Our excitement is growing quickly for the start of the Dallas Cowboys 2016 training camp! Friday is the opening press conference in Oxnard, CA, and then the first practice will be on Saturday.
Sadly, the entire roster won't be on display. Several Cowboys, and most of them names you know well, are still recovering from injuries and surgeries that will prevent from starting camp with their teammates.
These players will all likely be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. While there, those players do not count against the team's 90-man roster limit and the Cowboys can add some other bodies to get through practices. Also, during the camp and preseason only, players can be removed from the PUP list and returned to duty without any wait period.
Here is a rundown of the players all likely to be on the PUP list as camp begins:
McFadden suffered a broken elbow after falling on concrete during the summer. He had surgery to repair it and not expected to return until sometime in mid-August, at the earliest.
Missing camp and preseason time isn't good for the veteran running back. McFadden's job status is in question with the additions of Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, and Darius Jackson to the position. His absence may give the Cowboys enough time to get comfortable with not having McFadden around, allowing them to release for $2 million in cap savings.
Another injured running back, Dunbar was not expected to return for any of the camp or preseason time as he recovered from major knee surgery. Many felt he would begin the regular season on PUP, but recent comments by Stephen Jones have moved the expectation up for a Week One return.
Unlike McFadden, Dunbar has a more unique role that could preserve his position with the Cowboys. He was emerging as an offensive weapon early last year before the injury. Dunbar will hope that younger players, such as Elliott or receiver Lucky Whitehead, don't fill that void with their athleticism.
Another player in a precarious contract situation, Escobar is still working his way back from an Achilles tear last December. Like with Dunbar, he recently got a positive projection about potentially being ready for the start of regular season.
With James Hanna already locked up for three years and two young prospects behind him in Geoff Swaim and Rico Gathers, the tight end position may be fully stocked for 2016 without Escobar. His rookie deal expires after this year, making him an easy fall guy if he's not clearly better than the other backups. By missing camp and preseason, he gives those other players more opportunities to prove their value.
It went somewhat unnoticed but Mayowa had a minor knee procedure last month. Jason Garrett said it was not serious and they expected him back close to the start of camp.
A lot will be expected of Mayowa this year. Dallas is paying him close to $3 million a year despite low production as a reserve in Oakland. With DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory out to start the season, Mayowa is the first name you would look to start in their absence.
Hopefully, Mayowa is able to join the team quickly and hit the ground running. He will have to adjust to playing 4-3 defensive end after two years as a 3-4 linebacker.
The Cowboys' third-round pick this year, Collins broke his foot during OTAs in May. His 10-12 week recovery window falls in the middle to end of August.
Collins' absence leaves the Cowboys thin at defensive tackles. Behind the starters, Tyrone Crawford and Cedric Thornton, they have an injury-plagued veteran in Terrell McClain and some undrafted prospects. Guys like Jack Crawford and David Irving can help, but are also in the mix to play at defensive end.
Given that he's a rookie, Collins may not be rushed back for Week One. Dallas could look to keep him on PUP as the regular season starts, giving extra time for the foot to heal. It would also let the Cowboys ease Collins in and practice for a few weeks before they would need him in a game.
Smith's absence is no surprise. He was not expected to play at all in 2016 when Dallas drafted him the second round last April.
There have been murmurs of the young linebacker being able to play at some point this year. However, that would have required a surprisingly fast recovery for his knee that has not yet come. At this point, don't count on him.
~ ~ ~
Remember, these are only the guys are almost certain to be on the PUP list. There are a few more, such as Orlando Scandrick (knee) and DeMarcus Lawrence (back), who could be surprising additions for just the early portion of camp. It doesn't hurt the Cowboys to give them some time off early in camp and then bring them back when ready.
Other teams have already started announcing their players will be on PUP to start camp. With the first practice just four days from now, Dallas should be making theirs known very soon.
Report: Raiders Sign Former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber
A Free Agency period filled with departures continued for the Dallas Cowboys today, as the Oakland Raiders have reportedly signed the now-former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber.
The Raiders have signed LB Kyle Wilber: https://t.co/TaC6cqjval
Wilber has been with the Cowboys since 2012, and has played in all 16 games four of the past five seasons. Most of his time has come on special teams, but he did provide solid linebacker depth for the Cowboys since joining the team.
Dallas has now lost both Wilber and Anthony Hitchens, depleting their linebacker depth even further over the last couple weeks.
The Raiders have now signed two key special teams contributors for the Cowboys in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber this offseason. Hopefully Dallas can replace these types of "replacement level" players throughout the rest of the offseason, especially during the NFL Draft.
Report: Cowboys Officially Release CB Orlando Scandrick
After requesting his release from the team just a few days ago, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick has gotten his wish. According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Scandrick has officially been cut by the Dallas Cowboys.
I'm told the #Cowboys have informed CB Orlando Scandrick he will be released, per source.
This move will reportedly save the Cowboys roughly $1.4M against the salary cap, as we hope they finally look to make some moves during the Free Agency period.
Scandrick's release comes after an offseason in which the Cowboys totally overhauled the back end of their defense, specifically their cornerbacks. With the emergence of young, promising players such as Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, and the health issues of the aging Scandrick, the move makes a lot of sense.
In fact, after the Cowboys drafted Awuzie in the second round of last year's draft it was rumored the Cowboys were looking to move Scandrick for extra draft picks. Instead, one year later, they have cut him to save some cap room.
Orlando Scandrick should have a market to find a new team elsewhere, but his time in Dallas has now come to a close.
Dallas Cowboys Have Missing Piece at Offensive Line
There are a lot of positions being talked about right now for the Dallas Cowboys. Upgrades are needed at several spots, but one critical position needs even more than that. Left guard is completely unmanned, and that could be a big problem for the 2018 offensive line if it's not addressed soon.
Last year's starter, Jonathan Cooper, is currently an unrestricted free agent. So are backups Joe Looney and Byron Bell.
Right now, Chaz Green is the only other non-starter under contract who has any NFL experience at left guard. Nobody wants to see him on the field next year.
Dez Bryant may be a big topic but at least he's under contract. The same goes for safety, where we at least have options to turn to if free agency or the draft don't yield anything.
Left guard, though? The cupboard is bare.
One option could be to move La'el Collins back to guard, where many feel he has the most upside, and then find a new right tackle. But that would be changing two positions to fill one hole, and Collins was playing well at tackle by the end of the year.
And obviously, we don't want to see Chaz Green playing that spot either. Or any spot. Ever.
No, at this point it makes sense for Dallas to leave Collins where he is and either sign or draft a starting LG. The question is how much do they want to invest?
The Cowboys are already shelling out big bucks to Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. Even Collins counts about $7 million against the cap. They have three first-round picks already tied up in the offensive line.
Some thought veteran free agent Josh Sitton would be a nice option, but he got picked up by the Dolphins today for about $8-9 million per year. That's more than Dallas can afford given their limited cap space and other needs.
No, the LG in 2018 is going to need to be a salary cap bargain. That means either re-signing Jonathan Cooper or Joe Looney on the cheap, or perhaps paying a rookie salary to a high draft pick.
Last year's 19th overall pick, O.J. Howard, counted just $2 million against the Bucs' salary cap in 2017.
There are some older veterans who could be cheap band-aid options, such as Matt Slauson or Evan Smith. But you don't get very far down some lists of available guards before you see Jonathan Cooper's name, and continuity is always a plus.
The point here is don't expect any big move, even with the enormity of the need. Dallas will likely reach an agreement with Cooper after he's tested the free agent waters a bit, assuming nobody else scoops him up.
If not, the need at left guard will become increasingly dire the further we get into the offseason.
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