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Cowboys sign Jason Peters: How he helps, what it means for Tyler Smith

By David Helman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer

Help is on the way, Dak Prescott.

It might not be a picture-perfect scenario, but the Cowboys have agreed to terms on a deal that will bring perennial Pro Bowler Jason Peters onto their practice squad at the outset of Week 1 this 2022 NFL season.

That’s a strange thought — Peters, a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team, signing on to the practice squad. But it’s an indicator of where things stand for the veteran. Peters enters this season at 40 years old, and he wasn’t with a team for the offseason program or for training camp.

Starting on the practice squad will allow the veteran to gradually ramp himself up and move to the active roster when ready. The NFL has amended its practice-squad rules to allow up to six veteran players, and teams are allowed to elevate a player up to three times in a season. The obvious question is whether that leaves Peters enough time to be ready for the season opener, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers arrive at AT&T Stadium in just six days.

The likely answer to that question is “probably not.” Again, six days isn’t a ton of time to acclimate after missing the grind of training camp. Rather than risk an injury to Peters by rushing him into the action, it feels like a good bet the Cowboys will move forward with their plan to start rookie tackle Tyler Smith, who has been the likely man for the job since Tyron Smith first injured his knee two weeks ago.

Smith played left tackle during his college career at Tulsa, and the Cowboys drafted him with the idea of being their future of that position. Last week, the rookie noted that moving back to tackle didn’t feel like a big transition after he spent his entire training camp playing left guard. “I’ve always been a left-sided player and so it definitely has helped with the transition as of late, just knowing that not too many things are changing,” Smith said. “I’m still generating power from the same areas. It’s just a different footwork, a little bit of a different stance, just things that you’ve got to tighten up.”

The most interesting question is in the long term. Peters will eventually be ready to play, and what happens then? The nine-time Pro Bowler started 15 games for Chicago last year and handled himself well. It’s not a stretch to think he’s a better short-term option than a rookie would be.

And if he is, does it make sense to move Smith back to guard? Or is that job best left to Connor McGovern, allowing Smith to settle in at tackle?

Is there a world where Smith hits the ground running at left tackle, rendering Peters a capable backup? The Cowboys wouldn’t complain if that were the case. Before Monday, their primary depth at the position came from two young players, Matt Waletzko and Josh Ball, who have yet to play a regular season game.

These are tough questions to answer for the time being, before Peters has even hit the practice field in his new uniform. At the very least, the addition gives the Cowboys options for how they want to move forward at tackle. That wasn’t even a conversation they could have prior to Monday — and ultimately, that’s the reason Jason Peters is here.

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman_.

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