Before free agency officially begins at 4:00pm EST, let's set the table for the Dallas Cowboys. While not expected to be major players in this market, they still have to field a team of 53 players the same as everyone else. Moves will be made, players will leave, and new guys will be added.
To begin, here is a snapshot of our current roster. We're going to go based on players who are under contract for 2017 and who have contributed something to the team before now. We'll get to guys from the practice squad and reserve/future contracts shortly.
Also, even though they are technically under contract and counting against the roster at the moment, we're going to move forward with two assumptions:
This roster reflects the most current news as of now. Receiver Brice Butler has signed a one-year deal to return. Dallas has also given a tender offer to David Irving, an Exclusive Rights Free Agent.
QB: Dak Prescott
RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith
FB: Keith Smith
WR: Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Lucky Whitehead
TE: Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim
C: Travis Frederick, Joe Looney
G: Zack Martin, La'el Collins
T: Tyron Smith, Doug Free, Chaz Green, Emmett Cleary
DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, David Irving
DT: Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Cedric Thornton
OLB: Sean Lee, Damien Wilson, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha
MLB: Jaylon Smith, Anthony Hitchens
CB: Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, Leon McFadden
S: Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier
ST: Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
So, before we get into any other free agent signings or lesser-known players, that's 41 roster spots covered by existing talent. That leaves 12 total spots open for a full roster.
There are several other players under contract right now. These are players who were signed to small two-year deals following time spent on the practice squad. Most of them were with Dallas, but a few came from other teams at the end of the year.
Here's the list of these 2017 roster hopefuls:
WR: Andy Jones, Shaquelle Evans, Quincy McDuffie, Uzoma Nwachukwu
TE: Rico Gathers
G: Kadeem Edwards
T: Clay DeBord
DE: Lenny Jones, Zach Wood
LB: Jeremiah George
CB: Jeremiah McKinnon, Sammy Seamster
S: Jameil Showers
A few names jump out immediately. Rico Gathers, a sixth-round pick last year, reportedly had a great year in practices and is projected to make the team this season. Receiver Andy Jones, who was a training camp standout in 2016, also has raised expectations for his second year.
Obviously, these players don't cover all of the team's needs. There isn't anyone to add to the depth charts at quarterback or running back. But these 13 players, plus the 40 we already mentioned, take us 53 total. Between now and the first round of cuts in late August, teams are allowed up to 90 players on their rosters.
Hello free agency. Hello draft.
Possible Returning Free Agents
As previously mentioned, Dallas re-signed Brice Butler and David Irving in the last few days. They still have close to 20 other free agents from last year's team. Will anyone else be coming back? Let's go position-by-position.
QB: Kellen Moore, Mark Sanchez
After his awful Week 17 appearance, it's easy to dismiss Mark Sanchez returning. However, Dak Prescott spoke highly of Sanchez's advice throughout the season and perhaps that's enough to at least get him back for a competition. Kellen Moore could also be given a chance, given his system experience.
RB: Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar
The prevailing theory right now is that Dallas will cut Alfred Morris for $1.6 million in cap space and use that to re-sign McFadden, who they like more. I would expect those moves to happen in the next few days.
As for Lance Dunbar, can the coaches really still have faith that he will emerge as a regular contributor? Other than the brief flash in early 2015, Dunbar has never assumed the Darren Sproles-like role that has been envisioned. With Ezekiel Elliott now demanding full-time touches, Dunbar is likely headed elsewhere.
With rumors out there that Williams will get anywhere from $6-$8 million per season in his next contract, he is well out of Dallas' price range. The re-signing of Butler is likely their way of filling Williams' spot, seeing not so much at the "second WR" position but more the fourth option behind Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Jason Witten.
TE: Gavin Escobar
If not for James Hanna's injury last year, Escobar might have not even made the team. He fell to fourth on the depth chart and only rose as Hanna and Geoff Swaim got hurt. Gavin is a goner.
G: Ronald Leary, Jonathan Cooper
Leary is expected to earn a starting job and the big contract he's been waiting for, only with another team. Dallas has La'el Collins ready to return and don't need to keep Leary at a premium. Ron more than deserves his payday and someone else will give it to him.
Dallas brought Jonathan Cooper, a former first-round pick, in for depth and a little tire kicking at the end of last season. Cooper may be hoping that his name value is worth something on the open market, but if not I could see him coming back on a minimal deal.
