The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with guard Jonathan Cooper, according to a source, which will allow them some flexibility on their offensive line with the departure of Ronald Leary and the impending retirement of Doug Free.
With Cooper as insurance, the Cowboys could move La’el Collins, who has started 14 games in his first two seasons at left guard, to right tackle to replace Free. The Cowboys worked Collins, who joined them as an undrafted free agent with a fully guaranteed deal in 2015, at right tackle briefly but felt his best position was ultimately at guard.
With Free’s career coming to an end and without a ready-made replacement, the Cowboys could experiment with Collins once again. They drafted Chaz Green in the third round to be the right tackle of the future, but he has had hip and back surgeries in his first two years and played in only four games.
Cooper joined the Cowboys during the playoffs last year, but did not appear in the divisional round loss to the Green Bay Packers.
He was the seventh overall pick in 2013 by the Arizona Cardinals, but he was dealt to the New England Patriots last season in the Chandler Jones deal. He was eventually released by New England and claimed by the Cleveland Browns, for whom he played in five games with three starts.
The Browns released him on Dec. 24 and he joined the Cowboys on Jan. 4 with the hopes of turning a free look into a longer-term relationship.
Cooper started at left and right guard in his career, and the Cowboys seem to believe he could take some snaps at center if necessary.
With Cooper, the Cowboys offensive line has four former first-round picks in Cooper, Tyron Smith (No. 9 overall, 2011), Travis Frederick (No. 31 overall, 2013) and Zack Martin (No. 14 overall, 2014).