Most of the focus on draft weekend is on the players drafted during the seven-round selection process, as it should be.
The frenzy that happens toward the end of the draft and shortly thereafter is also a vital piece of the team-building process.
This is known as undrafted free agency where the Dallas Cowboys have had a fair amount of success over the years in this post-draft free-for-all.
The successes of Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Cole Beasley, La'el Collins, and Terence Steele are well-documented.
Most undrafted free agents play a much smaller role, especially as rookies, but are important pieces nonetheless.
Just last year, we saw three — WR Dennis Houston, TE Peyton Hendershot, and S Markquese Bell — make the initial 53-man roster while a few others were called up from the practice squad during the season and contributed.
As of this writing, here are the undrafted hopefuls the Cowboys have signed that could add their name to the long list of successes the franchise has had.
The three biggest factors in figuring out who might make the team are talent, opportunity, and, of course, money.
The bigger the signing bonus and guarantee tell a lot about who the team thinks can make the team as a rookie.
With that being said, let's look at the three players (and two honorable mentions) I see having the best chance of making the roster.
DE Tyrus Wheat — Mississippi State
Tyrus Wheat passes the test on two of those three main factors — talent and money.
First, let's discuss talent. I do not evaluate draft prospects, so I default to those who do it full-time year-round.
One of those people is TheAthletic's Dane Brugler, who had Wheat as his 129th overall player and a fourth-round grade.
Unless a medical issue caused him to go undrafted, teams obviously didn't feel the same way, but the NFL has been wrong plenty of times before.
Even if Brugler overvalued him a bit, acquiring a draftable player at a premium position like edge rusher could be a massive steal.
Now, the money. According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Wheat signed a deal that included a $20,000 signing bonus plus a $185,000 salary guarantee.
For reference, the $205,000 in total guarantees would have ranked in the top 10 for guarantees in 2022 for undrafted free agents. The Cowboys wanted Wheat and wouldn't let money stand in its way.
The only question is opportunity. Last year's initial 53-man roster had seven defensive ends if you include Micah Parsons.
With six — Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams, Chauncey Golston, and Dante Fowler — practically guaranteed a roster spot, there could be as little as one or two spots open.
The Cowboys also added Viliami Fehoko in the fourth round this year so it's hard to see Wheat supplanting him in training camp for what could be the final spot at defensive end.
Here's the hope for Wheat: Fehoko and/or Golston may be considered defensive tackles more so than defensive ends which could open a seat at the table for Wheat.
FB Hunter Luepke — North Dakota State
Hunter Luepke is my favorite of the undrafted free agents the Cowboys signed.
Brugler notes in his scouting report that Luepke has abilities as a pass catcher, a runner, and on special teams. The ability to wear multiple hats goes a long way for an undrafted player to make the roster.
After releasing Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys need a power back to do some dirty work to keep Tony Pollard fresh and healthy.
Luepke has the size — 230 pounds — and production to project to such a role.
Even though he's listed as a fullback, he's no stranger to carrying the ball. While at North Dakota State, he amassed 1,665 rushing yards, 494 receiving yards, and 33 career touchdowns.
The Cowboys experimented with using offensive linemen as fullbacks in recent years for purely lead-blocking purposes
Now that McCarthy is taking over play-calling duties, he may want a true fullback who can do more than just move bodies out of running lanes.
If you remember from his time with the Green Bay Packers, McCarthy had FB John Kuhn who could do a little bit of everything.
Finally, when we factor in Luepke receiving $200,000 in total guarantees (reported by Aaron Wilson), it's easy to see that the team has a plan for him if he can uphold his end of the deal by performing in camp.
DE/LB Isaiah Land — Florida A&M
After Wheat, it may be odd that another defensive end makes this list when we discussed the number of players locked into the position already.
Isaiah Land was just too intriguing and talented to leave off.
He had 26.5 sacks between the 2021 and 2022 seasons including 19 sacks in 2021. At 236 pounds though, he will need to add weight and strength to play on the line full-time.
During the Senior Bowl, he was given his first opportunity to play in space as an off-ball linebacker.
I do not think a full transition to linebacker is in the cards, but it could help him stick on the roster if he can show enough to play there in a pinch.
The Cowboys lost Luke Gifford and Anthony Barr to free agency. As of this writing, the only linebacker they've added this off-season is third-round pick DeMarvion Overshown.
Another spot should be open, especially in Gifford's mainly special teams role regardless of what position they are labeled.
With Land's athleticism and pass rush upside, I'd look for the Cowboys to find a way to keep him on the 53-man roster.
Even if he's a weekly inactive or plays mostly special teams, I could see the Cowboys not wanting to expose him to waivers by trying to sneak him onto the practice squad.
- OL Earl Bostick Jr. — Kansas
- OL T.J. Bass — Oregon
There is a logjam on the offensive line and that's why the chances of these two are lower than the first three listed.
Earl Bostick Jr. was a tight end at Kansas as a freshman but had over 32 starts at tackle during his career.
As you might have guessed given his background as a tight end, he is extremely athletic for a tackle and carries a 9.41 out of 10 Relative Athletic Score (RAS).
He signed a deal with $220,000 in total guarantees according to Pelissero. Again, that's a sizeable deal for an undrafted player and can't be overlooked.
Meanwhile, T.J. Bass was #224 on Brugler's big board and started every game for Oregon over the last three seasons. He also has a solid athleticism profile of an 8.21 RAS.
I see Bostick as more of a draft-and-develop tackle with guard flexibility they hope to put on the practice squad for a year.
Bass, on the other hand, could push 2023 fifth-round pick Asim Richards or one of the 2021 draft picks — Josh Ball or Matt Farniok — for a roster spot.