The Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL have finalized their 53-man rosters for now. The keywords here are "for now", because rosters are never quite finalized and are churned quite a bit throughout the season. But, I want to focus on the Cowboys 53-man roster and the unexpected moves that were made in order to get to this point.
I don't know about you, but I was really curious about the moves that would have to be made in order to get down to 53 for the Cowboys. The majority of the moves made I pretty much saw coming, but there were some that completely caught me off guard. If you continue to read below, you will see the top 5 unexpected moves Dallas made that I didn't see coming.
Kellen Moore's release
Throughout the majority of the off-season the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff was insistent they were comfortable with Kellen Moore as their backup QB heading into the 2017 season. But, with the the unforeseen emergence of Cooper Rush and Moore's poor performance in preseason, things have changed.
Shockingly, Kellen Moore was one of the roster cuts made to complete the Cowboys 53-man roster this weekend. I it say was shocking because owner/general manager Jerry Jones stated not over a week ago that the Cowboys would keep 3 QBs on their 53-man roster. But if you watched Moore's performance throughout the preseason, it shouldn't come to that much of a surprise.
The Cowboys are expected to bring back Kellen Moore in some capacity at some point, either on the practice squad or the active roster. Rumors are it could be when Rico Gathers is placed on IR while he continues to recover from a concussion or he could take Anthony Hitchens spot if he is placed on IR. Regardless, the fact the Cowboys were willing to risk losing Kellen Moore by releasing him was arguably one of the biggest surprises made this weekend.
Cutting DT Cedric Thornton
If the decision to release Kellen Moore wasn't the biggest surprise, then cutting defensive tackle Cedric Thornton might just be. Thorton was the Cowboys big-money free agent signing last off-season in 2016, but could never find his footing here in Dallas. Despite the amount of money he is making, the organization wasn't afraid to cut ties.
Thorton's roster spot was needed to make a place for Brian Price, who was awarded to the Cowboys off of waivers. Price is more of a space eating DT and spent the majority of last season on the Green Bay Packers practice squad. The Cowboys seem to like Price's upside, which made Thornton expendable. Unfortunately, Thorton's poor play resulted in him not making the final Cowboys 53-man roster.
Trading for a LB
The Dallas Cowboys have quite a few concerns surrounding their linebacker position, which is why they probably decided to trade for a LB in the first place. Damien Wilson still faces a possible suspension, Jaylon Smith still needs little more time before he's ready, Justin Durant is an aging player with injury concerns, and Anthony Hitchens will be out approximately eight weeks.
After already being awarded a Green Bay Packer off of the waiver wire (see above), the Cowboys decided one player wasn't enough and worked out a trade for LB Jayrone Elliott. Elliott looks more like a tweeter LB/DE, much like Kyle Wilber, but he will add much needed depth to the position. It was a good move to make and only cost the Cowboys a seventh round draft pick in 2018.
Trading for CB depth
The Dallas Cowboys seemed to have plenty of depth at the cornerback position before roster cuts were made. But, they decided to bring in a veteran CB by trading with the Cincinnati Bengals for Ben Benwikere. Benwikere has bounced around the league a little, but can play in the slot or the outside, giving the Cowboys both experience and depth.
This trade was likely made in order to have some insurance in case their young CBs take a little while getting up to speed. They missed some valuable time to gain experience due to injuries, which made veteran experience a little bit of a concern. Once the Cowboys get a better feel of how their young CBs are able to hold up, Benwikere's time with the team may come to an end. Players returning from their suspensions will need a roster spot and he might be the low man on the totem pole.
Keeping Byron Bell over Emmett Cleary
It may just be me, but I was surprised that the Dallas Cowboys decided to keep Byron Bell over Emmett Cleary when roster cuts were made. Both players are similar in that they can both play guard and tackle, but I thought Cleary had the slight edge because he had been in the system a little longer.
