The NFL transaction wire was hot and heavy over the last couple of days as front offices were forced to cut down from 80 players to 53. Then begin the process of putting players through waivers with the hopes of getting them to their practice squads.
This year, teams are allowed to have 16 players on their practice squad. Unlike in previous years where the practice squad was reserved for players with two or fewer seasons of accrued time in the NFL, this year, the NFL is allowing for up to six players with an unlimited number of accrued seasons in the league.
In addition to the list below provided by The Athletic’s Jon Machota, the Dallas Cowboys have also added Isaac Alarcon through the international player gateway. The Cowboys are signing former New York Jets running back Elijah McGuire and offensive tackle Eric Smith as well.
Jon Machota on Twitter: “Cowboys practice squad:Brandon Carr, DBFrancis Bernard, LBChris Westry, CBJustin Hamilton, DTLadarius Hamilton, DEMarcus Henry, CJon’Vea Johnson, WRAaron Parker, WRDeante Burton, CBRon’Dell Carter, DECole Hikutini, TELuther Kirk, SSewo Olonilua, FBSaivion Smith, CB / Twitter”
Cowboys practice squad:Brandon Carr, DBFrancis Bernard, LBChris Westry, CBJustin Hamilton, DTLadarius Hamilton, DEMarcus Henry, CJon’Vea Johnson, WRAaron Parker, WRDeante Burton, CBRon’Dell Carter, DECole Hikutini, TELuther Kirk, SSewo Olonilua, FBSaivion Smith, CB
Because the practice squad is a bit more interesting than in other years, here are a few observations about the Dallas Cowboys practice squad to start 2020.
1. Brandon Carr to Practice Squad Smart Maneuvering
With the new set of rules allowing for up to six players with an unlimited number of accrued NFL seasons to be placed on the practice squad, the Dallas Cowboys took full advantage by adding former Cowboys Cornerback Brandon Carr. Also, under the new rules, teams can promote players to the active roster twice in a season and then revert them to the practice squad without having to put them through waivers.
It looks incredibly likely that Brandon Carr is promoted to the active roster at some point and could be as soon as week one.
Another procedural element to starting Brandon Carr on the practice squad is that if they don’t sign him to the active roster until after week one, his contract for 2020 isn’t guaranteed.
Carr, who was most recently with the Baltimore Ravens, started 16 games in each of his three seasons with the Ravens. During his three years, he intercepted six passes, though none of those came in 2019. However, Carr set a career-high with two sacks last season.
Last year, Brandon Carr was an incredibly versatile player for one of the best defenses in the NFL. He played 104 snaps at free safety. Carr also added 166 snaps as the box safety while playing 270 snaps as the slot cornerback and 206 snaps as a boundary corner.
He was a jack of all trades for Baltimore, and in Mike Nolan’s defense that seeks to be multiple and versatile, Carr fits right in.
With Xavier Woods banged up and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix not living up to expectations, the Dallas Cowboys needed a veteran presence on the back end if Woods’ injury lingers.
2. No Fullback Necessary
On the active roster, the Dallas Cowboys opted not to go with a traditional fullback. Instead, they will use Dalton Schultz in more of an H-Back role where he gets snaps at both tight end and full back. Given the new reality of the NFL that has offenses in 11-personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) around 70% of the time, the traditional fullback isn’t used very much in today’s game. Having a player like Schultz who can take snaps there when the Cowboys use traditional two-back sets is helpful.
Mike McCarthy has often found ways to make a fullback work in his offense, and it was thought the Cowboys would carry one in 2020. With needs elsewhere, Olonilua was squeezed out.
However, it should be noted that they thought enough of Sewo Olonilua to keep him on the practice squad. While he may not have made enough of an impression to stick with the 53-man roster, finding his way onto the practice squad is no small feat.
3. International Player Exemption
Due to the International Player Exemption rule regarding practice squads, the Dallas Cowboys are allowed to keep a 17th member of their practice squad with Isaac Alarcon fitting the bill. It isn’t easy to know just what kind of impact Alarcon made during the Dallas Cowboys training camp without the benefit of preseason games. One guy who is a fan of Alarcon? Quarterback Dak Prescott
Jori Epstein on Twitter: “In addition to 53-man roster and 16-man practice squad, Cowboys can choose to carry 22-year-old OT Isaac Alarcón, a Mexico native who arrived via the NFL’s International Player Pathway program. Dak’s a fan, calls him “the Great Isaac” https://t.co/sT48Kjq7RJ / Twitter”
In addition to 53-man roster and 16-man practice squad, Cowboys can choose to carry 22-year-old OT Isaac Alarcón, a Mexico native who arrived via the NFL’s International Player Pathway program. Dak’s a fan, calls him “the Great Isaac” https://t.co/sT48Kjq7RJ
Alarcon has impressive size and athletic ability. A year on the practice squad could afford him the opportunity to develop into a potential roster player in the future.
4. Oh, Elijah Carries the Rock
Though he isn’t listed above in Jon Machota’s list of practice squad players, the Cowboys have signed former New York Jets running back Elijah McGuire to the 16-man practice squad.
McGuire was last seen in 2018 with the Jets when he only played in eight games and carried the football 92 times for 276 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown. Elijah McGuire makes his money as a receiving threat. He’s averaged more than 10 yards per reception over 36 receptions and 57 targets.
At just 26, McGuire adds a bit of veteran insurance at running back should Ezekiel Elliott or Tony Pollard suffer an injury.
5. Cowboys Fortunate No Preseason Games
In one way, not having preseason games made evaluations a bit more difficult for the coaching staff and scouting departments. A lack of film against other opponents and the limited training camp repetitions available to the players could prove a challenge for evaluations.
Jon Machota on Twitter: “The biggest surprise of the Cowboys roster cuts is undrafted rookie free agent LB Francis Bernard being released. He was very good throughout camp. Would’ve liked to see him in some preseason games. A player Dallas will look to keep on its practice squad / Twitter”
The biggest surprise of the Cowboys roster cuts is undrafted rookie free agent LB Francis Bernard being released. He was very good throughout camp. Would’ve liked to see him in some preseason games. A player Dallas will look to keep on its practice squad
In another way, not having preseason games might have worked out in their favor. Francis Bernard, in particular, was making a lot of noise in Cowboys training camp. With interceptions in back to back days, it was becoming more and more likely that Bernard would find a way to stick on the 53-man roster out of training camp. With no game or practice film on the Cowboys undrafted free agent, other teams were unable to get a good look at a player that will probably find his way onto the Dallas Cowboys roster at some point in the next year.