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Cowboys 53-Man Roster: Top 5 Unexpected Moves Made

Brian Martin

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Jerry Jones: Carrying 3 QBs "Very Likely" On 53-Man Roster
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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.

QB Kellen Moore

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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.

DT Cedric Thornton

DT Cedric Thornton

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.

LB Jayrone Elliott

LB Jayrone Elliott

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.

CB Bene Benwikere

CB Bene Benwikere

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.

OL Emmett Cleary

OL Emmett Cleary

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?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. George_Johnson

    September 4, 2017 at 10:07 am

    I am not sure what is going on with K Moore. Why did he not play a lot better? He should have been more than ready this preseason. All indications were he was doing well in practices and he had a good first preseason game. In the Rams game he checked down on almost every play but I have not heard an explanation from the coaches. I doubt the coaches think K Moore suddenly lost his skills/abilities to play. In the Colts game he picked it up a little but still was not efficient or very effective. So what gives?

    I am also not sure about re-signing K Moore unless he has a chance at the 2nd team QB position. K Moore needs to start thinking about his next career which is probably as a coach. Most everyone expects him to make it to a lucrative coaching position either in college or the NFL in the future. He obviously would resign if put on the 53 man roster at least for the money but he should think twice about signing for the practice squad or staying on the practice squad. He has been in the NFL going on six years and if he can’t make 2nd team QB it is questionable that he should continue pursuing this career. He has had chances and has improved some but his future in the NFL as a QB doesn’t look good. He is behind the eight ball as most coaches don’t think he meets the minimum requirements (i.e. prototypical size and strong arm) so it is not clear he will get much of a chance.

    • Bryson Treece

      September 4, 2017 at 10:41 am

      @George_Johnson:disqus I know you’re a dedicated fan of KelMo, and while I’ve never agreed with your zeal for the man as a quarterback, you’re right on the money with the comments about the next step in his career. He’s headed for coaching at some point, and that may be as soon as 2017, and I think he’s got great potential there. Even if he stays on the practice squad–which isn’t likely–it would give him a connection to continue building his coaching skills with a familiar staff.

      As always, thanks for reading, George.

  2. Assassin

    September 5, 2017 at 9:06 am

    I would say the biggest surprise for me was releasing Lewis Neal. And then the fact they like Price better then he (ones on the PS and ones on the 53). Nothing against Price, but Marinelli hasnt shown a propensity for space eaters. And thats what Price is. He’s not going to get to the QB. But he does have a great first step which could take up two OL.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      September 5, 2017 at 10:31 am

      Neal and Price play two different positions. Neal has been playing the 3-tech and performing pretty well, even though he is undersized. The Cowboys needed more depth at the 1-tech which is why Price was brought in. Luckily though Neal is still around and can be called up at any time. I think it really came down to the fact the Cowboys thought they needed more depth at the 1-tech, because they have players that can kick inside and play at the 3-tech.

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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?

A season after Jason Witten's retirement, the Dallas Cowboys still have a need at tight end. Replacing a future Hall of Famer is no easy feat so it's only logical that it would take longer than a season to feel good about who's in at tight end.

The Cowboys currently have two tight ends who could be pretty serviceable going forward. Fourth round pick Dalton Schultz did a very solid job as the team's TE2, specially toward the second half of the season. He turned into a pretty good run blocker and despite only racking up 116 yards in 12 catches, he's a guy the Cowboys' offense could use even more in the future.

Also on the team is Blake Jarwin, who functioned as the Cowboys' main tight end for most of 2018. His performance against the New York Giants in week 17 made us wonder whether or not he could be an important target on the Cowboys' offense.

These two could very well have more in them than what we've seen. With a new offensive coordinator in town, tight end is a position the Cowboys could start using way more. As Bobby Belt pointed out on Twitter a few weeks ago, Scott Linehan's offense doesn't benefit tight ends very much. Before we give a verdict on what Schultz and Jarwin can do, I'd like to see them work with Kellen Moore's offense.

Bobby Belt on Twitter

One thing you consistently see when Scott Linehan takes over an offense is a drop in the starting tight end's production. Randy McMichael, Byron Chamberlain, and Jason Witten all saw drops in yards per catch, receptions per game, and yards per game once Linehan took over.

Here's the thing. If the Cowboys are not taking a tight end in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, are they really upgrading what they already have? I'm not sure we'll be convinced about that if they draft a player for the position until the third or fourth round. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for the Cowboys drafting a TE in the second round, because I believe there are more pressing needs on the team. However, signing a veteran free agent might be the better option for upgrading the position.

Should a veteran TE be an option?

This year, there are quite a few interesting names in the tight end market. Veterans such as Jared Cook, Tyler Eifert and even Antonio Gates will be looking for a new team pretty soon. I know, that would be "getting older." But it could also mean getting better. Building a solid TE committee with a veteran leading Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz could be the way to go for this football team.

Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency? 1

TE Tyler Eifert (Aaron Doster / USA TODAY Sports)

Eifert is a great tight end... when he's on the field. Durability is his biggest weakness, as he hasn't played more than 10 games since 2016. The Cowboys could take a risk on him and constantly rotate him with Jarwin and Schultz. It may be a huge risk, but it could pay off big time. If the price is right, Eifert should be targeted by the front office.

The 2018 Oakland Raiders had a season to forget, winning only four games. Even still, Jared Cook's season was impressive. He finished the year with 896 yards and multiple 100-yard games. The biggest issue with Cook is his age. He turns 32 in April. But hey, he's literally coming off from a career year.