Of course, Byron Bell is the more experienced of the two players. He has started at both guard and tackle in the NFL and might be the more reliable at this point. I think he is probably best suited to play inside at OG, which might be why he made the Cowboys 53-man roster over Cleary. If Jonathan Cooper doesn't pan out at LG, the next man that might be Byron Bell.
What are your unexpected moves the Dallas Cowboys made to complete their 53-man roster?
Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10
Often considered a top unit in football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line seemed to take a step back in 2017. Mostly due to injuries and free agent departures on the left side, the Cowboys were unable to form the same solid unit we have seen in years past.
Despite their struggles, most would still consider them a top 5-10 offensive line in the NFL. At least, that's what I'd expect considering they still feature three All-Pro caliber players upfront.
Matt Harmon of NFL.com put together a list of the top 10 offensive lines in football based on performance in the 2017 season. The list was strictly developed through the use of next gen stats, which defined pressure as "pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack." In addition, "yards gained before close" was taken into account. This metric is meant to measure "the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player."
After compiling all of these stats, the Cowboys offensive line was left off of the list completely. Maybe even more surprising, however, was that the Philadelphia Eagles' line failed to crack the top ten as well. That's two lines with 3-4 Pro Bowl caliber players each missing the cut.
According to Matt Harmon the Cowboys allowed a pressure on 28.6% of Dak Prescott's dropbacks, 12th highest in the league. Dallas also ranked 20th in the league in YGBC in 2017.
While I do have some issues with the methodology of these statistics, the final result is actually hard to argue with. Down the stretch the Cowboys offense was downright pathetic at times. Regardless of how highly we thought of them prior to the year, the offense didn't perform to their standards, or the standards of a top ten unit.
Heading into 2018, however, I do expect this offensive line to begin to regain form. La'el Collins should continue to improve on the right side, and he is already an adequate starting right tackle regardless. I also expect Dallas to address their left guard spot, potentially within the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the end the success of this line may hinge on the health of Tyron Smith, though. When healthy, Smith is the best left tackle in all of football. But that "when healthy" caveat has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense.
The way the front office handles their offensive line this offseason will play a huge role in the success, or lack thereof, of the Cowboys in 2018.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere
After playing sparsely for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, veteran cornerback Bene Benwikere is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Could he stay in Dallas, or will he have to find work elsewhere?
Dallas was concerned about its CB depth with heavy reliance on young players and Jourdan Lewis barely participating in the offseason. Therefore, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Benwikere just before Week One.
After a stellar rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, Bene had suffered a steep fall before landing in Cincy. Injuries and poor play got him cut midway through 2016 by the Panthers, and then Benwikere bounced from Miami to Green Bay before finally signing with the Bengals in the 2017 offseason.
Though a few years removed from being an All-Rookie Team standout, Bene Benwikere is still just 26 and may still draw interest from scouts who remember his better days. He is likely counting on that, because the Cowboys' secondary is starting to fill up.
The Cowboys currently have exciting sophomores Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expected to start in 2018. Anthony Brown is back for his third season and will be active on game days.
Orlando Scandrick's future is cloudy, but Dallas won't get much cap relief from releasing him this season. They may elect to keep the veteran for one more year, which would all but fill out the CB depth chart.
Even if Scandrick leaves, talk that Dallas may move Byron Jones back to corner from safety would only leave Benwikere in the same disadvantaged position for finding work.
The best chance that Bene Benwikere has to stay with the Cowboys is if new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard remembers him from 2014. Coaches often feel that can get more out of a player than the last guy, and Richard may see potential in Benwikere that his last few teams couldn't unlock.
Four years ago may be too long, though, and especially with a fresh new crop of young players coming into the league. Especially if they keep Scandrick, Dallas may want to use the rest of their roster spots on younger prospects.
As it stands, Bene Benwikere is unlikely to return to the Cowboys. However, given the flashes of potential he once showed in the NFL, you can't be certain that Dallas won't want to give him one more chance.
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