Connect with us

Star Blog

Undrafted Free Agents Have Uphill Battle To Make Cowboys Roster

Brian Martin



Can An UFA Make The Cowboys 53-Man Roster In 2017?

The Dallas Cowboys are a very good football team and have a deep roster to prove it. From top to bottom they have arguably the best depth they have had in several years, which will make it really difficult to earn a spot on the Cowboys roster. This is especially true for the rookie draft class, but might be nearly impossible for any undrafted free agents.

The Dallas Cowboys have been known to find some hidden gems from the undrafted free agents they have signed in the past. Ronald Leary, La'el Collins, Cole Beasley, Barry Church, and Jeff Heath are just a few who have come in and not only contributed, but become starters. But, this year UFAs are going to have a really hard time earning a roster spot.

The Cowboys can only carry 53 players on the roster heading into the 2017 season, and a lot of those spots are already spoken for. All of the other Cowboys roster spots are few and far between, which makes training camp extremely important for these undrafted free agents.

After scouring over the Cowboys' roster, there aren't very many names that stand out among the UFAs. In fact, I think there are only three that have a legitimate chance at earning one of those coveted roster spots: RB Jahad Thomas, OL Dan Skipper, and OG Nate Theaker.

Dan Skipper

Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Jahad Thomas, Dan Skipper, and Nate Theaker should also be considered longshots to make the Cowboys roster, but I think all of them have a slight chance if they can prove themselves worthy. But, each one of them is really going to have to catch the coaching staff's eye in training camp and prove themselves better than their competition.

Of the three, I think Jahad Thomas probably has the best chance to make the Cowboys roster. The offense could you really use another receiving type back after the departure of Lance Dunbar in free agency. That is probably Thomas' best trait, but he's really going to have to improve in all other areas of his game. It's going to be difficult, but he could take over that Lance Dunbar role in 2017.

Dan Skipper is a big man (6'10", 311), and is hopping to throw his name in the hat for one of those vacant offensive line spots at either offensive guard or tackle. The Cowboys have been working him out at guard, but he was a fixture at OT during his tenure at Arkansas. His biggest hurdle that he needs to overcome his blocking technique. If he can improve that, he has a chance to make the Cowboys roster.

Of all of the undrafted free agents, my dark horse to make the Cowboys roster in 2017 is Nate Theaker. He played both tackle positions at Wayne State and also right guard. He has the size teams look for in an offensive lineman (6'5", 315), but it's a big jump in competition from Wayne State to the NFL. He's probably destined for the practice squad, but he still has a chance to make the roster.

Due to the depth the Dallas Cowboys have throughout the roster, it is extremely important the coaching staff gets things right when making cuts. All of the available spots are at a premium and I don't know if any of the undrafted free agents are good enough to claim one.

Do you think any of the UFAs make the Cowboys roster?

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

  • Corey

    These are some pretty good rookies, I would also like to see WR Noah Brown make the roster. He is about the same size as Bryant and plays with the same intensity. Give him a year or 2 to learn from Bryant, and I think they have a very good WR to take some of the coverage off of Bryant

    • Brian Martin

      Corey, I’m a big fan of Noah Brown. I think he can make the roster this season if the Cowboys carry six wide receivers or if he can prove himself more valuable than Brice Butler.

      • Corey

        I really don’t think that will be a problem being more valuable than Butler. Butler never worked out in Oakland, and so far he hasn’t worked out in Dallas. I actually like Brice Butler and if he puts it all together he could be a dependable deep threat, but I watched him blow some easy catches last season, maybe Noah Brown will push him to be better, and if not, well bye, bye Bryce

        • Brian Martin

          Butler supposedly has looked really good so far this off-season and has the added benefit of being in the system now for a few years. But, he doesn’t play special teams like Noah Brown does and isn’t nearly as good of a blocker either. Brown can be used in several different ways, but Butler’s experience gives them a leg up. It’s going to be a fun training camp battle to follow.

          • Assassin

            That Noah Brown catch in the bowl was off the charts … dang!

          • Assassin

            add – Zeke is a huge fan and friend of his. Good guy to have on your side on the Cowboys

          • Brian Martin

            Brown can be really useful in the running game with the way he prides himself on his blocking. Probably why Elliott is such a big fan ha ha.

          • Assassin

            Good point. Brown could also be a backup TE/HBack/FB similar to the way the Eagles used Keith Jackson in the late 80s, early 90’s

          • Brian Martin

            I’ve written about that in another article before. I think he could be an emergency TE/H back, while also playing special teams and filling in at WR from time to time. I love how much he can possibly do.

          • Brian Martin

            He definitely has the talent, but he still really young (19) and still needs to develop. But, I think the Cowboys found a hidden gem in the seventh round.

          • Assassin

            Realistically, if he can play special teams his rookie year without making mistakes, he has a shot to make the team.

            Add – by drafting Switzer, Lucky Whitehead may be on the chopping block. Switzer is just as fast, maybe quicker, doesnt fumble as much and is gonna be a lot of fun. Great personality. His teammates gravitate toward him. If Whitehead is out, this may open the last spot in the WR rotation

          • Brian Martin

            I think it will come down to it the Cowboys decide to keep five or six wide receivers. If it’s just five, Butler might be kept over Brown because of his experience in the system. But, I agree that Brown has a chance to make the team because of his special-teams ability.

          • #demboyz

            Brian Brown has a chance to make the team; this kid has it all….great hips, hands, deceptive speed ,and he is as smooth as glass when he runs his routes. I can’t wait until the rubber meets the road—pads and preseason! He has a future in the NFL; I hope Dallas keeps him.

          • Brian Martin

            I like Brian Brown as well, but I think he’s probably buried too far on the depth chart right now to make the team. I think his best bet is making the practice squad and sticking around that way.

          • Corey

            Yes it is

  • Assassin

    Do you have the overall list of UFAs available

Star Blog

Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Brian Martin



Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.

I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.

Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.

Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.

Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.

Shea McClellin

New England Patriots LB Shea McClellin

After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.

This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.

If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.

With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.

He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.

Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?

Continue Reading

Star Blog

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Jess Haynie



Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.

The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.

Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.

Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.

Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 1

Hall of Fame CB Deion Sanders

Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.

The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.

Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.

The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.

The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 2

Norv Turner also couldn't bring his Cowboys success to Washington. (Brian Bahr/Allsport)

The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.

Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history

Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.

Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.

~ ~ ~

Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.

Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.

Continue Reading

Star Blog

Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

Brian Martin



Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.

Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.

The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.

Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods

It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.

I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.

Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.

As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.

His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.

Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.

As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.

Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.

Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

Continue Reading

Reader Survey

Want to help make Inside The Star better?

We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.

> Take the survey now

Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).

Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here