Tony Pollard, Tyron Smith among Cowboys' top FAs on offense

FRISCO, Texas -- It's difficult to call coach Mike McCarthy's first season as the playcaller for the Dallas Cowboys in 2023 anything but a success.

The Cowboys led the NFL in points per game (29.9) and finished fifth in yards (371.6). Dak Prescott led the NFL in touchdown passes (36). CeeDee Lamb set team records in catches (135) and receiving yards (1,749). He and Prescott were finalists for Offensive Player of the Year. Second-year tight end Jake Ferguson had a breakout season (71 catches, 761 yards, 5 TDs). After a slow start, veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks finished with eight touchdown catches. Tony Pollard finished with 1,005 yards rushing.

It wasn't all perfect. The run game was middle-of-the-road. The pass protection had issues. Wide receiver Michael Gallup did not get involved much. The 14 rushing touchdowns were 10 fewer than in 2022.

The Cowboys will need to be better in 2024 offensively and will have some decisions to make regarding their free agents. Of the 16 players set to become unrestricted free agents on March 13, six are on the offensive side of the ball.

Here's a look at how Dallas may handle them:

OT Tyron Smith

Here's what the Cowboys know: When Smith plays, he plays well, but he will miss games. In 2023, he missed three due to injury and dressed for another but did not play because of a neck injury. Still, McCarthy said Smith had his best season since he started coaching the team in 2020.

If Smith wants to continue to play, what type of contract should he get? He turns 34 in December and has endured a lot of injuries. He made $11 million last year on a reworked deal through bonus, salary and incentives. Would something like that work again in 2024? Can the Cowboys even afford that?

Even if Smith re-signs, tackle could be a first-round need for the Cowboys, especially if they want to keep Tyler Smith at left guard.

RB Tony Pollard

He has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, but he was not as explosive in 2023 as he was in 2022. Was that due to his recovery from a 2022 "TightRope" procedure on his lower left leg? Was it due to the running game itself? Maybe both? Pollard was better down the stretch but had just one 100-yard game last season.

Pollard played the 2023 season on the $10 million franchise tag but is not likely to see that type of deal in free agency this offseason. He might find returning to the Cowboys to be his best option. Even if he is brought back, look for the Cowboys to address the running back spot in free agency or in the draft.

C Tyler Biadasz

This has been a weird situation. Biadasz has started every game he has played the past three years and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2022, but there has been no real move to sign him to an extension. It is looking like he will be the third straight interior offensive lineman whom the Cowboys have drafted and developed only to see leave in free agency, joining Connor Williams (Dolphins) Connor McGovern (Bills).

He is smart and tough but maybe lacks the power the Cowboys want at center. If he is not re-signed, then center jumps near the top of the need list behind tackle if they don't keep Tyron Smith.

RB Rico Dowdle

He was the top backup to Pollard and had some positive moments, finishing the season with 89 carries for 361 yards, 17 catches for 144 yards and four total touchdowns. But he has had a difficult time staying healthy since joining the Cowboys in 2020. He might be more of a No. 3 running back than a true No. 2 and could have better opportunities elsewhere.

TE Sean McKeon

McKeon played in nine games, partly due to an ankle injury that landed him on injured reserve after Week 12. He is a core special teamer and a solid enough contributor as a No. 3 tight end. McKeon could be back on a low-cost deal for one year but might find a better opportunity on a different team, especially with Ferguson and Luke Schoonmaker holding down the top two tight end spots.

OT Chuma Edoga

Due to injuries to Tyron Smith and Tyler Smith, Edoga started six games. He found his spot as the swing tackle for most of the season and was okay, although he struggled mightily in the 22-20 loss at the Miami Dolphins in Week 16. The Cowboys have selected young tackles, like Matt Waletzko, Josh Ball and Asim Richards, in the past three drafts. It might be time to see if they can handle the swing role in 2024 or find another veteran later in the offseason.