One of the harshest things for NFL players to experience is finding themselves on the cutting block for the first time due to diminishing skills. When normally they would be their usual selves and play up to their abilities, some hit the wall sooner than others and thus become expendable. Final cuts won’t be for another couple of weeks and there’s always a few surprises. For the Cowboys, it usually comes in the form of a free agent who signed only months earlier.
In recent memory, players like Nolan Carroll and Damontre Moore were added with the idea and hope that they would be a big part of the defense, but were both released that same year.
It's only preseason but there are some veterans not playing up to standards who could find themselves unemployed if they don’t turn it around. Father Time is undefeated and some of these players are losing early. Don’t put it past Jerry Jones to release a vet if it makes financial and football sense. He’s done it before and he’ll likely do it again.
It wasn’t that long ago when Kony Ealy was a first round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers. After a great performance in Super Bowl 50, people thought that Ealy was beginning to become the player Carolina had drafted.
However, despite putting up 14 sacks in three seasons, he was subsequently traded to New England, released and signed a one year deal with the Jets, which resulted in him only getting one sack and starting only four games.
If Dallas were desperate for edge rushers then Kony Ealy would be almost a lock just based on the need. However, Dallas has what looks like its best pass rush rotation in years.
Players like DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong Jr, Charles Tapper, and the eventual return of David Irving could spell bad news for Ealy. He’s being outplayed by too many defensive ends to justify keeping him and he may find himself looking for work in another city.
This one shouldn’t be a shock to many. Chaz Green was thought to be the answer at left guard this time last year, but never got the job back from Jonathan Cooper. Even worse, when Tyron Smith was out, he was asked to fill in at right tackle and was a disaster, rightfully losing the job by halftime.
This preseason, he’s been La’el Collins’ backup at right tackle. In case you’ve missed any action, he hasn’t looked much better, and there’s nowhere else he can fill in.
The team signed Cameron Fleming to be the swing tackle, Kadeem Edwards has been a better option at guard, and even despite Zack Martin and Travis Frederick expected to miss time, expect the team to play the waiver wire to fill that final offensive lineman spot.
Chaz Green’s roster spot looks likely to be vacant.
Sometimes the best ability is availability, and Deonte Thompson, for all the praise he’s getting from camp, hasn’t been available. Despite his praise from training camp, he's been slowed by an Achilles injury which has limited his ability to practice and play.
Thompson is already in a battle with several other healthy, talented receivers. We’ve already seen Dak Prescott look comfortable in throwing it to a variety of pass catchers, which leaves Thompson only a short window to show off his skills.
The good news for him is that there’re still two preseason games left and he’s finally scheduled to return.
If he wants any sort of shot at the final 53-man roster, he needs to get right in a hurry. He may have a chance to earn a 6th receiver spot, or potentially the main return man spot, but he’s limited on time. And the clock is ticking.
As much depth as the Cowboys have at the edge, they have almost as much quality depth inside.
Maliek Collins is scheduled to return from the PUP list, and David Irving will return after serving a four-game suspension for substance abuse. Throw in Jihad Ward, who the Cowboys traded for in this recent NFL draft, playing up to his potential; and free agent Antwaun Woods who has been a camp standout, earning first team reps.
Datone Jones, however, has not played up to his expectations. He may make the final 53-man roster, but it will be for lack of depth. When both Collins and Irving return, his spot would likely be the one snatched away. Unlike the previous players on this list, Datone Jones will make the roster because his position group isn’t as deep. Yet.
If Jones really expects to stay on the squad then it will require him to play like he should. He’ll need to produce more because his spot won’t be safe for too long. Jones was a player who may have had a lot of hype around him in training camp, but with the regular season getting closer, there’s maybe not so much for him anymore.
Predicting Dallas Cowboys Roster Locks, Pre-Training Camp Edition
With the Dallas Cowboys training camp just around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to draw attention to their current roster. From top to bottom, the Cowboys have one of the deepest rosters at their disposable heading into the 2019 season. But in order to get under the league mandated 53-man roster Dallas will have to release quite a few talented players.