DE: Jack Crawford, Ryan Davis
Jack "Of All Trades" Crawford is a valuable, versatile defensive lineman who was more than worth the $1 million he played for last year. Dallas would likely hope to bring him back on a similar deal, but reports are that other teams have finally taken notice and may be after Crawford's services. He may quickly get too expensive for us.
As for Ryan Davis, Injuries prevented the former Jaguar from having a sustained impact in Dallas. He isn't expected back.
DT: Terrell McClain
News has just broken that McClain will sign with Washington, which is in keeping with the belief that he would find better-paying work outside of Dallas. The Cowboys already have starters with Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, and Cedric Thornton, which would've made keeping McClain an unaffordable luxury.
LB: Justin Durant, Andrew Gachkar, Rolando McClain
Justin Durant's one-year comeback wasn't very impressive. He looked the part of an aging veteran and I wouldn't be surprised if he retires in the coming months. Dallas will have other depth options with Mark Nzeocha and either Anthony Hitchens or Damien Wilson, depending on who wins the SAM position battle.
Andrew Gachkar could come back for veteran experience and special teams play, but he is up against the same younger prospects. He has a far greater chance of re-signing than Durant but I still think it's less than likely.
As for Rolando, Dallas and 31 other teams are going to pass on his services. Enjoy fishing.
CB: Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne
Of all the significant free agents, Carr is the one I think has the best chance to return. He provides leadership and reliability and should be had for a reasonable price. Dallas will likely be counting on Anthony Brown to be CB1 next year. Carr and Orlando Scandrick could then fill out the top three with veteran experience.
While he hasn't created much free agent buzz yet, Morris Claiborne is expected to get a significant offer from someone. Even with his talent, which is still probably the best Dallas has at corner, all of the missed games and baggage is just more than I'd be willing to deal with. It's time for a clean break.
S: Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox
Word is that Church will be signing with the Jaguars. Much like Terrell McClain, it's been expected that he would get too expensive on the open market for Dallas to keep him.
The question now is if Dallas sees Wilcox as a capable starter or, at least, an upgrade over Jeff Heath. If they are interested, it will come down to how long Wilcox sits unsigned and how far down that drops his asking price. Because of Heath's presence and lots of safety prospects in the coming draft, the Cowboys won't overpay.
~ ~ ~
As you can see, Dallas will still have plenty of work to do this offseason to complete their roster. Several starters and significant role-players will be leaving in free agency. Even if Dallas re-signs the few that I've suggested, it will still leave important spots to be filled.
Thankfully, talent from across the NFL will be out there as free agency opens. Some will be available at discount prices and Dallas will likely pounce on a few. They also have the draft to look forward to, and then perhaps a few more free agent options after June 1st cuts.
You will probably be disappointed by the lack of Cowboys action early on in this free agency. While it can get frustrating, keep in mind that it's part of an overall philosophical change. Dallas is trying to get out of the perpetual "salary cap hell" that it seems like they've endured for many seasons. A big part of that is not overpaying free agents in the NFL's inflated open market.
Is Terrance Williams Roster Spot Safe with Dallas Cowboys?
This will hardly be the last article written about the wide receivers of the Dallas Cowboys entering the 2018 season. However, we can only hope it's the last off-field incident that will factor into the difficult decisions the Cowboys will make on their final depth chart at WR. Yesterday, veteran Wide Receiver Terrance Williams was arrested for public intoxication after leaving the scene of a crash involving his Lamborghini.
Cowboys WR Terrance Williams released a statement on his recent arrest detailing several facets of the incident: "I have always been an upstanding citizen and handled the situation the best way I know how.
Details concerning the severity of the incidents that led to Williams arrest remain somewhat unclear. His on-field production certainly has not been though, putting himself in an expendable position by failing to catch a touchdown in 2017 and only going for over 100 yards once.
Handling this Terrance Williams situation in whatever the "right way" is will be yet another critical decision the Cowboys make under Head Coach Jason Garrett. A team that has clearly valued continuity under Garrett, there is precedent for the Cowboys keeping a now-troubled player like Williams if the void he'd leave behind is too large.
It is widely believed that this is a Cowboys coaching staff working to keep their jobs in 2018. Losing Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Terrance Williams in one offseason may very well be too much.
Already dealing with a broken foot that expects to keep Terrance Williams out of football activities until training camp though, it is becoming increasingly easier for Williams to become forgotten about in new WR Coach Sanjay Lal's room.
New additions to this unit include FA signings Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, along with rookies Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson. Joined by the likes of KD Cannon, Lance Lenoir, and Malik Earl, all of these receivers are going to stake their claims for a spot on the Dallas Cowboys before Williams even catches another pass from Dak Prescott.
