Owner Jerry Jones has called the Cowboys’ offensive line a “significant contributor” to Dallas being a “mediocre team” over the past two seasons. Doug Free is the only remaining starter from the team's starting 2010 offensive line, and he has a new position. He will start at right tackle, having spent the past two seasons at left tackle.
The Cowboys set out in free agency to find veterans to help at the guard spots, and filled their wish list with Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings. Bernadeau signed a four-year, $11 million deal, and Livings a five-year, $18.75 million contract.
“We were just trying to find the best, No. 1," Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan said. "Then No. 2, we were trying to plug in players that had experience and could do the things necessary to protect in the pocket and be strong in the pocket. Additionally, all the traits we were looking for in the running game, the power traits, the quickness on the pulls on the perimeter, so we were looking for a blend of things.”
Bernadeau, who is sidelined now with a hip flexor injury, will begin his Cowboys' career at right guard. Dallas cut Kyle Kosier after they signed Bernadeau and Livings. Kosier started every game last season, playing through a foot injury.
Livings will play left guard, where the Cowboys started three players last season. Bill Nagy, Derrick Dockery and Montrae Holland all had time there. (Dockery and Holland were not re-signed.) Livings started all 32 games at left guard for the Bengals over the past two seasons.
"As I told them, we’re going to be flexible," Callahan said. "We’ll be fluid with both of them, so when we’re in camp, there’s a possibility of Mac going to left and Nate to the right. We’ll see how it plays out, but that is the starting point.”
Bernadeau and Nagy both will get work at center, where Phil Costa started and struggled much of last season.
“We’re going to do that as well, put Bill at center and guard," Callahan said. "The good thing about Bill is that he’s very versatile, having played both guard spots a year ago. He’s trying to improve his craft this season at that position as well as learning all the new center calls and techniques, so what we’re basically doing is basically cross-training all those players.”
-- Charean Williams