With that in mind, I thought I'd take a shot at predicting which Dallas Cowboys players should be considered roster locks right now. I tried to narrow down to the players who I am the most confident in right now, not the ones who can eventually secure a roster spot at some point in training camp or preseason.
I should probably warn you right now… I tried to avoid any "pet cats", roster bubble guys, or players I would personally pound the table for. The players listed below are the ones I'm nearly 100% sure make the Dallas Cowboys final 2019 53-man roster.
Dallas Cowboys 35 Roster Locks
|RB||Ezekiel Elliott||Tony Pollard|
|WR||Amari Cooper||Michael Gallup||Randall Cobb|
|OL||Tyron Smith||Connor Williams||Travis Frederick||Zack Martin||La'el Collins||Cameron Fleming||Connor McGovern|
|DE||DeMarcus Lawrence||Robert Quinn||Dorrance Armstrong||Tyrone Crawford|
|DT||Antwaun Woods||Maliek Collins||Tryston Hill|
|LB||Sean Lee||Jaylon Smith||Leighton Vander Esch||Joe Thomas|
|CB||Byron Jones||Chidobe Awuzie||Anthony Brown||Jourdan Lewis|
|S||Xavier Woods||Jeff Heath||George Iloka||Donovan Wilson|
|ST||Chris Jones||L.P. Ladouceur|
35 out of 53 may seem like a low number of Dallas Cowboys players who I believe have already locked up a roster spot, but with the depth this team has it's really not. There's no way of really knowing how many players the Cowboys will keep at each position, which makes predicting these roster locks that much more difficult. Regardless though, the 35 players listed above are the ones I am the most confident about.
Biggest Surprise Roster Locks
If you look over the 35 players who I believe have locked up a roster spot already, there's not a whole lot of surprises. I think the only player I would consider a surprise would be Safety Donovan Wilson. As a rookie, and a sixth-round pick at that, Wilson seems like a longshot to even make the final 53-man roster, but not if you look at the current the depth at the position. I believe all he has to do is beat out Kavon Frazier, which shouldn't be that difficult.
The only other player that could possibly be a surprise is Cornerback Jourdan Lewis. The only reason I mention him is because the Cowboys "supposedly" put him on the trade block last year. I think they've learned though he is someone who needs more playing time, which is why I have him listed above.
Biggest Surprise Roster Snubs
You may have noticed a few names who I snubbed as roster locks for the Dallas Cowboys, but which ones were the biggest surprises?
The first player you may have noticed missing was WR/RB Tavon Austin. He's a dynamic player when he can get the ball in space, especially in the return game, but in no way do I view him as a roster lock this year. Tony Pollard, the Cowboys third-round pick this year, is a similar player that could make Austin expendable.
The next player you may have noticed missing is C/OG Joe Looney. He filled in nicely for Travis Frederick last year and quite possibly saved the Cowboys 2018 season. His versatility to play along the OL could be important, but rookie C/OG Connor McGovern could fill that role as well. Despite that though, Looney still has a good chance to make the final 53-man roster.
The last player I think who might be a surprise is Defensive End Taco Charlton. He is entering the ever important Year 3 with the Dallas Cowboys, but despite being a former first-round pick he's no sure bet that to make the roster. The Cowboys have some talented depth at DE who could push Charlton off the roster.
Who would be your Dallas Cowboys roster locks ahead of training camp?
Should Cowboys Consider Bringing Back Alex Tanney as Backup QB?
If the Dallas Cowboys aren't happy about their quarterback depth by the end of preseason, they should be looking to add someone from other teams' roster cuts. One player that could become available is a former Cowboy, Alex Tanney, and he may be one of the best options they'll have.
Tanney is currently with the New York Giants and served as Eli Manning's backup last year. He's floated around the NFL since going undrafted in 2012, being part of eight different teams.
Alex's tenure in Dallas came in 2013 when the Cowboys signed him just before training camp. Tanney flashed his potential during the preseason but it wasn't enough to get him on the 53-man roster. Dallas kept just two QBs that year, Tony Romo and Kyle Orton, and signed Tanney to their practice squad.
