Roster cuts will be coming over the next two days, and it's time to look at our final 53-man roster projection of 2018. Who will make up the Dallas Cowboys as the enter the upcoming regular season?
The preseason revealed some things that we didn't expect a month ago, both positive and negative. We've seen some big swings in stock value on certain players since the start of training camp.
The best thing you can say about the Cowboys' August is that they evaded any major injuries. Travis Frederick's health issue is a concern, but otherwise the team shouldn't be missing anybody for more than a week or town.
One thing to keep in mind with these projections is that we can't account for all of the talent that's about to hit the open market. Only Will McClay and his crew know who the Cowboys may be targeting from waivers and free agency in the days ahead.
That said, we'll do our best to form a roster with what we know and who's currently in house.
Dak Prescott, Mike White
Changes: Removed Cooper Rush
I have wrestled with this one a lot, and I think this comes down to that 53-man limit and needs elsewhere on the team. It also may be a temporary move.
White has outplayed Rush the last two weeks. While he's a rookie, he was also a fifth-round pick. Rush was an undrafted free agent last year.
Dallas will want to preserve White's four-year rookie contract, which would be lost if he was released and re-signed to the practice squad. Unfortunately, Rush's time last year on the active roster makes him ineligible for the practice squad.
The Cowboys may very well wind up with three quarterbacks, perhaps signing or trading for a veteran backup over the next few days. But with other positions where they need to go long due to injury, I think they will make this move to avoid having to make a tougher cut somewhere else.
Running Back (4)
Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, Darius Jackson,
Jamize Olawale (FB)
I am standing by my belief that Jackson gives you more than Bo Scarbrough with his athleticism and kick return value. He just makes more sense as your third RB as Rod Smith has plenty of power as a short-yardage option.
There are only so many teams that are going to value a runner like Scarbrough. He needs an offensive line who can dominate and make lanes for him to pick up speed in. Dallas is one of those few teams, so they have a good shot at getting him to their practice squad.
I'm prepared to be wrong on this one. The Cowboys have cut Jackson once before and could do it again. But keep in mind that this was when they had Elliott, Alfred Morris, and Darren McFadden all under contract. Darius was on the roster in 2016 until McFadden was finally activated.
Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup,
Terrance Williams, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson
Changes: Added Thompson
Here's one position where I think Dallas goes long, both for current and future reasons. Even still, they have to make a tough cut by not putting Lance Lenoir on the roster this year.
With Beasley, Austin, and Thompson all playing on expiring contracts, and Terrance Williams a likely cap casualty next year, the Cowboys will spend much of 2018 deciding who they value for the future. We're going to see all of these guys used in various ways.
Even though Thompson didn't get to do much this month, missing time with injury, Dallas signed the veteran for a reason. I think they'll want to see what he can offer in games before they cut him loose.
As for Lenoir, I'm sure the Cowboys will hope to get him to the practice squad. He'd make the team most years, but we're unusually deep at WR in 2018.
Tight End (3)
Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, Dalton Schultz
I wouldn't draft a Dallas TE on your fantasy team this year, because Jarwin and Swaim are probably going to be splitting a lot of time. Jarwin's the better receiver, Swaim's the better blocker, and they will be deployed in many different packages.
Schultz was a fourth-round pick and isn't going anywhere. That means Rico Gathers had to push the team to keep four tight ends, and it just hasn't happened. He's still too raw with the finer points of football to justify a roster spot.
In a different year, Dallas could go long if they wanted to give Rico another year to develop and not risk him on the practice squad. But with the health issues on the offensive line and at safety, this just isn't one of those years.
Offensive Tackle (3)
Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Cam Fleming
This trio had been locked in since the beginning of camp. The starters are set and Fleming was clearly brought in to play swing tackle, making $2.5 million this year in reserve duty.
There is some concern as Fleming hasn't looked great this preseason, but part of that has been the overall failings of the backup linemen. Teams have been throwing a lot of blitzes at Dallas' second string.
Fleming has started a lot of games, including playoffs, for the New England Patriots. He will look better when he's playing with the starters and when defenses aren't as aggressive.
Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Connor Williams,
Joe Looney, Parker Ehinger, Free Agent TBD
Changes: Added Ehinger, Removed Kadeem Edwards
In case you're wondering who Ehinger is, he's the OL from Kansas City who is reportedly coming to Dallas in exchange for CB Charvarius Ward. This deal should be finalized today.
Ehinger has guard/tackle flex and should be a nice upgrade over Kadeem Edwards. But that still leaves Dallas needing another guy who can play center.
Frederick may only be on the 53 for a day. Dallas has to go through cuts first and then put Travis on injured reserve if they want the option of bringing him back after eight weeks.
At this point, I don't even think they'll go that far. It sounds like he's doing very well with his treatment and could return much sooner than Week 9. I think they'll carry Frederick on the 53 as a gameday inactive until he's ready to go.
That means Joe Looney is starting for a while. Even though Zack Martin can play center in a pinch, Dallas still needs another guy who can handle that spot on their bench until Frederick returns. I think he will come from free agency in the next few days.
Defensive End (5)
DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Taco Charlton,
Dorance Armstrong, Charles Tapper
Changes: Moved Tyrone Crawford to DT
With Gregory's return and how quickly he's reestablished himself, it looks like Crawford is going to play more at his natural position as the 3-technique defensive tackle. That's good news across the board.
Thanks to the young talent showing up, Dallas will cut Kony Ealy. The veteran has not been what they hoped and they have better options at both DE and DT.
Tapper makes it for now but could easily be the guy cut once David Irving comes off suspension in Week 5.
Defensive Tackle (5)
Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods,
Daniel Ross, Brian Price
Changes: Added Crawford
One of the big stories this camp and preseason has been the rise of Antwaun Woods, who has taken over the 1-tech and nose tackle role. It's a nice development for the Cowboys as it frees up Maliek Collins to get back to the things that made him a standout as a rookie.
Jihad Ward is the guy that Dallas traded away Ryan Switzer for, but he hasn't impressed. He might make it over Ross or Price, but that would only be if the Cowboys still believe there's some untapped potential left.
As mentioned already, David Irving will be back in October. Injuries will likely play a major factor in who gets cut to make room for him.
Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch,
Damien Wilson, Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard
It's been a great summer for the LB position. Lee and Smith are healthy heading into the season, and Jaylon looks ready to be a breakout star.
Dallas now has the luxury of easing first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch into things. Damien Wilson may still start in the base defense for a while as the rookie, who missed time in preseason with a minor groin injury, hasn't had much work lately.
Helping also is the emergence of Joe Thomas and Justin March-Lillard as quality depth options. Both have stood out in preseason and are guy you won't be afraid to play in games if needed. It's arguably the deepest that the Cowboys have been at linebacker in some time.
Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones, Anthony Brown,
Jourdan Lewis, Donovan Olumba
Changes: Added Olumba, Removed Charvarius Ward
One reason that Dallas traded Ward to Kansas City, no doubt, is the play of Donovan Olumba. Another undrafted free agent this year, Olumba fits the Kris Richard mold at 6'2" and has been standing out lately among the CB prospects.
Even if Dallas was only keeping four safeties, not having to cover for Xavier Woods' injury, I don't think they'd go any longer here. Whether it's the 10th defensive back or that 9th offensive linemen, these are the spots that I think will cost Cooper Rush his roster spot.
Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier,
Jeron Johnson, Tyree Robinson
Last night's game validated Johnson as a keeper. The veteran safety led the team in tackles and should provide exactly what they need, at least temporarily, while waiting to get Woods back. His experience, but generally and specifically with Kris Richard in Seattle, is a major plus.
I'm putting Robinson on here for now, but I could easily see him being replaced by a waiver wire or free agent acquisition. And if the Cowboys could perhaps finally pull of a trade with the Seahawks for that other guy, even better.
Special Teams (3)
Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
Since we don't have much to say about this obvious group of special teamers, how about a quick shout-out to Brett Maher? He's handled kicking and punting duties for Dallas over the last few months while helping Bailey and Jones to keep their legs fresh and avoid injuries.
Maher hit a 57-yard field goal last night in Houston, make him 4/4 this preseason. Hopefully somebody else took notice and will give the man a job.
