Dallas Cowboys

Adding offensive lineman extends Romo’s window of opportunity

Tony Romo might be the player most excited about the addition of La’el Collins.

Romo was among those recruiting Collins at Jerry Jones’ home on Wednesday night, knowing the significance it could mean for the team by building what hopes to be an all-time great offensive line.

That, in turn, also figures to keep Romo’s window of winning a championship open longer too.

Romo turned 35 last month and most believed he had two or three more realistic shots to win a title considering his surgically repaired back. Now, Romo believes he has a five-year window left in his playing career.

That’s what Jones recalled from a conversation they had Wednesday.

“Tony … couldn’t get him out of the house last night,” Jones said. “He was so excited with [Jason] Witten and all morning long when we were meeting, doing our business, he was calling all the time, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’

“He said last night, ‘I plan on playing five more years. What we’re putting together here will allow me to do it.’”

Romo is arguably coming off his best season. He set career highs with a 113.2 passer rating and 69.9 completion percentage, throwing 34 touchdowns to nine interceptions.

Romo missed one game, though, fracturing two transverse process in his back against Washington in Week 8. He sat out Week 9 against Arizona, a loss, but returned to lead the Cowboys to win six of their final seven games in the regular season to clinch the NFC East title.

Romo was sacked 29 times in the regular season, and the goal is for that number to dwindle even more with Collins joining an already talented group.

“I want to learn from him. I want to take in everything this guy has to offer,” Collins said.

Jones on RBs

Jerry Jones feels the Cowboys have the potential to become the greatest offensive line in NFL history after signing Collins.

But what running back is going to benefit the most?

“Well, can I volunteer?” Jones said, chuckling.

Jones and the coaching staff have stated all along that they feel comfortable with the running backs already on the team.

They signed Darren McFadden in free agency, and believe he is ready to resurrect his career after seven injury-filled seasons in Oakland. They also like what Joseph Randle has shown in his brief time, as well as change-of-pace back Lance Dunbar. Ryan Williams received praise after a year on the practice squad.

“We ought to keep our eyes open as we move along here,” Jones said. “We would have drafted a running back, and we would have drafted one [in the third-round if offensive tackle Chaz Green] had not been there at that particular level.

“We had a couple go off the board that we would have drafted earlier that surprised us a little bit.”

Free agent Chris Johnson, a 2,000-yard back with the Tennessee Titans in 2009, has expressed interest in joining the Cowboys, but Jones said the team has not had any discussions with him.

Trade bait?

The Cowboys appear to be overstocked with offensive linemen, and coach Jason Garrett said the five best will start for the team when the season opens Sept. 13 against the New York Giants.

The locks would seem to include Tyron Smith at left tackle, Travis Frederick at center, Zack Martin at right guard and Collins at either left guard or right tackle. Ron Leary (left guard) and Doug Free (right tackle) would be the candidates to fill whatever spot Collins doesn’t.

Leary hasn’t played poorly, but is regarded as the weakest player of the group. Free, meanwhile, underwent surgery on his left ankle and isn’t expected to be ready until training camp.

Beyond that, the Cowboys have plenty of depth after drafting Green in the third round and Laurence Gibson in the seventh.

So does that make the Cowboys more likely to dangle a few linemen as trade bait?

“No,” Jones said. “We’re going to have some great competition. We’ve got a chance to really have our depth there.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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