What Cowboys Placing Second-Round Tender On Terence Steele Means

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terence steele

News broke last week that the Dallas Cowboys have placed a second-round restricted free agent tender on Terence Steele. The move will likely keep Steele in Dallas for the 2023 season, but also gives insight on what the future holds for the Cowboys.

Steele just wrapped up his third NFL season. Normally, players don’t hit free agency until they finish year four. But since Steele went undrafted, he became a restricted free agent this offseason. 

The second-round RFA tender is $4.3 million. This means another team can offer Steele a better deal and if Dallas declines to match, the RT will join the squad. But the team will be forced to give Dallas its second-round selection in the next NFL Draft. If no team tries swiping Steele, he’ll play on a one-year deal for $4.3 million.

The Cibolo, Texas-native did tear his ACL in Week 14 vs. the Houston Texans, sidelining him for the remainder of the year. But according to Stephen Jones, Steele is ahead of schedule on his rehab and may be back in time for training camp.

Terence Steele Fits Mike McCarthy’s Gameplan 

Dallas found a diamond in the rough with Steele. After going undrafted in 2020, he’s made 40 starts in three seasons. Most undrafted free agents don’t even make the 53-man roster.

But 2022 in particular was a great season for the 25-year-old. He earned a career-high 73.9 player grade from Pro Football Focus. Steele especially excelled as a run blocker, earning an 82.1 grade in that area. That was the sixth-best mark among OTs last year.

After Steele’s season-ending injury, the Cowboys rushing attack was far less effective. In Weeks 1 to 14 when Steele was active, the team averaged 144 rushing yards per game. In the six matchups without him, Dallas rushed for 104 yards per game.

Keeping Steele makes even more sense because Mike McCarthy recently hinted at wanting to run the ball more in 2023. To do so effectively, you’ll need your best run blocker from last season.

Plus, getting Steele at $4.3 million is a major bargain. The move buys Dallas more time to work out a long-term contract extension, which the Dallas Morning News has reported is on the table.

What To Do With Tyron Smith

Steele’s likely return to Big D leaves Tyron Smith in an awkward position. Steele will retain his spot at RT, and Tyler Smith is waiting in the wings to start at LT if Tyron doesn’t return.

With two above average players ready to go, Dallas now has some leverage with Tyron. Dallas can give the veteran two options: take a pay cut to remain with the Cowboys or be released to open cap space. 
As his contract currently sits, Tyron will be a $13.6 million cap hit in 2023; the fourth-highest on the Cowboys. Unfortunately, Tyron’s inability to stay healthy makes that an overpriced deal, but Dallas now has some wiggle room to alleviate some cap pressure.

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