys’ first round pick, started immediately and earned All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers’ Association. So it’s time for owner and general manager Jerry Jones to turn his attention to the right side. Right tackle Doug Free definitely improved in 2013 and was kind enough to take a pay cut for 2013 and 2014. The Cowboys may decide to identify a young tackle in the draft to groom behind Free. That leaves right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau as the most vulnerable member of the starting five. Bernadeau’s play improved late in 2013, but he did lost the starting job to Brian Waters in September and it was clear that Waters was an upgrade over Bernadeau.

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Possible targets: Waters is an obvious target for Dallas, but they have to find out if Waters is interested in returning in 2014, and there’s the matter of the torn triceps that ended Waters’ season. it’s still unclear how Waters intends to rehab that injury. In our five free agents to consider piece last week, we pointed out that a veteran like Roberto Garza would push a player like Bernadeau and back up Frederick at center. But the pickings at guard aren’t great, frankly. Geoff Hangartner, Kevin Boothe, Paul McQuistan and Vlad Ducasse are some players that have some name recognition and are in the Cowboys’ price range. If the Cowboys want to bring in some veteran tackle competition, Zach Strief, Bryant McKinnie, Eric Winston and Tyson Clabo are potentially in Dallas’ price range.

Looking ahead: It would not be smart of Jones to stop trying to help this unit just because it played better in 2013. But, I envision Jones looking at improving the offensive line from within or through the draft before spending money in free agency. It’s clear that if there’s one position to upgrade it is right guard, but that doesn’t automatically mean the Cowboys would cut Bernadeau. Remember – this will be the first offseason in three years in which Bernadeau actually isn’t rehabbing an injury. Also keep in mind that the Cowboys have several linemen they’re developing, including tackle Jermey Parnell and guard/tackle Darrion Weems. Any free agent the Cowboys sign this offseason has to be a value selection and an upgrade over what they already have, which is why the right side of the offensive line is the obvious target.

Next up: Defensive line.

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