Cowboys Preparing to Sign Former Starting Offensive Guard?

Ronald Leary

Getty Ronald Leary

The return that Ronald Leary teased in March could come to fruition six months later.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the former Dallas Cowboys starting guard is meeting with the team Saturday and undergoing COVID-19 testing, an indicator of his potential signing.

Leary confirmed the news of his visit to Sports Illustrated’s Mike Fisher.

“I’m in COVID protocol right now, so I haven’t even been in the building,” he told Fisher. “But we’re talking.”

Signed by Dallas as a 2012 undrafted free agent, Leary was a 16-game starter the following two seasons, beating out Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, respectively. He was a key cog on arguably the best offensive line in the NFL and earned impressive marks, particularly as a run-blocker, from Pro Football Focus.

Leary developed an injury-prone reputation, however, missing 12 games in 2015 and three in 2016, after unsuccessfully motioning for a trade. He battled a concussion and back injury that year but helped spring Ezekiel Elliott to the rushing title.

He got his pink-slip wish the next offseason as the Denver Broncos signed him to a four-year, $36 million deal that included $20 million guaranteed. The 6-foot-3, 320-pound lineman was named the Broncos’ first-string RG for the 2017 campaign, but his aforementioned reputation preceded him; he was lost to injured reserve with a back issue, 11 games into his contract.

Leary was moved to his natural left guard spot in 2018, though he again failed to stay on the field, making only six appearances before suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon. Fully recovered, he was kicked over to right guard last season, playing in 12 games until — you guessed it! — an injury forced him to IR.

The Broncos declined Leary’s 2020 contract option, sending him to a cold free-agent market where he drew little known interest.

But the time off did him a world of good. Leary told Fisher earlier this offseason he’s the “healthiest I’ve been the last two years” and that “I feel great, my body feels great,” with “a lot left in the tank, and a lot left to prove.”

As for a silver and blue reunion?

“Dallas is home and always will be home,” Leary told Fisher at the time of his Broncos departure. “So I’m open. But I understand this is a business.”

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Leary’s Potential Fit

It’s no secret any longer that Dallas is severely hurting along its offensive line. Right tackle La’el Collins (hip) is on injured reserve. His backup, Cam Erving (knee), is on IR. And nobody knows for certain the status of left tackle Tyron Smith, who’s battling a neck issue.

Although Leary cannot play tackle, his addition would allow some flexibility at other spots. Head coach Mike McCarthy admitted he’s considering temporarily moving guards Zack Martin or Connor Williams to cover for Collins’ absence. It’s obviously unideal, though Williams is the better candidate since he does have OT experience.

As of this writing, assuming Smith is inactive, Dallas’ starting five against the Atlanta Falcons looks like this: Brandon Knight-Williams-Joe Looney-Martin-Terence Steele. Steele struggled mightily in Week 1, prompting the team to pluck Alex Light off the Cardinals’ practice squad.

The Cowboys are ailing to such a degree that they promoted 2016 undrafted free agent practice-squad OT Eric Smith to the active roster Saturday. The team reportedly also met with former Cardinals and Broncos OT Jared Veldheer — Leary’s ex-teammate — who underwent similar COVID-19 testing, with an eye on possibly putting pen to paper.

Smith Truly Questionable

ESPN’s Ed Werder reports Smith will be a true game-time decision for the Cowboys’ 2020 home opener. Head coach Mike McCarthy stated Friday how Smith shows Saturday, good or bad, “will probably be the determining factor” for his game status.

“I don’t have all the information, but I know he wants to go,” McCarthy said. “He’s a pro and he’s doing everything possible with the training staff. We have time. We have another 48 hours, so we’ve just got to, A, do what’s best for him personally and we’ll go from there.”

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