Every offseason there are many players added to the Dallas Cowboys 90-man roster, and we painstakingly try to predict which 53 will actually stick come week one. Predicting the 53-man roster like Staff Writer Jess Haynie did recently can be a tricky proposition, because a lot of changes can happen and the bottom of the roster is a lot of times difficult to project. So what we're going to do here is look at who has already locked up their spot on the 53-man roster before OTAs for the full 90-man roster begin.
While we live in a world where we think everyone still has to earn their roster spots, there are guys who you can guarantee will be on the roster come September. I did this last offseason and while there were a few surprises, it was pretty much spot on.
The Roster Locks
42 of the 53 spots on the roster are already written in pen for the 2018 53-man roster.
Obviously, some things can happen that could shake things up, like injuries or suspensions, but these are the guys I'm 99.99% sure will be on the week one 53.
Offensive Roster Locks
QB: Being a draft pick matters, whether you like it or not. While Cooper Rush proved himself worthy of a roster spot last year, I could see him being the odd man out if the Cowboys decide to only keep two quarterbacks on the roster to start 2018. It's more likely that they keep all three guys, but if all things are equal and they need to go long at another position, then fifth round draft pick Mike White will get the nod over previously UDFA Rush.
RB: Bo Scarborough is a popular name to watch because of his championship pedigree with the Alabama Crimson Tide. As Bryan Broaddus noted in one of his Rookie Minicamp Scout's Eye, he'll need to make an impact on special teams to really stand out and make the roster. With Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Tavon Austin all listed on the RB depth chart, touches will be few and far between for the seventh-round pick.
WR: You'll notice I already have five guys listed at wide receiver. Terrance Williams will be on the roster if he's healthy. His contract status and his work as a blocker make him a lock to stay with Dallas for at least the 2018 season. Cole Beasley will be here. He's a favorite target of Dak Prescott and while he only has one year remaining on his contract, he is a veteran presence in the locker room.
Noah Brown is a favorite of the team because of his work on special teams and his role as a blocker. He can line up outside or come inline and play as a smaller tight end in the run game. He's my preseason break out candidate in 2018. I think he'll earn more opportunities in the offense with Terrance Williams nursing his injury.
TE: While the production from the tight end position is a big question mark going into the 2018 season, it's not because we don't know who is going to be on the roster. Geoff Swaim, now the veteran presence, will be on the roster. As will fifth round pick Dalton Schultz, who the team thinks could be the best option to replace the recently retired Jason Witten.
The team also really likes Blake Jarwin. What that means for playing time is the question, but I think they'll have him on the roster.
Rico Gathers may have all of the athletic and pass catching ability in the world, but it's blocking and the mental aspect of the game that leaves him as a question mark. He can still earn a spot on the 53, but they aren't going to just give it to him. If he has a repeat of his 2017 preseason, he'll be on the roster.
OL: I believe the only question that remains on the offensive line is at backup guard. Marcus Martin has the inside track to be the backup guard, but it'll come down to training camp and the battle between he and Kadeem Edwards.
Defensive Roster Locks
DE: The four listed aren't necessarily the only defensive ends who'll be on the roster when the season begins. They're the four who are locked in right now. Dorance Armstrong's status as a fourth-round pick means he will be on the roster.
Mike Fisher of 247Sports.com and 105.3 The Fan is reporting that Randy Gregory filed his reinstatement paperwork that consists of a 2,000-page document supporting Gregory's re-entering the NFL. While most people believe he will be reinstated, in the Roger Goodell NFL, nothing is certain.
Taco Charlton is going to be on this team. I have a more optimistic outlook than most on Taco based on his second half production, but also being a first-round pick grants a player a ton more leeway. It doesn't matter how bad he is in the eye of the public, he stays in 2018.
Charles Tapper is the other defensive end who will need to be watched. Between him and Gregory, the Dallas Cowboys could be forced to keep six defensive ends if they play well. Tapper could also be a training camp trade candidate. If he doesn't shine, I could see the team moving on.
LB: The top five linebackers are set in my opinion with Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Damien Wilson, and 2018 free agent signing Joe Thomas. Yes, I do think Wilson is on the roster. His coverage ability is a problem, but he plays the run very, very well. The lack of experience and depth at linebacker in 2017 killed the Dallas Cowboys. This year's group looks young and formidable.
The sixth linebacker job will be an interesting training camp battle. Chris Covington will have the inside shot at being the sixth linebacker, and likely plays the weak side. Guys like Justin March-Lillard, Kyle Queiro, Joel Lanning, and Ed Shockley will be trying to make some noise the rest of the offseason to force the team to keep a seventh linebacker.
CB: Like linebacker, I think the top four corners are etched in stone with Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown.
The interesting name to watch will be 2017 sixth round draft pick Marquez White, who spent all of 2017 on the practice squad. He has size and length that new Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard values.
S: Safety will be an interesting position to watch for the rest of the offseason. A three-man rotation appears to be the plan at the moment with Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and Xavier Woods getting most of the snaps. Frazier will primarily be used on running downs while Woods and Heath will be on the back-end for passing downs.
UDFA Safety Tyree Robinson has a real shot to make the 53-man roster out of training camp with his true free safety ability and has already begun turning heads in the rookie minicamps.
"Of the undrafted rookie free agents, Tyree Robinson appears to be the one guy that’s a true free safety. If there was something that stood out about him today was his ball skills. There were a couple of different snaps where he did a nice job of reading the quarterback and putting himself in position to make interceptions."
Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com
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The Dallas Cowboys have a long way to go before they line up for real on September 9th against the Carolina Panthers, but these 42 names are sure to be there when they do.
Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?
It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.
Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.
A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.
Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.
First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:
- Earl Thomas
- Landon Collins
- Lamarcus Joyner
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Adrian Amos
- Clayton Geathers
- Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
- Glover Quinn
- Tre Boston
- Kenny Vaccaro
- George Iloka
- Jimmie Ward
- Adrian Phillips
Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.
With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.
Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.
Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.
The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.
Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?
Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors
What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.
Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?
As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.
Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.
Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.
That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.
However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.
Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.
Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.
The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.
Just something to think about...
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
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