In November of that season, the Cleveland Browns poached Alex and signed him to their roster. Then came a series of stops with other teams' practice squad before finally landing with the Tennessee Titans, where he got his first and only playing time in a regular season game.
In 2015, Tanney finished the Titans meaningless regular-season finale. He completed 10-of-14 passes for 99 yards and one touchdown.
After spending last year with the Giants as the backup QB but never having to play, Tanney re-signed with New York for a two year deal this past March. But that was before the Giants spent their first-round pick on QB Daniel Jones
New York has kept three quarterbacks on the roster the last two years, but only kept two in 2016. With a clear top-two of Manning and Jones, and Daniel obviously their QB of the future, could they decide to let their other passers go at final cuts?
By only giving Tanney $75,000 in guaranteed money on his new contract, the Giants certainly left themselves the option of cutting him.
Alex Tanney now has seven years of NFL experience with multiple teams. He'll have just spent a full year and a second offseason with one of the Cowboys' division rivals, perhaps offering some insights into Pat Shurmur's system.
Ideally, the Cowboys will be content at quarterback if Cooper Rush or Mike White can earn their confidence over the next two months. But after reported struggles from both during mini-camps and OTAs, there is reason for concern.
This will all be moot, of course, if the Giants decide to keep Alex as a their third quarterback. But there is reason to think he could hit the open market, and if so he may be one of the few decent options that Dallas has to try and improve their QB depth.
In the end, Alex Tanney may not be a better option than Rush or White. But if the Cowboys find themselves desperate by September, he should at least be worth a second look.
Saints WR Michael Thomas Will Drive Up Price for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper
Since he became part of the Dallas Cowboys, Amari Cooper has proved himself worthy of a long-term contract extension. The offense saw a complete turnaround once the former Oakland Raider arrived, picking up way more first downs and moving the ball down the field. With a solid #1 wide receiver, Dak Prescott's game improved and with it, the rest of the offensive performance. At this point, most of Cowboys Nation agrees on how important Amari Cooper is for the Cowboys' future.
At only 25 years old, Cooper has an entire career ahead of him. He's young, yet experienced. The front office is aiming to make Dak Prescott the team's quarterback in the long-term and it only makes sense to give him such a strong weapon in the passing game.
However, if the Cowboys are to keep Cooper, they are to pay a price tag. An expensive one. And the more time they take to sign him, the more they'll have to pay. Of course, this is true in just about every position in the NFL. But when it comes to WR, there's a bit more urgency.
Both Julio Jones and Michael Thomas, two of the best in the game, are seeking long-term extensions. Now granted, these two players may be in different scenarios given their ages (Julio is 30, Michael is 26) and the fact that Jones still has two remaining years on his current contract. Even still, both are in the discussion for being the top receiver in the NFL. In other words, they could be asking to become the highest paid receivers in the league.
In fact, Michael Thomas is reportedly asking for $22M per year. To put it in perspective, Odell Beckham's contract with the Browns, which made him the top paid receiver, averages $18M annually. Thomas is absolutely great, but he's asking for too much money. Whether he'll get it or not remains to be seen.
As much as we love Amari Cooper, he isn't in the conversation for being the best wide receiver in the NFL like Thomas is. Despite that, he'll surely land among the highest-paid. For Cooper, it seems like the floor for his deal is Adam Thielen's contract with the Minnesota Vikings, which averages $16.2M per year. He isn't getting paid anything less than that.
The ceiling though, could drastically change. He's not going to become the top paid in the league, but he could be very close. The thing is, that number could change quickly. At the moment, Odell Beckham sits atop the NFL pass-catchers averaging 18 million. We can only guess, but that could lead to Cooper getting paid around $17M per year.
But if Michael Thomas or Julio Jones get their deals done before, that price could drastically go up. If Thomas gets what he wants (and it's a big if), the ceiling for Cooper's annual salary would have become $4M more expensive.
Hopefully, the Dallas Cowboys get a deal done quickly. Amari Cooper is a great player, and in less than a season he clicked with Dak Prescott, who's also waiting for payday. Right now, we can only be glad neither is threatening to hold out and both are excited for training camp.
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