By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
The Dallas Cowboys went to bed Tuesday night thinking they had finally found an answer to their interior line issues with former Pro Bowl guard Brandon Moore agreeing to terms on a one-year deal.
However, a deal is not a deal until it's signed.
And the 10-year veteran Moore woke up Wednesday morning with a change of heart, deciding to retire.
It was a huge setback for the Cowboys who thought offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan's relationship with Moore from their days with the Jets cinched the deal. But he decided to stay home with his family rather than get on a plane for cross country flight from New York to California.
"We had some history with Brandon," Garrett said. "We felt good about him and he felt good about playing. But football is one of those games where if you are not completely into it, you are not 100 percent full bore, it;s a bad game to play. It's a hard game to play anyway if you are completely committed to it. So at this point in his career he decided not play football anymore. We respect that decision. We will try our best going forward."
The question is where the Cowboys go from here after all but acknowledging publicly with the failed pursuit of Moore what every one knew privately: That concern at guard is at an urgent and critical point because of the injuries to returning starters Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau.
Livings started camp on the non football injury list, came back for a week and then had arthroscopic knee surgery, sidelining him for the rest of the preseason. Bernadeau returned to practice last Friday after missing the first two weeks of camp on the physically unable to perform list with a hamstring. Garrett said Bernadeau has been very rusty since his return.
That both were coming off injury-filled seasons last year when they joined the Cowboys with lucrative free agent deals only hastened the Cowboys' decision to move in another direction for the good of the team with the start of the season roughly a month away.
"It's always urgent," Garrett said. "It was urgent in the off season leading up to the draft. It was urgent after that. And its get more and more urgent as you get closer to the games. The injuries have been the biggest issue. Nate Livings having not been able to practice, Mackenzy...all those guys who are veteran players for us, starting veteran players. They haven't been able to practice very much. So you have to address the need some how some way. We have brought young players in to help us get through practice. If you have a chance to get a veteran player who can come in and provide some competition to be a starter, I think that is a positive thing for you team if you can work it out from a salary cap stand point."
It's safe to say that the salary cap issues that hamstrung the Cowboys' ability to be players in the free agent market in the off season prevented them from addressing the guard position with a veteran in the spring. Moore was available then but only now were they able to come to a financial agreement _ when the Cowboys had more room and he came down on his demands _ all to no avail.
Another option the Cowboys are admittedly exploring is former North Texas star Brian Waters, a six-time Pro Bowler with the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots. He lives in Waxahachie. But he has not played since the end of the 2011 season.
"Brian Waters has been a really good player in this league for a long time," Garrett said. "As you guys know, I think he's a six-time Pro Bowler. He's an NFL Man of the Year, played a long time in Kansas City a few years ago, he came late to New England and had a Pro Bowl year for them when they went to the Super Bowl. The biggest issue for Brian right now is he hasn't played in 18 months. You have to factor those things in."
The Cowboys have already seemingly moved to replace Livings at left guard with second-year player Ron Leary. But combining him with rookie center Travis Frederick, third-year tackle Tyron Smith and a potential first-year starter in Jermey Parnell, if he beats out veteran Doug Free, means the Cowboys would be very young up front. Jones said the Cowboys would like an experienced veteran in there to help out.
"That is sure a part of it," Jones said. "You have to recognize you have a young group with Smith and potentially Parnell when he does get back. But it has more to do with the player we are bringing in and the opportunity here."
It also would mean Cowboys could forgo any plans to use Frederick at guard as they drafted him to play center and prefer he plays center.
Garrett said they would like to get it ironed out so the line could play together in the preseason to develop some chemistry. Right now however they are just going to make the best of the situation even it means Frederick at guard with the demoted Phil Costa back at center to get the best five on the field for the season opener against the New York Giants Sept. 8.
"We’re going to try to put the best five together to start against the Giants," Garrett said. "It’s one of those positions that it matters who’s playing next to each other and developing some of that communication. So you’d like to have it all in place right now. That’s not the nature of this league. That’s not the nature of our team right now. So we’re trying to function as well as we can to put the best group together."