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Cowboys 53-Man Roster if Offseason Ended Today

Jess Haynie

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Fantasy Football - Fantasy Football Team Defense Rankings - Week 1

While the NFL free agent market seems to have come to a sudden halt recently, there is still plenty of offseason left for the Dallas Cowboys to add new talent and make other other moves, Next month’s NFL Draft is major event still coming, but free agency is also far from over.

Today, I thought it would be a good exercise to construct a 53-man roster using just the players we already have under contract. This should give us good insight into where the Cowboys’ biggest needs are and, more than likely, where their focus will be in the upcoming draft.

Before we get started, a couple of ground rules:

  1. Tony Romo is still under contract but I’m going to assume that he won’t be a Cowboy next year. My belief is that he will retire if nothing else happens.
  2. Randy Gregory is currently suspended through the regular season, so we’ll assume that won’t be changing. There are still some legal remedies he could pursue but we’ll deal with that if it ever comes.

So, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s build a roster.

Quarterback (2)

Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore

After one of the most spectacular rookie seasons in NFL history, Dak Prescott’s hold on the Cowboys’ quarterback position couldn’t be tighter. He will go into 2017 as the unchallenged starter and with that expectation for many years to come.

Kellen Moore was re-signed from free agency and brings system familiarity that no other veteran option could offer. Some have groaned after Moore failed to win any games in 2015, but the Cowboys clearly feel that Moore can bring something to the table.

With Prescott’s youth and Moore as the veteran backup, we could easily see Dallas go back to keeping just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. This was their policy many years during Tony Romo’s tenure.

Running Back (4)

Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Keith Smith (FB)

There’s no questioning the roster spots for Elliott and McFadden. Also, Keith Smith emerged last year as a solid blocking fullback who provides versatile value at linebacker and special teams. He should feel secure in his job.

The big question now is what happens with Alfred Morris. Dallas could release him for about $1.6 million in cap relief, but they have yet to make that move even after re-signing McFadden. The Cowboys may be holding on to Morris through the draft, or even through final cuts, just to see how things shake out.

I would not be surprised to see Dallas add a speed back with receiving skills as a replacement for Lance Dunbar. That player could push Morris out the door eventually.

Receiver (5)

Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Brice Butler, Andy Jones

 

Dallas surprised most of us be re-signing both Williams and Butler. The moves speak to a strategy of counting on returning offensive talent to yield the same results as last year, leaving you free to focus on defense in the draft.

Last year’s training camp darling, Andy Jones, is expected to push for a job this offseason. He could force Butler out the door; Dallas gave Butler little guaranteed money to leave him expendable if needed. However, we could also see a mid-round WR talent drafted that will compete with both Butler and Jones.

You may be wondering who’s going to return kicks with Lucky Whitehead gone. We’ll get to that later.

Jason Witten

TE Jason Witten

Tight End (4)

Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers

If the Cowboys spend their first-round pick on offense it will almost assuredly be at tight end. Many expect for 2017 to be Witten’s last year before retirement.

My preference is that Dallas use this year to see what they already have in the cupboard. James Hanna got a nice contract last year to return as the backup TE but injury kept him from playing. Geoff Swaim was looking like a solid all-around player before also getting hurt. Rico Gathers remains an intriguing physical specimen who reportedly had a great year on the practice squad.

If none of these guys earn your trust next season, then you can spend a high pick on Witten’s replacement or look to free agency. A first-round talent should be able to come in and play immediately, which isn’t needed right now with Witten still here.

Offensive Tackle (4)

Tyron Smith, Chaz Green, Emmett Cleary, Byron Bell

After signing Bell just a few days ago, the Cowboys appear to be loading up on guys to compete for the right tackle position after Doug Free‘s retirement. Bell has started in 72 of the 78 games he’s played in since entering the league in 2011.

Don’t assume that Bell is the front-runner with that experience. The Cowboys got to see how Chaz Green and Emmett Cleary look in starting roles last season and both performed well. Green was a third-round pick in 2015 and the team would love to see him take over at right tackle.

If Green does win the job, his injury history could push Dallas to keep an extra offensive tackle on staff beyond just the usual swing tackle. Bell, who can also play guard, would fit that role nicely with his versatility.

Zack Martin, Giants

G Zack Martin (AP Photo/James D Smith)

Guard (3)

Zack Martin, La’el Collins, Jonathan Cooper

With Ronald Leary headed to Denver, the left guard job goes back to Collins. Still just a third-year player, Collins will hopefully blossom and build on the flashes of elite talent we saw in 2015.

