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.
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.
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.
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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.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain
When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.
La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.
For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.
That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.
But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.
If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.
But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.
If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.
Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.
They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.
While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.
Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.
If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
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