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Dallas Cowboys shaking up All-Pro offensive line after departures

By
Alex Butler
Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith protects quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 13 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith protects quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 13 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

May 8 (UPI) -- La'el Collins' move to right tackle gives Jonathan Cooper the first crack at winning the left guard job for the Dallas Cowboys.

Collins is moving to the position following the March retirement of former tackle Doug Free. Free, 33, started every game when he was active at the position since 2012. He had 114 starts at left or right tackle in his nine-year NFL career, all for the Cowboys.

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The Cowboys' new right tackle is a third-year pro out of Louisiana State University. Collins, 23, said Sunday that coach Jason Garrett wants him to workout at the spot in camp.

"I've talked to coach about it, and he just told me that going into it, that's where he wants me to be," Collins told DallasCowboys.com. "He wants me to give it my all and we'll see where it goes. So that's what we're going to do."

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Cooper, 27, has already been a bit of a journeyman in his young career. After being picked at No. 7 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, the North Carolina product started 11 games at left and right guard in two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals. He was traded, along with a second round pick, during the 2016 offseason to the New England Patriots in exchange for Chandler Jones.

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He was then cut by the Patriots and claimed by the Cleveland Browns. The Browns cut Cooper again in December. The Cowboys picked up the guard in January and gave him a one-year deal in March. In three NFL seasons he has started two games at left guard and 12 games at right guard.

Collins touted his versatility when asked about his move to the outside.

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"I really feel like I can play anywhere," he told the team's website. "Just with the mentality of, I don't care where I'm at -- whoever is in front of me, I'm going to move them off the ball. That's the way it's going to be done, and that's how I feel."

Collins made three starts last season, all coming at left guard. He started 11 games at the position in 2015, after being picked up as an undrafted free agent.

The franchise signed depth tackle Byron Bell this offseason and took Chaz Green at No. 92 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.

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Dallas' offensive line is shaping up to have Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Collins, and Joe Looney or Cooper at left guard.

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Smith, 26, is a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro in six seasons for Dallas. He agreed to a 10-year contract in 2014. Frederick, 26, has made three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro squad in his first four seasons in the NFL. He is signed through 2023. Martin, 26, is signed through 2018. He has made the Pro Bowl in every season since being taken with the No. 16 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He is also a three-time All-Pro.

Dallas also lost left guard Ronald Leary in free agency this offseason to the Denver Broncos. Leary had 12 starts last season at left guard.

The Cowboys finished the 2016 season as Pro Football Focus' No. 2 offensive line, dropping from the top spot after losing Smith to injury. Frederick was PFF's No. 3 center and No. 3 run blocker. Smith was its No. 12 pass blocker.

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