Veteran Jonathan Cooper was re-signed to provide experienced depth and perhaps push Collins a little for the starting job. Cooper was once a first-round pick who has had his own injury problems. We could also see Byron Bell, who was expected to move to guard last year before injury, competing with Cooper for the backup job.

Center (2)

Travis Frederick, Joe Looney

This position feels solidified with the All-Pro starter and the veteran backup. Dallas might add some younger guys to compete with Looney, but for now he should be expected to return.

Defensive End (4)

DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Charles Tapper, Damontre Moore

Everyone expects Dallas to add a pass-rushing end in the upcoming draft. It’s hard to project who will be there at the 28th pick, and you’d be right to be worried that that player won’t be able to provide the sort of catalytic spark that this defensive line needs.

Lawrence, Mayowa, and Tapper will certainly be here to compete for jobs. Lawrence should at least be a solid starter and could really shine if he moves back to his natural position as the strong-side end. Mayowa and Tapper should provide quality depth and rotation duty but neither is likely able to bring a significant improvement to the pass rush.

Whatever rookies the Cowboys add will likely push Damontre Moore out by final cuts. The underachieving DE was signed a few weeks ago but has never played up to his third-round pick potential.

Tyrone Crawford

DL Tyrone Crawford

Defensive Tackle (5)

Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, David Irving, Cedric Thornton, Stephen Paea

Assigning position for some of defensive linemen is tricky business.  Crawford and Irving will both likely play snaps at defensive end throughout the season, either due to injuries or just certain personnel packages.

By signing Stephen Paea to replace Terrell McClain, the Cowboys have at least stocked up the DT position and shouldn’t need to address it in the draft. They already have a young stud in Maliek Collins and plenty of veteran depth to go with him.

Sean Lee

LB Sean Lee

Linebacker (7)

Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha, Jeremiah George

Even with Justin Durant and Andrew Gachkar leaving in free agency, the Cowboys still have a solid crew at linebacker. Jaylon Smith’s debut will hopefully lock down the middle, leaving Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson to compete for the strong-side position. The loser of that battle will still be a key backup.

Kyle Wilber brings veteran depth and special teams value. Mark Nzeocha will hopefully stay healthy and build on a strong 2016 preseason.

I expect Dallas to keep seven linebackers due to Sean Lee’s age and Jaylon Smith’s health concerns. Right now the only other guy under contract is Jeremiah George, a fifth-round pick by Jets in 2014. George will likely be competing with several rookie prospects for a job.

Anthony Brown

CB Anthony Brown

Cornerback (5)

Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, Nolan Carroll, Leon McFadden, Jeremiah McKinnon

With Brown and Carroll stepping into the spaces occupied by Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, Dallas shouldn’t be too bad off compared to last year. Their goal in the draft, though, is no doubt to improve their depth and perhaps even find a second starter.

If they can’t, Leon McFadden at least brings experience as a fourth cornerback. Sadly, he is best known for getting burned by the Steelers’ trick play last season.

McKinnon was an undrafted free agent who Dallas kept until final cuts last year. He was on the Titans practice squad in 2016 but then Dallas brought him back in January. That he was still on the Cowboys’ radar is intriguing and makes me want to keep an eye on him this July.

Safety (4)

Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, Jameil Showers

Like at cornerback, Dallas will almost certainly be adding some talent here. Few would be surprised to see them use their first-round pick on a new starter.

That said, I am comfortable with Jeff Heath starting if needed. He has a nose for the ball and might play even better if he gets full-time starter reps in practice.

The depth is the real concern now. Dallas will be hoping that Kazon Frazier can at least be a capable backup despite little playing time in his rookie season. He will likely be competing for that job with another drafted talent or perhaps even a veteran addition still to come.

Dallas converted Jameil Showers from quarterback to safety last year while he was on the practice squad. We’ll have to wait until training camp to see how that goes. If he can apply QB smarts to safety, Showers could be surprisingly dangerous in the role.

Dan Bailey, Chris Jones

K Dan Bailey and P Chris Jones

Special Teams (4)

Dan Bailey (K), Chris Jones (P), L.P. Ladouceur (LS), Quincy McDuffie (KR/PR)

No surprises at kicker, punter, or long snapper, I’m sure. The one thing we might see is a young long snapper coming in to compete with 36-year-old Ladouceur, but it will take a lot to mess with perfection.

I’ve put McDuffie here as the return specialist as a placeholder. I think Dallas is probably done with Lucky Whitehead after uninspiring play and some behavior issues last season. McDuffie was a standout return man in the CFL, but I imagine he will be competing with several other prospects this year.

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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!

Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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