While the Dallas Cowboys retained most of their talent from the 2017 roster, not all those players are guaranteed to make this year’s team. Today, we’re going to look at five returning guys who might not make it past final cuts.
This premise comes from a comment made by Executive Vice President Stephen Jones. According to an article from the Star-Telegram, Jones said that the talent level in 2018 was higher and that about five players who could have made last year’s team wouldn’t get on the 53-man roster this season.
It’s not hard to see why. While the Cowboys had a few high-profile departures with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Anthony Hitchens, and Orlando Scandrick, they also added several veteran free agents and whole new draft class. There is also the development of players from last year’s practice squad, such as Receiver Lance Lenoir or Tight End Rico Gathers.
I thought I would build on Stephen’s comment today and actually look at five players from 2017 who will have a hard time making this year’s squad.
This first one won’t be much of a surprise.
Chaz Green, OT
Throughout history, only General Sherman caused more damage in Atlanta than Offensive Tackle Chaz Green. Last year, playing relief duty for an injured Tyron Smith, Green gave up a bevy of sacks to Adrian Clayborn in a game that felt like the end of the 2017 season.
It was the lowlight of an otherwise unimpressive three years for the former third-round pick. Chaz couldn’t even establish himself as a quality reserve, let alone a potential starter like you’d expect from a guy taken so early in a draft.
That’s why Dallas went out and signed veteran tackle Cameron Fleming this offseason. Fleming has started many games during his time in New England, some even in the postseason. He was brought in specifically to be what Chaz Green hasn’t been able to provide; a reliable swing tackle.
Dallas hasn’t cut Chaz yet. He should be here through final cuts, likely playing guard along with tackle as the team tries to squeeze some last use out of him.
But with Fleming now here and other veterans inside such as Joe Looney and Marcus Martin, Green will have a much harder time making the team. Dallas clearly lost faith in him by signing Fleming, and at this point he’s little more than insurance against a preseason injury.
Blake Jarwin, TE
Even with Jason Witten and James Hanna leaving, new additions at the tight end position and a shifting offensive philosophy could make it harder to make this year’s team than in 2017. If so, second-year prospect Blake Jarwin may be the guy left without a chair.
Dallas liked Jarwin, an undrafted rookie, enough last year that they signed him to the roster late in the season to avoid him being signed away by the Philadelphia Eagles. He returns as one of several intriguing players to form the 2018 depth chart.
The issue for Jarwin could be that Dallas may not need to keep four tight ends as they have in the past. If so, veteran Geoff Swaim, fourth-round rookie Dalton Schultz, and the Rico Gathers project all could claim roster spots ahead of Blake.
Dallas’ reported move to a more spread offense lessens the need for multiple tight ends. What’s more, players like Running Back Rod Smith, Fullback Jamize Olawale and Wide Receiver Noah Brown have the size and ability to do some blocking and fill both the offensive and special teams roles you might ask from your tight ends.
All of this makes life harder for a guy like Jarwin. He could still excel and earn his way onto the roster, either forcing the team to keep four guys or even beating Gathers for a roster spot. But it’s arguably tougher this year than it was in 2017.
Charles Tapper, DE
Only appearing in two games so far during his two NFL seasons, Charles Tapper has been held back by injuries since being a fourth-round pick. He’s healthy now, but increased depth at defensive end could be his ultimate undoing in 2018.
Tapper would have made the roster as a rookie if he’d been healthy. He made last year’s team but went out in Week 2.
Now he’s up against a far deeper group. DeMarcus Lawrence and Taco Charlton return, Randy Gregory has been reinstated, and new arrivals Kony Ealy and Dorance Armstrong will be in the mix. You also have defensive tackles who can play DE such as Tryone Crawford and Datone Jones.
Thankfully for Charles, it doesn’t appear that Ealy is off to a great start. Dallas took a flier on the veteran and hoped returning him to the 4-3 would be a positive, but Kony hasn’t impressed so far in camp.
But even still, the numbers could work against Tapper. There are a lot of options to fill out the defensive line and the cache of being a fourth-round pick has worn off after so much missed time. Charles has to stay healthy this month, while also out-performing his competition, to remain a Dallas Cowboy.
Richard Ash, DT
Staying with the defensive line, Richard Ash became a regular rotation piece last year after Dallas signed him off their practice squad before Week 7. But with some guys returning from injury and other additions, Ash may not get his roster spot back.
Dallas acquired Jihad Ward, a second-round pick in 2015, via trade during April’s draft. They also welcome back Brian Price, who had Ash’s role in the first part of the year before he got injured.
Throw in Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Datone Jones, and hopefully David Irving and you can see where the numbers aren’t great for Ash.
There are still question marks, though. Nothing says Ash can’t beat Price this year with the experience he got in 2017. There’s also the health of Collins, who’s currently on PUP, and the personal struggles for Irving that currently have him out of camp.
Richard Ash got on the last year’s team thanks to injuries and they can certainly happen again. But he is one of many guys on that precarious roster bubble.
Terrance Williams, WR
You’d think that the overhaul of the WR position this year would make a veteran like Terrance more valuable. But Dallas has added so many fresh faces, plus have some interesting younger options, and might be able to cut Williams loose this year.
The Cowboys signed Allen Hurns to be a new starter, plus veteran Deonte Thompson for depth. They also drafted Michael Gallup in the third round last April. Along with the returning Cole Beasley, prospects Noah Brown and Lance Lenoir should compete for roster spots.
That’s six guys already, and I haven’t even mentioned Tavon Austin. Though listed at RB now, Austin will likely see a lot of time looks at receiver.
Terrance’s system familiarity and run blocking will help him stick around. But he’s proven unable to be a difference-maker at WR and got in some personal trouble this offseason. Even with his bad contract, Dallas may be ready to part ways.
The Cowboys can eat the dead money on the salary cap. They also have other talent at WR, arguably deeper than they’ve been in a few years. It creates the possibility of Terrance Williams being released, which we didn’t have last year.