Predicting Dallas Cowboys Roster Locks, Pre-Training Camp Edition
With the Dallas Cowboys training camp just around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to draw attention to their current roster. From top to bottom, the Cowboys have one of the deepest rosters at their disposable heading into the 2019 season. But in order to get under the league mandated 53-man roster Dallas will have to release quite a few talented players.
With that in mind, I thought I'd take a shot at predicting which Dallas Cowboys players should be considered roster locks right now. I tried to narrow down to the players who I am the most confident in right now, not the ones who can eventually secure a roster spot at some point in training camp or preseason.
I should probably warn you right now… I tried to avoid any "pet cats", roster bubble guys, or players I would personally pound the table for. The players listed below are the ones I'm nearly 100% sure make the Dallas Cowboys final 2019 53-man roster.
Dallas Cowboys 35 Roster Locks
|RB||Ezekiel Elliott||Tony Pollard|
|WR||Amari Cooper||Michael Gallup||Randall Cobb|
|OL||Tyron Smith||Connor Williams||Travis Frederick||Zack Martin||La'el Collins||Cameron Fleming||Connor McGovern|
|DE||DeMarcus Lawrence||Robert Quinn||Dorrance Armstrong||Tyrone Crawford|
|DT||Antwaun Woods||Maliek Collins||Tryston Hill|
|LB||Sean Lee||Jaylon Smith||Leighton Vander Esch||Joe Thomas|
|CB||Byron Jones||Chidobe Awuzie||Anthony Brown||Jourdan Lewis|
|S||Xavier Woods||Jeff Heath||George Iloka||Donovan Wilson|
|ST||Chris Jones||L.P. Ladouceur|
35 out of 53 may seem like a low number of Dallas Cowboys players who I believe have already locked up a roster spot, but with the depth this team has it's really not. There's no way of really knowing how many players the Cowboys will keep at each position, which makes predicting these roster locks that much more difficult. Regardless though, the 35 players listed above are the ones I am the most confident about.
Biggest Surprise Roster Locks
If you look over the 35 players who I believe have locked up a roster spot already, there's not a whole lot of surprises. I think the only player I would consider a surprise would be Safety Donovan Wilson. As a rookie, and a sixth-round pick at that, Wilson seems like a longshot to even make the final 53-man roster, but not if you look at the current the depth at the position. I believe all he has to do is beat out Kavon Frazier, which shouldn't be that difficult.
The only other player that could possibly be a surprise is Cornerback Jourdan Lewis. The only reason I mention him is because the Cowboys "supposedly" put him on the trade block last year. I think they've learned though he is someone who needs more playing time, which is why I have him listed above.
Biggest Surprise Roster Snubs
You may have noticed a few names who I snubbed as roster locks for the Dallas Cowboys, but which ones were the biggest surprises?
The first player you may have noticed missing was WR/RB Tavon Austin. He's a dynamic player when he can get the ball in space, especially in the return game, but in no way do I view him as a roster lock this year. Tony Pollard, the Cowboys third-round pick this year, is a similar player that could make Austin expendable.
The next player you may have noticed missing is C/OG Joe Looney. He filled in nicely for Travis Frederick last year and quite possibly saved the Cowboys 2018 season. His versatility to play along the OL could be important, but rookie C/OG Connor McGovern could fill that role as well. Despite that though, Looney still has a good chance to make the final 53-man roster.
The last player I think who might be a surprise is Defensive End Taco Charlton. He is entering the ever important Year 3 with the Dallas Cowboys, but despite being a former first-round pick he's no sure bet that to make the roster. The Cowboys have some talented depth at DE who could push Charlton off the roster.
Who would be your Dallas Cowboys roster locks ahead of training camp?
Should Cowboys Consider Bringing Back Alex Tanney as Backup QB?
If the Dallas Cowboys aren't happy about their quarterback depth by the end of preseason, they should be looking to add someone from other teams' roster cuts. One player that could become available is a former Cowboy, Alex Tanney, and he may be one of the best options they'll have.
Tanney is currently with the New York Giants and served as Eli Manning's backup last year. He's floated around the NFL since going undrafted in 2012, being part of eight different teams.
Alex's tenure in Dallas came in 2013 when the Cowboys signed him just before training camp. Tanney flashed his potential during the preseason but it wasn't enough to get him on the 53-man roster. Dallas kept just two QBs that year, Tony Romo and Kyle Orton, and signed Tanney to their practice squad.
