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Another OL in first round for Cowboys? It's possible

IRVING, Texas -- Until 2011, the Dallas Cowboys never took an offensive lineman in the first round in the Jerry Jones era. In fact, Tom Landry & Co. didn't draft one from 1982-88 either.

Before the Cowboys took Tyron Smith in the first round of the 2011 draft, you had to go back to 1981 -- when the Cowboys took Howard Richards with the 26th pick -- to find a first-round O-lineman.

As the Cowboys prepare for the 2015 NFL draft, don't rule them out from taking an offensive lineman for the fourth time in the last five years.

The selections of Smith, Travis Frederick (2013) and Zack Martin (2014) worked out well and changed the Cowboys' modus operandi, and finding another gem at No. 27 overall is possible.

“It certainly is,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said last week at the NFL scouting combine.

Why?

The Cowboys don't have a right tackle under contract since Doug Free and Jermey Parnell are set to hit the free-agent market. Parnell might command more money and thus be out of the Cowboys' price range. Free is a little older but arguably more important to the offensive line than Parnell, but Free is coming back from foot surgery.

He missed seven games, counting the playoffs, in 2014. The surgery rehab might limit some of his work leading into training camp.

By taking a tackle in the first round, the Cowboys would have protection at right tackle and also have a player in the pipeline to replace Free down the road. Iowa's Brandon Scherff might be gone by No. 27, but Pitt's T.J. Clemmings or Miami's Ereck Flowers could be names worth investigating before the draft.

The Cowboys hit it right with Martin, despite their obvious need for defensive help last year. They have an obvious need for defense in 2015, but it won't come at the expense of the best player.

“You just wouldn't have thought that we would have drafted an offensive lineman last year after your last two first picks [on the O-line], but it was obvious that he was the best player there for us,” Jones said. “At the time, the only other one that was rated higher [Johnny Manziel] was being batted around there at the last minute. Still, [Martin] was the better player on the board for us, and we didn't have something that we were interested in what was being offered as an alternative.”