Like last week, the Dallas Cowboys will need to make five roster moves by Tuesday for the next round of 2021 roster cuts. All teams must be down to 80 players before 4:00 pm EST tomorrow.
Before last week's deadline to 85 players we projected the moves and hit on almost every one. The biggest surprise was CB Reggie Robinson going to injured reserve, but the other four moves went about as we expected.
The Cowboys actually only made two true cuts last week. Their other three moves to get from 90 to 85 were IR stashes on Robinson, FB Sewo Olonilua, and LB Anthony Hines.
With some other players currently sidelined with injuries, could we see more of the same strategy in this next round?
Remember, OT Isaac Alarcon doesn't count against the roster limit as a participant in the International Player Pathway Program. So Dallas should actually have 81 players after this week's moves.
The big cut day to 53 player will come next Tuesday, August 31st. But for five players, their suspense will be over in the next 48 hours. Here's our best guesses:
1. TE Sean McKeon to injured reserve
This was the one move I projected last week that didn't happen but I still think it could. I still suggest that McKeon's best value is in 2022 as a potential replacement to Blake Jarwin or Dalton Schultz and that he won't get much playing time this year.
Sean is still out from a “significant” ankle injury that occurred during the second preseason game against Arizona. If he's not going to be available for even the first few weeks of the regular season, is it really worth holding a roster spot for him?
With FB Nick Ralston continuing to make a big push for a roster spot, Dallas probably won't be able to keep four tight ends like they did in 2020. Veteran Jeremy Sprinkle is here for the blocking and experienced depth, so why not just stash McKeon for now?
2. OT Josh Ball to injured reserve
Injured a few weeks ago in practice, the rookie tackle hasn't returned yet and isn't really in the mix to be the swing tackle this year. With other candidates to choose from, Dallas will probably use this opportunity to protect the 4th-Round pick on IR and let him work on physical development in preparation for 2022.
3. OT Eric Smith released
The battle for roster spots at OT seems to be down to veteran Ty Nsekhe and younger prospects like Isaac Alarcon, Brandon Knight, and Terence Steele. In between them is Eric Smith, an undrafted player in 2017 who spent last year on Dallas' practice squad.
Smith's been around the NFL for a while and turns 26 next month. He's been nothing more than a camp body to this point and Dallas has enough of those already to get through practices and the preseason finale. Seems like an easy cut.
4 & 5. Two receivers released.
The Cowboys have 13 receivers on the roster right now. Even if they sit the Big 3 against Jacksonville and limit reps for Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown, that still leaves eight guys for the game. They could definitely afford to lose two of them.
Based on the limited evidence we have to go by I'd guess Johnnie Dixon and T.J. Vasher for the two cuts. They've been the least productive receivers in games, though by a very slim margin.
As I freely admitted last week, the coaches know way more about these guys than I do. If they end up cutting Brendon Smith and Osirus Mitchell I could only shrug and assume it's because of things we don't get to see on the practice field.
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There could easily be some other ways this goes. I could see RB Brenden Knox, CB Deante Burton, S Steven Parker, and a few others not making it to final cuts just based on numbers at their positions.
I also strongly considered putting QB Ben DiNucci on this list but I think it's a week too soon. If nothing else, Dallas will want to protect Gilbert and Rush and probably throw The Nooch out there late in the game with the bottom-rung offensive linemen. They also may still be hoping to get him onto the practice squad, which is easier accomplished at final cuts.
Last week the Cowboys' cuts and IR moves weren't announced until shortly after the Tuesday deadline passed. But now that they're already home in Texas things could happen a little faster, and we may see at least some moves announced today.