Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Final Edition

    Another year, another … and another final projection.

    The Cowboys' road through August has been arduous, thanks in large part to the injury to . This and other factors have left plenty of uncertainty about how the Week One roster will look. But we'll do the best we can.

    One major factor to consider going forward is the active 46-man gameday roster. Each week, seven guys won't be able to put on a and play. That plays a big part in deciding who you want to carry on the bottom of the roster. Depth is only so valuable if a guy is in street clothes.

    We will discuss that and all other factors as we work our way to the magic number. So, without further ado and in honor of the late Gene Wilder…

    “Yes? Good? ON WE GO!”

    QB: Tony Romo, Dak Prescott, Free Agent TBD (3)

    CHANGES: Added “Free Agent”

    The debate rages on; do you put Romo on or do you leave him on the roster to start the year? I wrote about this extensively yesterday.

    Cowboys Headlines - The Dak Prescott Hype: Why It's Completely Okay To Buy In 1I don't think this staff will be able to pull the trigger on sending Romo to IR. The week he'd be eligible to play is Week 9 if he's recalled from the injured list. The possibility that Romo could come back sooner is too big for Jerry Jones and to take off table.

    may get hurt. He may also fall apart when the games really matter. We have uncertainty on two fronts; Prescott's performance and Romo's recovery. All the grey area means Dallas will probably try to keep as many options open as they can.

    Keeping Romo on the active roster means costing someone else a spot, of course. However, that's someone who probably wasn't going to dress on game days anyway. The value of keeping some extra tight end or running back, over preserving your options with Tony Romo, just doesn't add up.

    Dallas' flirtation with Austin Davis, who may still wind up here before it's all said an done, also tells us that they're not ready to live with as Dak's immediate backup. Nothing about last night's game helped Showers' case. He has intriguing tools but is still too inexperienced to be effective.

    I anticipate Davis, or some other guy who gets cut over the next two days, will be here and serving as the number-two during Romo's recovery. Showers will return to the practice squad.

    RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, Darius Jackson (3)

    CHANGES: Removed

    Cowboys Headlines - Lance Dunbar Officially Cleared To Return To PracticeCutting both Lance Dunbar and is a bold move, but the more I look at it the more I can't deny it.

    McFadden is easy. Elliott walks in as the new feature back and Morris has proven that he's probably a better fit for our than McFadden ever was. At that point, and with $2 million in cap space to be saved, there's just not reason to keep McFadden around.

    Dunbar is probably the toughest from any position, but hear me out. His role in the offense has been mitigated with the additions of Elliott and , who both have good hands and speed.

    has also shown that he can be used in the kind of plays that Dunbar was getting early last year. With all of these options, plus Dunbar's proneness to injury, there just isn't enough value to keep him.

    FB: Keith Smith (1)

    CHANGES: None

    Keith has proven to be a better blocker than , and that's ultimately what this position is about. He also gives you additional value as a player and emergency .

    I still think Dallas may drop him for a more experienced or natural from other team's cuts, but for now 's the guy.

    WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler
    Lucky Whitehead (5)

    CHANGES: None

    This quintet has never been in doubt. The only question has been if some other prospect would force the Cowboys to want to keep six, but nobody emerged from the pack.

    Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Final Edition 1TE: Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar
    Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers (4)

    CHANGES: Removed

    Remember, will start the year on the PUP list. He is recovering from a minor knee surgery.

    This is a spot where the 46-man gameday roster factors into things. I looked back last year and, usually the fourth TE did not dress.

    Unless Dallas cuts or trades Escobar they have their top three with him, Witten, and Swaim. It's not worth keeping Traylor on the roster if he's not in uniform. He's more ready to play than Gathers right now, but the roster spot isn't worth much in that scenario.

    On the other hand, Gathers remains an intriguing physical specimen who you don't want to risk losing off your practice squad. It makes more sense to protect him with one of your inactive roster spots than carry Traylor.

    OT: Tyron Smith, Doug Free, Chaz Green, Free Agent TBD (4)

    CHANGES: Added “Free Agent”

    Ideally, Green will continue to develop and you can eventually cut the fourth guy. However, after some shaky preseason play from Green, Dallas will likely want some additional security from a veteran.

    G: Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Ron Leary (3)
    C: Travis Frederick, Joe Looney (2)

    CHANGES: None

    Unless somebody is ready to give Dallas a good for Leary, this group is locked in. If Leary were to get moved then Dallas would probably look for a new veteran guard in . None of their young prospects seem ready.

