FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys needed offensive tackle depth after an injury sidelined eight-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith until at least December.
Who best to replace the eight-time Pro Bowler Smith? The Cowboys are signing a nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle – albeit at 40 years old now – for subsequent depth.
Jason Peters, who played 15 games for Chicago last season after 11 years with the Eagles, signed with the Cowboys on Monday and began integrating into practice. Dallas signed Peters to his practice squad as he acclimates to a new team.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy welcomed Peters’ ability on the field and wealth of knowledge to elevate off it.
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“You have a chance to look at the video, obviously you have a tremendous amount of respect for what Jason has accomplished throughout his career,” McCarthy said Monday. “This is about adding depth and bringing another excellent player into your program. … We do have a lot of young offensive linemen that will benefit from his mentorship.”
Peters’ signing does not change the expectation for the Cowboys’ Week 1 starter on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. First-round rookie Tyler Smith, who played left tackle in college but left guard in training camp, is expected to get the nod then.
“To me, these are two separate topics,” McCarthy said of what Peters’ signing means for the rookie’s spot in the starting lineup. “This is more about adding a future Hall of Fame player to your football team.”
Tyron Smith fractured his knee and tore his hamstring during practice Aug. 24. He needed surgery, and is not expected to be cleared until at least December. Tyler Smith returned to practicing at left tackle after the veteran’s injury, saying his left-guard training camp work employed similar footwork and technique as he used the same kick leg and source of power generation that left tackle will demand.
“He’s got everything we hoped for and more when we drafted him,” Jones said Friday in an interview on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “It’s exactly what we drafted him for, to come in and be the left tackle. And, so, he had a really outstanding camp. All of the things are there. Do I wish we had Tyron (Smith)? Yes. Will we get Tyron back? Likely. But in the meantime, he’s going to come in and he’s going to get a Harvard doctorate degree in playing left tackle between now and then.
“Will we pay some price for it? Yes. Can we win with him paying a price for it? I think so, yes.”
With scant depth at offensive line, the Cowboys still brought Peters in for a visit last week. On Friday, the Texas native underwent a physical and meetings including with owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
In 17 seasons, Peters has played 228 regular-season games with 218 starts, primarily at left tackle (he played right tackle in 2004-06). Peters’ 11-year Eagles was included in a Super Bowl championship. Last year, at 39 years old, he started 15 games for the Bears.
Tyron Smith last played more than 13 games in 2015. But he has played at a high level when healthy.
All-Pro right guard Zack Martin told Tyler Smith no one expects him immediately to emulate Dallas’ 2011 first-round selection. The Cowboys’ youngest offensive line in more than a decade will rely on seventh-year quarterback Dak Prescott to elevate those around and in front of him.
Prescott pointed to his own sudden Week 1 start as a fourth-round rookie in 2016 and subsequently leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, the best in the NFC.
“So if there’s anybody that’s supporting the next man up and about that mentality it’s me,” Prescott said. “When you meet Tyler, you just hang around Tyler, you see the competitor, the fighter, just the football player in him, that grit. And that’s what I expect to come out.”