While the Dallas Cowboys decide whether to keep center Andre Gurode, they also have to consider what to do without him.
They have several options already on the roster, from right guard Kyle Kosier to injured backup guard Montrae Holland to several rookies, including Kevin Kowalski, who did just fine in a surprise start in place of Gurode on Saturday night against Minnesota.
The best option is Phil Costa, who's strong performance this preseason is a big part of the reason Gurode's roster spot is in jeopardy. However, Costa is dealing with a sprained knee ligament suffered last week. He's expected to be out two to four weeks, although team owner Jerry Jones believes Costa will be ready for the season opener Sept. 11 against the New York Jets.
The Cowboys forced Gurode to sit out the Vikings game while they decide whether to trade, cut or release him. Dallas stands to save $5.5 million against the cap by dropping Gurode. If dollars are purely the issue, and Gurode wants to stay, another option would be renegotiating his deal.
Gurode's agent, Kennard McGuire, was expected to meet with Jones on Sunday. Neither McGuire nor Jones could be reached for comment.
Gurode made the Pro Bowl the last five years, but he's also 33 and going into his 10th season. He's been durable, starting every game the last three seasons and all but two over the last five years, but he's also coming off knee surgery in June.
Jones and coach Jason Garrett have consistently took a "better late than never" approach toward Gurode's operation, which landed him on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp. Once he was ready, he stepped right in with the first team, albeit with Costa still getting some snaps. Gurode started the second preseason game against San Diego and flew with the team to Minnesota.
"There's certainly no discipline involved here. It's just a cap thing," Jones said Saturday night in Minnesota. "We need to look at it from the standpoint of where he is, what we pay him, what we're going to be doing in the future."
Jones added, "He got pushed," referring to Costa. "So that's a positive for the team."
Dallas already has two rookies on the first-team line, so adding Costa or another rookie would be a huge youth movement. It also would mean only two returning starters (Kosier and Doug Free) with Free, the left tackle, the only lineman returning in his same spot.
The Cowboys started this overhaul by drafting Tyron Smith in the first round and spending two more picks on linemen, then when the lockout was lifted they cut Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis.
Jones also suggested Saturday that he's thinking more strongly about getting rid of players a year too early, rather than too late.
"If I looked back in the 22 years that we've been involved and looked at where I like to have them (decisions) back it has been staying too long and remembering the way it was in a player's career rather than the way it is," he said.