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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
  • George_Johnson

    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.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      @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.

  • Assassin

    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

      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.

Dallas Cowboys

5 Winners from Dallas Cowboys OTAs and Minicamp

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: Caras Nuevas, ¿Tenemos Cornerbacks?, Adiós Ware
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have completed the offseason part of their practices and are now eyeing the start of training camp in Oxnard, California on July 26th. The offseason stuff doesn't necessarily show what a team thinks about a player near as much as training camp, so I won't look at any losers because these practices have varying personnel at times.

That being said, there certainly were some winners during the offseason.

1. Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

Every day removed from his injury in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl is another day closer to potentially seeing the All-American linebacker that would have been a top-10 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

With the knee injury, there's always been some doubt about Jaylon returning to that level of play, but as offseason practices wore on it was becoming clear that he's much healthier and much more mobile than he was in 2017.

Both of those things are strong signs in the right direction for the third year pro.

After sitting out his rookie season to rehab and then having some good moments and some really bad moments in 2017, it sounds like he's making progress to be a difference maker in 2018.

During OTAs and minicamp sessions that were open to the media, Jaylon was seen running with the first-team defense every time they took the field. Now, some of that is due to the Cowboys limiting the snaps of veteran All-Pro Sean Lee and rookie first round pick Leighton Vander Esch, who came up with a sprained ankle, but the fact that Smith's snaps weren't limited should only be seen as a good sign.

We still have a long way to go until the Dallas Cowboys strap it on for their week one matchup with the Carolina Panthers, but Jaylon Smith is on an excellent trajectory.

Anyone with a Clear, Eye, View can see that.

2. Anthony Brown, Cornerback

One of the bigger surprises during the offseason practices so far has to be Anthony Brown, and not Jourdan Lewis, running with the first team nickel defense.

Jourdan Lewis proved he was a really good corner in his rookie year, both in the slot and on the outside, while Anthony Brown struggled at times. Knowing that new Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard prefers his corners to be tall, long, and strong has led to some speculation that Lewis may not be a fit in Richard's scheme.

That's certainly a possibility. The more realistic possibility is that Brown, with more seniority, was getting the opportunities first as is often the case with Jason Garrett coached teams during the offseason.

While Brown is a pretty good slot cornerback in his own right, this might only be temporary.

Understanding Cowboys Remaining Offseason "To-Do List"

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

3. Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver

As I read reports from OTAs and minicamp practices, one thing that stood out is that Michael Gallup was winning and winning a lot.

When asked in a mailbag who had been building the best rapport with Quarterback Dak Prescott, Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com had this to say:

"Bryan: That’s a great question. The guys that come to mind for this [sic] me are Michael Gallup and Blake Jarwin. Those guys have found ways to generate space and have been reliable catching the ball when it’s thrown in their direction."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Just a few days earlier Broaddus stated that Cole Beasley and Gallup were the only ones getting open with any consistency.

Now, it's still early and it's padless practice, but that's an encouraging sign for the third round pick out of Colorado State.

Typically it takes a year for wide receivers to adjust to the NFL game, especially with how much press coverage is played by NFL defensive backs. One of the byproducts of Kris Richard's existence as the defensive backs coach is that they're playing more press coverage. He's teaching his DB's to be more aggressive and more physical at the line of scrimmage.

For Gallup and the rest of the wide receiver group, that can only help them as they get ready to face opposing defenses. One way to disrupt timing-based routes or an offense that relies on separation and yards after the catch is to disrupt the receiver at the snap. Every practice, these guys are working to beat the press.

As a rookie wide receiver, this can only benefit Gallup -- in particular -- as that will be a big transition from college where defenses are playing off the line of scrimmage against the countless number of spread offenses that exist.

The fact that he's already winning reps during practices against some pretty good corners is a great sign for the Dallas Cowboys.

He may not be a starter in this offense right away, but I doubt it takes long before he's cemented himself in three and four wide receiver personnel groupings.

