About a week ago, I attempted to project the Dallas Cowboys 53 man roster before the team even had one day of training camp practice. Although these projections are entertaining, they're not very factual. That's because there's really no way to predict what the coaching staff is thinking, or how individual players will perform during these practices.
All of the Staff Writers here at Inside The Star try our best to provide our readers with the best news and analysis possible in relation to the Dallas Cowboys. One of the ways we do that is to bounce ideas off of one another to try to come up with new or different information that hasn't been written about over and over again by anybody else covering America's Team.
RJ Ochoa - a fellow Staff Writer - and I had one such conversation. That conversation led to the basic idea of this article.
RJ thought it was a good idea to approach the Cowboys' looming roster decisions in a different way, suggesting we take a look at what we believe to be the players that have already secured their roster spots. Then, we determine just how many spots might still be up for grabs.
Well, I took the idea and ran with it.
Based on my findings, there are 36 roster spots that should be locked down and, if my math is correct, that leaves just 17 spots remaining for the organization to fill out their final 53 man roster.
It's unlikely that you will completely agree with me, but here is how I see the secured portion of the roster at this time:
Cowboys Offense (14)
First off, you may have noticed that I didn't include the hopeful backup QB to Tony Romo. I still believe that Kellen Moore is still fighting to secure that backup role, thus his roster spot isn't secure.
I have high expectations for Kellen, but I would like to see him handle that responsibility a little more in training camp and preseason before anointing him the #2 QB.
It's probably no surprise that Ezekiel Elliott is the only secured RB for the Cowboys. Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, and Darius Jackson are all competing for backup roles. Someone will have to set themselves apart at some point.
The tight end position is pretty obvious also. Jason Witten is hands-down one of the best to ever play the position, and James Hanna just signed a contract extension. It's still up in the air who will be backing those two players up in 2016.
The offensive line is probably the most secured position on the entire team. It's made up of three Pro Bowl players and I wouldn't be surprised if La'el Collins becomes the fourth.
Cowboys Defense (19)
I was surprised at a few of the players I decided to leave off of the defense, and I'm sure you are too.
Barry Church might just be the biggest surprise. He's considered a sure thing to start at the strong safety position next to Byron Jones. But the fact that the Cowboys tried to upgrade the safety position in the off-season left me with doubts.
Church is entering the last year of his contract and, although he's been steady, he still leaves you wanting more. Maybe rookie Kavon Frazier or Jeff Heath can make a push for that starting role.
Speaking of Jeff Heath, he is a roster lock due to his newly signed contract.
I thought that the defensive line was pretty obvious, especially considering the Cowboys will probably have to go a little deeper there than they might like because of the suspensions to DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory.
The linebacker position was a little more difficult, but not much. It may have shocked you to see Kyle Wilber's name, but he also signed a contract extension and is valued for his special-teams work. Jaylon Smith may redshirt his rookie season, but his potential once he is fully recovered secures his spot.
Cowboys Specialists (3)
Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. LaDouceur
Any surprises here? No, I didn't think so. This group could be chiseled in stone.
With 36 roster spots spoken for, that leaves a lot of players vying for those final 17 spots on the 2016 Dallas Cowboys roster. These remaining players will have to establish themselves in training camp and convince the coaching staff that they're worthy of claiming one of these valued roster spots.
Training camp and preseason games are most important for these players on the bubble, and you can bet they'll be fighting and scratching their way to catch the attention of the coaches.
This may be just a game for the majority of us, but it is their livelihood.
Do you agree with my assessment of the roster?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to voice your thoughts and opinions. I look forward to hearing you so that we can discuss this topic further.
Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.
The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.
Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.
A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.
Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.
Terrance Williams Contract Creates 2018 Job Security
There's been a lot of talk about what the Dallas Cowboys will do at the receiver position this offseason. While there's a great divide on what the team should do with Dez Bryant, there's a fairly unanimous opinion that Dallas should find an upgrade over Terrance Williams. No matter where he ends up on the depth chart, though, Williams' contract should keep him on the roster in 2018.
Last offseason, Terrance signed a four-year, $17 million deal to stay in Dallas. Because we are now just in the second year of that deal, it is cost prohibitive against the salary cap to release or trade him.
Williams is scheduled to count $4.75 million against the 2018 cap. If Dallas were to cut him, it would accelerate his remaining guaranteed money and create $7.25 million in dead money this year. He would cost more against the cap off the roster than on it.
Even the June-1st provision doesn't help. Williams' dead money in 2018 drops to $4.75 million, which is a net zero against his existing cap hit. It would also push $2.5 million of dead money to 2019. There's no benefit there, and you lose an experienced player who knows your system.
If the Cowboys do like their WR depth enough to want to move on from Terrance, one option is to try to trade him. A trade would lower the cap penalty to $3.75 million and save $1 million. If he's traded after June 1st, it would save $3.5 million against this year's cap.
Of course, it takes two to tango in this scenario. Williams hasn't scored a touchdown since 2016 and has never proven he can take on a significant role in an offense. He was serviceable when Dez Bryant and Jason Witten commanded more attention, but he's a low-end WR2 at best and many teams likely wouldn't want him in their top 2-3 receivers.
Perhaps something could happen during training camps or preseason, when injuries may make other teams desperate. Then again, something could happen in Dallas that makes them less willing to part with Terrance.
As it stands, it seems unlikely that Terrance Williams won't be a Cowboy in 2018. And really, that's not bad thing.
Even if he gets pushed down the depth chart, Terrance would be a good insurance policy against injuries or any other issues that could happen between now and September. $4.75 million is more than you'd like to pay your fourth WR but it's a one-year problem.
If the Cowboys do add more WR talent this offseason, there is a trickle-down effect that strengthens the entire club. Williams, with his experience, is an upgrade over Brice Butler as the fourth receiver.
Therefore, unless circumstances both here and elsewhere allow Dallas to find a trade partner, Terrance Williams should be back next year.
Cowboys Trade for FB Jamize Olawale from Raiders
Less than a week after the Cowboys lost fullback Keith Smith to the Raiders in free agency, the two teams have worked out a trade to send FB Jamize Olawale from Oakland to Dallas.
Fullback trade! The #Raiders are sending FB Jamize Olawale to the #Cowboys, sources say. Dallas has its fullback, one who was with Oakland since 2012.
To facilitate the trade, the Cowboys will send their fifth-round pick (173rd overall) to the Raiders for their sixth-round pick (192nd), moving back just 19 spots.
In return, Dallas not only brings in a veteran replacement at FB but a player they already know.
Jamize Olawale was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Cowboys in 2012. Despite a strong showing in that preseason, Dallas did not have room for him on the roster. He was on the team's practice squad until December, when Oakland poached him.
Since then, Olawale has been a regular roleplayer in the Raiders' offense. He's missed just six games since 2013.
Jamize brings more offensive firepower to the FB position than Keith Smith had. He's scored at least one touchdown in each of the last three seasons. He can be effective both running and receiving.
Through the trade, Dallas picks up the final year of Olawale's current contract. It calls for a $1.5 million base salary in 2018.
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