The Dallas Cowboys have 16 players set to become unrestricted free agents in March. In this series, we determine why a player should or should not return in 2016 and beyond.
NFL experience: Eight years
2015 salary: $1.5 million
2015 statistics: He started one game at left guard and was active for all 16 as the backup interior lineman on gameday.
Why he will be back: The Cowboys do not have another player on the roster with in-game experience at center and guard to handle the spot. They could make Zack Martin the backup center on gameday, or they could have Ronald Leary, who is a restricted free agent, learn the position this summer. Bernadeau, who signed a four-year, $11 million deal in 2012 to join the Cowboys and had the deal re-worked two years in, provides the Cowboys with stability and experience on the interior. He can be a spot-starter at either guard spot as well as center.
Why he will not be back: Bernadeau did not miss a game in his four-year run with the Cowboys, and he turned 30 in January. The Cowboys rebuilt their starting offensive line in the draft since 2011 and will have to look to do the same with their backups. They have to plan for the future with Travis Frederick and Zack Martin’s contracts expiring in consecutive years. Leary will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Finding an interior linemen in the draft would seem to be an under-the-radar need.
Chance to return: Low to moderate. It all depends on what the Cowboys do in the draft. Frederick is signed through 2017, once the Cowboys pick up his fifth-year option this spring, but they don’t have another center in the pipeline. Bernadeau’s price should keep him in the Cowboys’ ballpark.