In November of that season, the Cleveland Browns poached Alex and signed him to their roster. Then came a series of stops with other teams' practice squad before finally landing with the Tennessee Titans, where he got his first and only playing time in a regular season game.
In 2015, Tanney finished the Titans meaningless regular-season finale. He completed 10-of-14 passes for 99 yards and one touchdown.
After spending last year with the Giants as the backup QB but never having to play, Tanney re-signed with New York for a two year deal this past March. But that was before the Giants spent their first-round pick on QB Daniel Jones
New York has kept three quarterbacks on the roster the last two years, but only kept two in 2016. With a clear top-two of Manning and Jones, and Daniel obviously their QB of the future, could they decide to let their other passers go at final cuts?
By only giving Tanney $75,000 in guaranteed money on his new contract, the Giants certainly left themselves the option of cutting him.
Alex Tanney now has seven years of NFL experience with multiple teams. He'll have just spent a full year and a second offseason with one of the Cowboys' division rivals, perhaps offering some insights into Pat Shurmur's system.
Ideally, the Cowboys will be content at quarterback if Cooper Rush or Mike White can earn their confidence over the next two months. But after reported struggles from both during mini-camps and OTAs, there is reason for concern.
This will all be moot, of course, if the Giants decide to keep Alex as a their third quarterback. But there is reason to think he could hit the open market, and if so he may be one of the few decent options that Dallas has to try and improve their QB depth.
In the end, Alex Tanney may not be a better option than Rush or White. But if the Cowboys find themselves desperate by September, he should at least be worth a second look.
Saints WR Michael Thomas Will Drive Up Price for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper
Since he became part of the Dallas Cowboys, Amari Cooper has proved himself worthy of a long-term contract extension. The offense saw a complete turnaround once the former Oakland Raider arrived, picking up way more first downs and moving the ball down the field. With a solid #1 wide receiver, Dak Prescott's game improved and with it, the rest of the offensive performance. At this point, most of Cowboys Nation agrees on how important Amari Cooper is for the Cowboys' future.
At only 25 years old, Cooper has an entire career ahead of him. He's young, yet experienced. The front office is aiming to make Dak Prescott the team's quarterback in the long-term and it only makes sense to give him such a strong weapon in the passing game.
However, if the Cowboys are to keep Cooper, they are to pay a price tag. An expensive one. And the more time they take to sign him, the more they'll have to pay. Of course, this is true in just about every position in the NFL. But when it comes to WR, there's a bit more urgency.
Both Julio Jones and Michael Thomas, two of the best in the game, are seeking long-term extensions. Now granted, these two players may be in different scenarios given their ages (Julio is 30, Michael is 26) and the fact that Jones still has two remaining years on his current contract. Even still, both are in the discussion for being the top receiver in the NFL. In other words, they could be asking to become the highest paid receivers in the league.
In fact, Michael Thomas is reportedly asking for $22M per year. To put it in perspective, Odell Beckham's contract with the Browns, which made him the top paid receiver, averages $18M annually. Thomas is absolutely great, but he's asking for too much money. Whether he'll get it or not remains to be seen.
As much as we love Amari Cooper, he isn't in the conversation for being the best wide receiver in the NFL like Thomas is. Despite that, he'll surely land among the highest-paid. For Cooper, it seems like the floor for his deal is Adam Thielen's contract with the Minnesota Vikings, which averages $16.2M per year. He isn't getting paid anything less than that.
The ceiling though, could drastically change. He's not going to become the top paid in the league, but he could be very close. The thing is, that number could change quickly. At the moment, Odell Beckham sits atop the NFL pass-catchers averaging 18 million. We can only guess, but that could lead to Cooper getting paid around $17M per year.
But if Michael Thomas or Julio Jones get their deals done before, that price could drastically go up. If Thomas gets what he wants (and it's a big if), the ceiling for Cooper's annual salary would have become $4M more expensive.
Hopefully, the Dallas Cowboys get a deal done quickly. Amari Cooper is a great player, and in less than a season he clicked with Dak Prescott, who's also waiting for payday. Right now, we can only be glad neither is threatening to hold out and both are excited for training camp.
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