4. Chaz Green, Guard

I'm sure you aren't a fan of seeing Chaz Green's name anywhere near a "winners" list. As bad as the Atlanta Falcons game was for him, we can't ignore the fact that Green got a lot of first team repetitions during OTAs and minicamp while Zack Martin negotiated his contract extension.

Either that means the Dallas Cowboys haven't given up on their third round pick from 2015 or they're trying to get as many practice snaps out of him as possible to be able to make a clearer decision regarding his future with the team.

Getting to play with the ones is encouraging, but he still has a lot to prove during training camp to keep a spot on the roster. Green's going to get a long leash as a former premium draft pick. We'll see if he takes advantage of it.

5. Jihad Ward, Defensive Tackle

Maliek Collins hurt his foot -- again -- and David Irving was dealing with off the field stuff -- again -- leaving Jihad Ward with a lot of opportunities to play against the first team offensive line as the three-technique defensive tackle.

On June 4th, I asked Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com who his biggest surprises on offense and defense were during OTAs:

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Cedrick Wilson and Jihad Ward https://t.co/kgcgJkTj3U

If Broaddus is encouraged by Ward's progress, I am too.

He's going to have a lot of opportunity to get a strangle hold on the 3T defensive tackle spot with Maliek Collins not set to be back until late in training camp, and David Irving suspended the first four games of the 2018 season.

The Dallas Cowboys liked Ward coming out of college and had him just behind Maliek Collins on their 2016 NFL Draft Big Board.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

There's still a lot of practice reps that have yet to take place, but the Dallas Cowboys have gotten some encouraging contributions from these players. As we look to training camp, who will you be watching to see if the stand-out and can make the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster?



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Roster: Who Are the “Best” Players on the Bubble?

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Roster: Who Are the "Best" Players on the Bubble? 1

It may still seem very far away, but the days of NFL clubs holding 90 players on their roster are numbered. By September 1st, each team will cut down to 53 players, thinning the roster following training camp. For the Dallas Cowboys, this is surely going to leave some talented players off the 2018 squad, as the team is once again entering Oxnard with a deep group.

We all have our "pet cats" that we'll root for to make the roster however possible. Be it a wide receiver like Noah Brown, now stuck behind a wave of new pass catchers, or a cornerback like Marquez White, the roster crunch for the Cowboys will come at a cost to some.

Forecasting exactly where the team will "go long" and where they'll be short on numbers is hard to predict without the team back on the field, but here is my initial look at some players that Cowboys Nation may have to move on from.

Cowboys Roster: Who Are the "Best" Players on the Bubble? 2

Dallas Cowboys CB Marquez White

Cornerback Marquez White

Previously in this offseason, I wrote about how Cornerback Anthony Brown may be one of the Cowboys better all-around players to miss this year's cut. With a strong showing in front of new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard at OTAs and mini camp, Brown feels well on his way to earning a spot with the Cowboys, leaving Marquez White in a precarious situation.

White spent his rookie season in Dallas on the practice squad, a sixth round pick out of Florida State. Sliding in the draft because of his rawness as a prospect, White has the ideal size and length to play anywhere in Richard's defense if given the chance.

Getting this chance may come difficult to White though, as Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie are slotted to start on the boundary for the Cowboys at cornerback. Not as well suited to compete in the slot against both Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and Duke Thomas, White's time with the Cowboys could be limited.

Moving on from White would be an important vote of confidence in the rest of the secondary for the Cowboys. Teams around the league would waste no time recalling their initial draft grades on White to potentially add the CB to their roster.

Defensive End Charles Tapper

The Cowboys have very much so built their roster with a "what have you done for me lately?" type approach, and for Charles Tapper this answer is disappointing. Constantly dealing with injuries since entering the league in 2016, Tapper has appeared in two games and recorded one sack.

Tapper couldn't escape this year's offseason program without another setback, suffering a concussion that kept him out of workouts. Even without assuming that the Cowboys add a reinstated Randy Gregory to their roster, the team is prepared with more proven options at right defensive end.