    ~ ~ ~

    Just to quickly recap, we've used 25 of the 53 roster spots on the offense. Your biggest questions marks are:

    • QB: Romo to IR or not?
    • RB: What's Dunbar really worth?
    • TE: Traylor vs. Gathers

    Cowboys Headlines - Spending on Defensive End is a MUST 2So, let's move on to the defense.

    DE: Benson Mayowa, David Irving
    Jack Crawford, Ryan Russell
    Charles Tapper, Free Agent TBD (6)

    CHANGES: Added “Free Agent”

    The starters during DeMarcus' Lawrence four-week suspension should be Mayowa and then one of either Crawford or Irving. With how much they rotate guys on the defensive line, the starting job doesn't matter too much anyways.

    Having missed a lot of time with a nagging back issue, rookie may not be able to contribute much early only. Thankfully, linebacker can line up as a pass rusher in some packages. Dallas could also be adding help from the outside.

    With Dallas having just cleared a lot of cap room by restructuring 's contract, there's a theory that they may be opening things up to add a big name pass rusher. Taking someone off waivers does mean absorbing part of their contract, so they could be creating flexibility to add anyone they want from cap casualties around the league.

    's future is cloudy. As far as we know he's still in rehab and the NFL has yet to announce anything beyond the original four-game suspension. For now, he won't count on the roster and we can only wait and see if he will make any contribution in 2016.

    DT: Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain, Cedric Thornton, Maliek Collins (4)

    CHANGES: None

    This is as good a DT rotation as they've had in some time. Both McClain and Thornton are better than ever was. If Collins can catch up from missed time during the summer, this group will be deep and explosive.

    Cowboys Headlines - Rumor: Cowboys Talking Reunion with Justin Durant
    AP Photo/Brandon Wade

    LB: Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens
    Kyle Wilber, Andrew Gachkar
    Mark Nzeocha, Damien Wilson (6)

    CHANGES: Removed Justin Durant

    The toughest cut on defense, Durant's return to Dallas will be short lived. For now, at least.

    Dallas could always bring Durant back after Week 1 and not have to guarantee his contract. He was on the street before joining the Cowboys a few weeks ago, so there probably isn't much fear of another team scooping him up.

    What's more, Durant apparently hasn't been the same guy. He's two years older and, turning 31 this month, it's showing. Dallas may rather just go with their young prospects anyway.

    Six linebackers is a little thin but you do have Keith Smith, who converted from linebacker to fullback this year.

    CB: Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr
    Deji Olatoye, Anthony Brown (5)

    CHANGES: None

    Last night wasn't pretty for Olatoye but his total body of work is still too good to ignore. He and Brown provide adequate depth.

    Between his punt returning and some flashes on defense, Dax Swanson has earned some fans. I don't see him pushing his way onto the roster but I think he's a lock for the practice squad.

    Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys 2016 Roster Projection: Final EditionS: Byron Jones, Barry Church
    Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier (4)

    CHANGES: None

    One of the biggest positives to come out of the preseason finale was Krazier's play. While we already figured J.J. Wilcox was a goner, the encouraging performance from the rookie only makes the decision easier. Dallas will save about $1.7 million cap space by releasing Wilcox.

    ST: Dan Bailey (K), Chris Jones (P), L.P. Ladouceur (LS)

    CHANGES: None

    Arguably the best trio of specialists in the NFL.

    ~ ~ ~

    So, there are your 53 players for the Week One roster. As a bonus, here are the 10 guys who I think could wind up on the practice squad:

    1. Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Sophomores: QB Jameill Showers 1QB – Jameil Showers
    2. RB – Rod Smith
    3. WR –
    4. TE – Austin Traylor
    5. T – Ryan Mack
    6. C – Jake Brendel
    7. DE – Mike McAdoo
    8. DT – Rodney Coe
    9. LB – Derek Akunne
    10. CB – Dax Swanson

    Obviously, this list could change greatly as the Cowboys look to add talent from roster cuts throughout the league. The 53-man roster could also be impacted, and not just at the “TBD” positions.

    Just stay connected with Inside ! We'll bring you all of the updates and analysis at the Cowboys finalize their roster and get ready for season opener!

    Jess Haynie
    Jess Haynie
    Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!


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    Randy Martin

    Jess good job and I don’t really disagree with anything you said. I’m glad somebody else thinks Dunbar’s time is up and I hope they can find a trade partner for McFadden. Dunbar is fragile and we can fill the job he does with Zeke and Jackson. I do think they will try to trade Escobar as there are teams in need of TE help. That will allow them to keep Traylor who I think has a place on this team.