The Dallas Cowboys ended over three years of development with a whimper when they released Tight End Rico Gathers yesterday. By the time we hear the finals roster cuts of 2019, some other late-round draft picks from 2016 could be following Rico out the door.
We generally think of the that draft class for the overall incredibility of the haul. Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, and Jaylon Smith are all stars now for the Cowboys, while Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown are both key contributors on defense.
But just as remarkable was how, before yesterday, all but one player from the 2016 class was still on the Dallas roster. Defensive End Charles Tapper was waived at final cuts last year and spent the rest of 2018 away from football, but is currently under contract with the New York Jets.
Now, Rico Gathers is just the second true casualty from the class. But by the end of August, we could see Safety Kavon Frazier and Running Back Darius Jackson joining him as former Cowboys.
Kavon Frazier, S
Things haven’t looked good for Frazier since the Cowboys signed veteran George Iloka and drafted Donovan Wilson during the last offseason. Making matters worse now is the reported ascension of Darian Thompson, who could be pushing for the primary backup role and more if his strong play continues.
As solid as Kavon is on special teams, and despite his exceptional charity work off the field, his expiring rookie contract may be his undoing.
If Dallas keeps just four safeties, neither Frazier or Donovan Wilson may have a shot at making the roster. Thompson appears to be in the top four now; they need Iloka to really be a free agent bust to work their way up.
But even if the Cowboys keep five, Wilson has a fresh four-year contract for them to enjoy. As long as the talent margin isn’t much between Donovan and Kavon, Dallas will likely let Frazier go and start fresh with the more recent 6th-round pick.
Darius Jackson, RB
If Darius Jackson gets released this year it wouldn’t be the first time. He was cut midway through his rookie season but came back to Dallas in the 2018 offseason, only to then be waived at final cuts. This is actually his third stint with the Cowboys.
With Ezekiel Elliott holding out of camp, the opportunity was there for Jackson to get some veteran deference with just two rookies (Tony Pollard, Mike Weber) and a guy whose never dressed for a regular season game (Jordan Chunn) at running back. And it was indeed Darius who got the first carries in Oxnard at RB.
But just 48 hours later, Dallas signed Alfred Morris to bring experience to training camp. That move, however indirectly, was an indictment of Jackson.
While it has been off an on, Darius has spent plenty of time with this team, coaches, and system over the last three years. What’s more, RB is the position that has one of the lowest learning curves in all of football.
If Darius Jackson can’t take the lead by now then he probably never will. And once you’ve realized that, what good is he?
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Nothing is set in stone on either of these guys, but projections aren’t looking for Kavon Frazier and Darius Jackson making the 2019 roster. Frazier has a stronger chance than Jackson, but both are likely going to lose their spots to younger options with more perceived upside.
Even if Kavon and Darius do follow Rico Gathers out the door, the 2016 draft class is still a huge success for the Dallas Cowboys. Late-round picks lasting this long is its own accomplishment, and we’re still going to remember it ultimately for stars like Zeke, Dak ,and Jaylon.
But sadly, those key Cowboys are probably going to be saying goodbye to more classmates in the coming weeks.