Rookie Dorance Armstrong, FA signing Kony Ealy, and last year's first-round pick Taco Charlton are all capable of playing this spot. Doing so with more availability than Tapper may be all this group needs to earn their spot over the third-year draft pick out of Oklahoma.

Cowboys Roster: Who Are the "Best" Players on the Bubble?

Guard Marcus Martin

Yesterday here at Inside The Star, I wrote about how the Cowboys potentially keeping more offensive linemen compared to recent years could be bad news for the team's tight ends. Logically, this also means that some of the Cowboys embarrassment of riches on the OL will be looking for a new job.

With starting experience as a member of the 49ers, Marcus Martin was brought in as insurance for the departed Jonathan Cooper, prior to the Cowboys drafting Connor Williams. With Williams expected to start immediately at left guard, Martin has a long way to go in holding his spot over the likes of Kadeem Edwards and Damien Mama.

The Cowboys value Edward's swing ability, although Martin is capable of lining up at center along with guard. At any interior position, he may have more experience and skill than Mama, but if the Cowboys feel certain about their five starters they can afford to keep a cheaper player like Mama compared to Martin.

A free agent signing like Martin not making the Cowboys roster would only solidify the team's status as the best OL in the game, with Offensive Tackle Cam Fleming being their other veteran FA signing.

Running Back Bo Scarbrough

Bo Scarbrough and the Dallas Cowboys is a fun concept, but it may be just that as the roster trims in Dallas. The star running back out of Alabama fell all the way to the Cowboys final pick in the seventh round at this year's draft, joining Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and now Darius Jackson in a loaded backfield.

Scarbrough stands out as a back with true power and finishing ability, but he'll have to do so on special teams to justify a roster spot. Simply playing as a short yardage back won't be enough for Scarbrough to survive in a RB room full of complete play makers, yet still reliant on a true workhorse back.

Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson

When the Cowboys drafted both Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson, they created a logjam at wide receiver. Through competition, the team is hoping their best five/six receivers for Dak Prescott to throw to will reshape this offense.

The latest signing as an outside receiver with over-the-top speed, Deonte Thompson was brought in by the Cowboys in free agency via the Buffalo Bills.

Thompson's ability to impact a game with this speed is enough for him to secure a spot in Scott Linehan's offense. Without a strong showing in camp and the preseason though, its realistic to see Thompson losing out on this spot. The Cowboys have already seen what players like Noah Brown and Lance Lenoir can do, which fills up their depth chart at WR when adding Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

By taking a look at where the Cowboys have depth to spare -- prior to any actual roster battles taking place next month -- it's easier to understand the types of decisions that lie ahead for this team.

All of the players listed above will have their opportunity to prove me wrong and earn their spot with the team, capable of helping in a big way. Regardless of how this list was constructed, going from 90 players down to 53 will be as difficult as ever for Dallas in 2018.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Roster: Who Are the “Best” Players on the Bubble?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Report: QB Dak Prescott Signs Multi-Year Deal With Campbell’s Chunky Soup

Kevin Brady

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Jekyll or Hyde: Year 3 "Prove It" Season For Dak Prescott? 1

Being the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback comes with its challenges, but it certainly comes with its perks as well. One of those perks is the opportunity for endorsement deals, and income outside of his football salary.

Dak Prescott is embracing those perks now, reportedly signing a multi-year deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup through 2020. Prescott will continue to endorse Chunky MAXX, Campbell's protein soup line.

Brandon George on Twitter

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has re-signed a new multi-year deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup through 2020. This is the first QB multi-year deal for Chunky Soup since Donovan McNabb in 2001. He'll continue to promote Chunky MAXX, the protein-packed line of soups, this year, per Edelman

Campbell's Soup has had some legendary football related commercials throughout the years, none more memorable than those with former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and his mother.

In fact, Dak Prescott is the first NFL quarterback to sign a multi-year deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup since those McNabb commercials.

Hopefully, Dak Prescott can continue to "prove it" on the field and still be the Cowboys starting quarterback throughout this entire Campbell's deal.



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