The Dallas Cowboys have already started the process of trimming their roster down to 53 players by Saturday's deadline. With still around 20 moves left to make, what players are locked in and who's “on the bubble” with final cuts still to come?
The biggest surprise so far has been the release of veteran safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. While I didn't include him on my last 53-man roster projection a week ago, it was still jarring to see Dallas actually cut bait before Ha Ha even played in a game.
The rest of the moves were pretty predictable. I only had WR Devin Smith making the team as the 6th WR so I'm not stunned to see him go. The other cuts were easy: QB Clayton Thorson, TE Charlie Taumoepeau, G/C Adam Redmond, and offensive tackles Mitch Hyatt, Wyatt Miller, and Pace Murphy.
So who's left on that bubble? Before we go there, let's look at who's all-but-guaranteed to make the team:
- QB: Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton
- RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard
- WR: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown
- TE: Blake Jarwin, Blake Bell, Dalton Schultz
- OT: Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Cam Erving
- G: Zack Martin, Connor Williams, Connor McGovern
- C: Joe Looney, Tyler Biadasz
- DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Everson Griffen, Aldon Smith, Bradlee Anae
- DT: Dontari Poe, Tyrone Crawford, Trysten Hill, Neville Gallimore
- LB: Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, Joe Thomas
- CB: Chidobe Awuzie, Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis
- S: Xavier Woods, Darian Thompson, Reggie Robinson
- SPECIAL TEAMS
- K: Greg Zuerlein
- P: Chris Jones
- LS: L.P. Ladouceur
Those are the 42 players that I would bet my life on. The only guy who I could see not making the 53 is Sean Lee, and that's just if his injury issues this month have pushed him towards retirement. But as long as Lee wants to play, the Cowboys aren't cutting him.
There are a few other players who I highly doubt would be cut.
QB Ben Dinucci – I expect Dallas will keep the developmental prospect on the 53-man roster, as has been Mike McCarthy's pattern throughout his head-coaching tenure. This seems especially prudent with both Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton on one-year contracts.
OL Brandon Knight – He's played well in real games and has flexibility as a guard or tackle. Unless someone like Terence Steele or Isaac Alarcon really wowed in camp, Knight is a virtual lock.
DT Antwaun Woods – I could see him leaving if the Cowboys really want to hang on to more pass rushers or linebackrs, but he's the best option as a nose tackle or 1-tech of Dontari Poe gets hurt. And given Poe's recent history, they need that insurance.
LB Francis Bernard – The undrafted rookie has been one of the stars of camp and has value on special teams as well. He's the new Luke Gifford, and that's why Gifford's now on the bubble.
DB Daryl Worley – With more experience than a lot of our DBs put together, plus flexibility between corner and safety, Worley probably isn't going anywhere. But given what we just saw with Clinton-Dix, perhaps he also gets pinched in a youth movement.
S Donovan Wilson – While he hasn't had a chance to wow us like he did in the 2019 preseason, Wilson is still a good prospect and fills a need. There are no other defensive backs I could see Dallas keeping over him, so it really just depends on total numbers.
Adding those six players takes us to 48, leaving just five spots for the rest of the bubble. So where are the Cowboys most likely to use those roster openings?
A key issue will be deciding on how to deal with the loss of FB Jamize Olawale, who opted out under the COVID-19 policy. Will this open the door for rookie Sewo Olonilua as a true fullback, or could we see Dallas keep an extra tight end (Cole Hikutini or Sean McKeon)?
On the other hand, will Darius Anderson or Rico Dowdle make it as RB depth? Remember, it was Olwale's ability to play some running back that allowed Dallas to keep just Elliott and Pollard on the roster in 2019.
The bottom of the WR depth chart is another intriguing spot. Ventell Bryant is the front-runner with his special teams skills but he's also a similar play to Noah Brown. Will Dallas instead look to someone like Jon'Vea Johnson or Aaron Parker for diversity, or could they just not even keep a 6th WR this year?
The defensive line is another hot topic. With Bradlee Anae pushing through as a drafted rookie, previous picks Dorance Armstrong and Joe Jackson remain in limbo. I think Armstrong probably make it given his pass-rush skills and potential to play some 3-4 outside linebacker, but it's hardly certain.
At linebacker, Luke Gifford and Justin March are probably battling it out for the 6th spot. Gifford has nice potential on defense and March has been a strong special teams player. What will the coaches value more, and could we even see both players kept?
And lastly, what other defensive backs have made a case for a roster spot? C.J. Goodwin may be the best special teams player on the squad but he doesn't do much on defense. The Cowboys may prefer a younger player with a more well-rounded game, but John Fassel could pound the desk for Goodwin.
With only a little over 24 hours to go until the deadline, we'll get answers to all of these questions ver soon.