Once perceived to be fighting for positions below Hurns, Williams, and Cole Beasley as locks on the final 53 man roster, Williams' arrest is the epitome of "next man up" in Dallas. Even if Williams remains with the team in 2018 - as cutting him would only make moral sense for the Cowboys, not financial - his days as a starting receiver may very well be numbered.
As mentioned, this won't be the first look we have at the status of the Cowboys receivers. I'm already on record having high expectations for Michael Gallup, and believe Cedrick Wilson was one of the steals of the draft for the Cowboys in the sixth round. The unproven nature of this pass catching unit (through to TE with rookie Dalton Schultz) is going to make for fascinating training camp battles, competing for spots in an offense that could still be one of the league's best.
Terrance Williams Arrest: Salary Cap Impact if Released
The news of Cowboys Wide Receiver Terrance Williams' arrest yesterday sent a shockwave through an otherwise quiet mid-May news cycle. Many fans are wondering what the team might do, and what effect decision could have on Dallas' salary cap.
Unfortunately, moving on from Terrance won't bring the team in cap relief. But given their current cap space and where we are in the offseason, the Cowboys should have the freedom to cut the receiver if they choose to.
Depending on who you ask (OverTheCap, Spotrac), the Cowboys have somewhere between $5-$9 million in current cap room. If they release Williams before June 1st, his cap hit accelerates from $4.75 million to $7.25 million in dead money. That means he counts $2.5 million more off the team than on it.
If Terrance is cut on June 1st on later, the 2018 dead money is $4.75 million for a net-zero wash. That extra $2.5 million counts against 2019.
While that may sound cost-prohibitive on the surface, you have to remember where we are in the offseason. May is very different from March when you're talking about cap space.
Free agency is essentially over. The Cowboys don't need to worry too much about their 2018 cap room at this point, so they can absorb Williams' dead money if they want to cut him loose.
Martin's 2018 cap hit is currently around $9 million. Once he signs his new long-term deal, which is almost sure to come before training camp, that number should go down significantly. Dallas can do an immediate Year One restructure and potentially create around $6 million in cap space.
That alone would facilitate cutting Terrance Williams, but then they also have the hopeful new deal for Lawrence. The $17 million that Lawrence currently counts as a franchised player will go way down with a long-term contract. If Dallas can get that done, they may not have to touch Martin's deal.
The point here is that while cutting Williams is not a financially beneficial move, the money shouldn't stop the Cowboys if they don't want him around anymore.
If Terrance has proven anything during his five years in Dallas, it's that he doesn't have the talent to step into a primary role. With new arrival Allen Hurns and Cole Beasley both showing they can produce at a high level at times, plus exciting rookie Michael Gallup now in the mix, the Cowboys' season hardly relies on Williams' presence.
Of course, the Cowboys have a history of sticking by their guys during times of personal problems. Josh Brent did way worse than Terrance and remained supported by the organization.
But each situation and player are different, and the coaches may have already soured on Williams after a lackluster 2017. They may have only kept him because of those cap numbers we discussed before.
Terrance's latest dropped ball may have been the final straw, though. If so, the salary cap shouldn't stop Dallas from cutting him.
BREAKING: Terrance Williams Arrested For Public Intoxication After Car Accident
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams is in jail after crashing his car, a Lamborghini, into a light pole, per the Star Telegram. The incident occurred approximately at 3:00 AM, according to the reports and Williams, who fled the scene was arrested two hours later. He was arrested for public intoxication and was also charged for leaving the scene.
According to Clarence Hill, Williams was still in jail as of 11:30 AM.
Kate Hairopoulus, from SportsDay, reported that according to Frisco Police, the Lamborghini was found without a driver. After determining that the car belonged to the Cowboys' wide receiver, they proceded to arrest Williams near his residence, where he was riding an electric bicycle.
This certainly explains why T-Will wasn't arrested for DUI instead of public intoxication. Hairopoulus also reported that Williams has been released on a $369 bond.
Without much more details, Terrance Williams' future with the Cowboys doesn't look very promising as of right now. After hauling a lot of receivers during the offseason, the WR room in Dallas will feature a lot of competition.
Williams, who's recovering from a fractured foot and missing the offseason programs, has something to prove. Certainly, an accident like this doesn't help much his cause.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with more details about Terrance Williams' arrest.
Last updated at 2:20 PM CDT.
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