Per the unique rules set forth in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Dallas Cowboys have selected their first four players to protect on the practice squad. For Week 1 those players are FB Sewo Olonilua, DE Ron'Dell Carter, LB Francis Bernard, and CB Deante Burton.
This protection means, as of Wednesday, no other team can “poach” these players by signing them to their 53-man roster. The protection stays in effect until after Sunday night's game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Seeing priority UDFAs like Bernard and Carter on this list are not surprising. Francis was a star of training camp and many were stunned that he didn't make the 53-man roster. He's also a likely candidate to be activated for Week 1 due to injuries at linebacker with Sean Lee and Luke Gifford.
Ron'Dell Carter was a priority free agent signing for Dallas following the draft, receiving more than double what most of their other undrafted rookies did in signing bonus. He's one of the players they're likely most concerned about losing from the practice squad via poaching.
As unsurprising as it is to see these rookies protected, the real shocker is that veteran CB Brandon Carr is not one of the names mentioned.
The Cowboys protected the following four players on their practice squad this week under the new COVID-19 guidelines: LB Francis Bernard, CB Deante Burton, DE Ron’Dell Carter and FB Sewo Olonilua.
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) September 8, 2020
The Cowboys surprisingly signed Carr, who played for Dallas from 2012-2016, to their practice squad after final cuts last weekend. The COVID-19 rule changes made it possible for a player with Brandon's many years of NFL service to be on the PS, and it was assumed that Dallas would protect him this week and use him in the Rams game.
Dallas not protecting Carr potentially tells us a few things:
- The Cowboys and Brandon have an unofficial agreement on his role with the team. They don't fear him accepting another team's offer.
- Dallas simply isn't that worried about anyone else signing the 34-year-old cornerback.
- Maybe they don't intend to activate Carr for the Rams game after all.
The decision to bring Carr back to Dallas was a stunner, leading to ongoing speculation about his eventual usage. It's been suggested that he may be transitioning to safety given the team's needs there.
As for the four practice squad players Dallas did protect, CB Deante Burton is likely the guy nobody expected to be on the list. Chris Westry was the more talked-about corner in camp this year, plus there were other notable PS members such as WR Jon'Vea Johnson or OT Isaac Alarcon,
FB Sewo Olonilua was also protected and it's a logical move. While the Cowboys appear intent to have TE Dalton Schultz play as the lead blocker for now, Dallas likely sees Olonilua as the next-best option. They would want to keep him in the queue if the time comes.
As with so much this year; expect the unexpected. This new facet of roster management is going to be interesting to watch as the 2020 season unfolds.