Jesse James is a younger guy who could also be worth it. He's not an a potent receiver, but he gets it done in the passing game and is one hell of a blocker. James could be a legit, cheaper option for the Cowboys in free agency.

There are a lot of names out there the front office could look at. Charles Clay was just released by the Buffalo Bills and Nick Boyle will be looking for new job after new arrivals pushed him out of the Baltimore Ravens' roster just to mention a few names.

We'll see what the front office's plans are soon enough, but right now, I'd say tight end is a need the Dallas Cowboys should at least try to address in free agency instead of the NFL Draft.

Tell me what you think about "Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Cornerback

Jess Haynie

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Byron Jones

Unlike other positions on their roster, cornerback appears ready to off the Dallas Cowboys stability in 2019. However, that doesn't mean the team can just ignore it this offseason. There are still a few decisions to be made.

Thanks to a shrewd move in April of last year, Dallas will be enjoying Byron Jones' services at a bargain. They picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract and will be paying him just $6.3 million next season.

That's a steal for a Pro Bowl corner, who generally make more than double that amount in a single year. But the Cowboys are still left the decision of whether or not to give Jones a long-term deal now or wait until he hits free agency in 2020.

It's easy to say that they should enjoy the discount and worry about it next year. But then you risk a second Pro Bowl trip and the lure of the open market. Byron's asking price could only go up.

Of course, Dallas could then also have the option of using the franchise tag.

Keep in mind that Jones will turn 27 this September. Dallas could decide that it makes sense to play through the rookie deal this year, franchise him in 2020, and then reassess when he's about to turn 29 years old.

If they give Byron a long-term deal now then they'll have to pay him like one of the top corners in football. It may be wise to wait.

Chidobe Awuzie, Giants

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

Another decision facing the Cowboys is if they think they can improve at the second starting position. It was an up-and-down year for Chidobe Awuzie, but he was playing his best toward the end of the season. Dallas could hope that a second year with Kris Richard's coaching, and just more general growth for a third-year player, will elevate Awuzie's game.

However, with plenty of cap space to work with, Dallas could pursue a solid veteran option and then allow Awuzie to play the nickel role. It would not only perhaps improve the CB2 position but also bolster depth overall.

Speaking of depth, Anthony Brown returns for the final year of his rookie deal. While never spectacular, Brown has been a gem as a former sixth-round pick with 29 career starts. He brings exceptional value and may even compete with Awuzie for the starting job.

While arguably the team's best young corner in 2017, Jourdan Lewis comes into this season with a lot of uncertainty. He fell out of favor last season, perhaps for not fitting the physical style that Richard likes. But he did manage to snag the game-clinching interception in Dallas' upset win over the New Orleans Saints.

If a scheme mismatch is the issue, the Cowboys could look to trade Lewis this offseason. He still has two years left on his rookie deal and was considered a first-round prospect by some in 2017. A cornerback-needy club might have more use for him than Dallas seems to.

If they did move Jourdan, the Cowboys might turn to Donovan Olumba to fill out the depth chart. He was one of their surprising performers in last year's training camp and spent the year on the practice squad. At 6'2", he has the size that the team seems to be looking for now in its corners.

More than likely, Dallas will ride with this group in 2019 with no big changes. I do think a Lewis trade is possible, especially with the Cowboys short on draft picks this year. But don't expect any major cap space or draft capital to go at one of the team's more solid positions.

With all the other work Dallas needs done this offseason, a little stability at cornerback is a luxury.



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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center

Jess Haynie

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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Even with Dez Bryant's release and Jason Witten's retirement, the loss of Travis Frederick last season may have been the most damaging to the Dallas Cowboys. The team looks forward to getting their All-Pro center back in 2019 while also having a reliable backup still under contract.

Just within the last few weeks, Frederick has provided encouraging updates on his status for next year. It looks like he'll be able to participate in all offseason activities, but the Cowboys would settle for Week One. There appears to be plenty of cushion for that to happen.

Travis' absence in 2018 was seen in various ways. Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times, second-most in all the league, after just 32 and 25 times the previous two seasons. Part of that is missing Frederick's blocking ability, but also the way he would assist with reading the defense and making pre-snap adjustments.

Dallas would've loved having Frederick out there to help Guard Connor Williams, who worked with Travis throughout the offseason only to lose him in late August. It was not an easy way for the rookie to start his career.

We also saw issues in the run game. Even while Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing, short-yardage situations weren't as easy as they used to be. The Rams were able to neutralize the Cowboys' rushing attack in Dallas' playoff loss, something that Frederick might have helped overcome.

Joe Looney

Dallas Cowboys G/C Joe Looney

This isn't saying that Joe Looney did a bad job. On the contrary, Looney was more than adequate and helped keep Dallas from suffering far greater damage without Frederick.

After Joe's work in 2018, Dallas won't blink at keeping him on the $1 million salary he's due next year. It's a bargain for a backup of his quality, and especially given his versatility as an option at guard as well.

Not only are Frederick and Looney locked in for 2019, but Dallas also still has backup Adam Redmond under contract through next season. He was added after final cuts last year to be Looney's backup and should return to at least help the team through July and August.

With these guys already in place, there's no reason to think that Dallas will give much attention to the center position during the offseason.

At most, a mid-round draft pick might be used on a player who could potentially replace Looney in 2020 as the backup. Joe's contract ends next season, and he could be competitive for starting jobs with other teams at that point.

With lots of other concerns throughout the roster, Dallas is fortunate to have so much security at center. All signs are positive on Travis Frederick's return, and that is a huge boost to the team as it looks to push forward from last year's playoff run.



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