Who to bring back and who to allow to test free-agent waters is never an easy decision. The Dallas Cowboys have 21 free agents to sort through this offseason, and they currently sit over the projected salary cap making for an even more difficult task.
One of the players the team must decide on is offensive lineman Connor McGovern. The Cowboys selected McGovern out of Penn State in the third round of the 2019 draft and since entering the league he’s played in 45 games, starting on the 29th.
Although he’s never been mentioned as one of the better players on the offensive line, McGovern has been solid. The versatility from the four-year veteran is something that cannot be overlooked. In college, McGovern played both guard spots and center, while in Dallas he has been used on both sides at guard. McGovern has filled in for right guard Zack Martin when he missed time and started 15 games at left guard last year.
The offense also lined up McGovern as a fullback and tight end with success.
Another positive with McGovern is his ability to play clean football, garnering just two penalties in his three playing seasons (he missed his rookie year with a torn pectoral muscle). McGovern wasn’t flagged for a single infraction in 2022 and has played 2,015 career snaps and been flagged just twice.
The Cowboys have been one of the most penalized teams in the league in recent years, so having someone they can count on to be disciplined enough not to hurt the team is a huge plus. Playing clean is tough enough, but doing it while playing multiple places on the offensive line is an impressive feat.
McGovern is also just 25 years old, and his best football could still be ahead of him. If the Cowboys want to retain a young versatile piece of their offensive line at a good age, they’ll try to re-sign him.
It helps that McGovern won’t cost near what the top free agents at guard will command since he isn’t as accomplished as some of the other options. However, because of his age and with teams desperate to upgrade their offensive lines, McGovern could be seen as a bargain for a franchise looking for interior help. There simply aren’t enough good offensive linemen around the league.
The Cowboys are in a place where they need to consider all options on the offensive line and what they do elsewhere could determine McGovern’s fate with the team. There isn’t much depth on the interior of the team’s offensive line, with Matt Farniok currently as the only other guard with much experience on the roster.
There are options and the team does have some versatility with the offensive line, but that means making more decisions throughout the unit.
Dallas drafted Tyler Smith to be their left tackle of the future, but the team started him at left guard. Smith was supposed to gain experience in his first year before moving to LT, but those plans didn’t work out. When veteran LT Tyron Smith was hurt in the preseason, the rookie was shifted outside and McGovern was inserted into the starting lineup.
This offseason, the Cowboys need to make a decision on Tyron Smith. Do they keep the mammoth tackle and move Tyler Smith back to guard for another year of acclimating, or do they release the veteran, save over $13 million on the cap and accelerate the younger Smith’s learning curve yet again?
And what if Dallas isn’t comfortable with right tackle Terence Steele’s health after his torn ACL suffered late in the year? The team moved Tyron Smith over to RT tackle while using Tyler Smith and Jason Peters at LT when Steele got hurt. Steele is also a free agent, albeit a restricted one, and the team needs a contingency for him as well.
Those decisions on the Smiths and Steele could be a factor in what the Cowboys do with McGovern.
He’s not the biggest piece of the free agent puzzle in Dallas, but the team should strongly consider re-signing McGovern if the price is right. McGovern isn’t one of the best guards in the league, but he’s a solid player, and is a good fit with the team because of his versatility, toughness, and ability to avoid penalties.
McGovern doesn’t feel like a priority free agent for the Cowboys, but he does feel like a valuable player to retain.
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