Making the Cowboys final roster this year may prove a little more difficult than it has been in the last few years, simply from a numbers perspective. The Cowboys have not released, traded or waived anyone from last year's 53-man roster yet. Additionally, they have nine players on their future/reserve squad, another nine players on injured reserve and just drafted eight more players. That's already 79 players right there.
Last year, the Cowboys brought in 18 undrafted free agents. If they were to go for the same number this year, the total number of players competing for the 2011 53-man roster could be 97, and with a couple of free agent acquisitions and perhaps trades, there could be more than 100 players on the Cowboys' offseason roster.
The Cowboys' situation is not unique. A brief look at the NFC East rosters shows that they have similar ballpark numbers. But there is some good news coming from Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network, who is reporting that the NFL is looking to possibly expand the size of training camp rosters from the current 80 players to 90+ players.
Here's what La Canfora wrote yesterday:
The competition committee has broached the idea of expanding training camp rosters for 2011, considering all of the offseason training activities and teaching time that has been lost, as well as the months of evaluation teams would normally have to work with depth players and prospects. The idea has been embraced by numerous general managers I spoke to this week and would receive significant support by their ranks if put to a vote.
There is no timetable for a vote yet and nothing tangible proposed, but expanding camp rosters to 90 or so players makes sense on many levels.
Normally teams would have expanded offseason rosters filled with players on "futures" contracts, who coaches can assess throughout offseason workouts and OTAs before deciding who to bring to camp. Obviously that entire process has been sacrificed due to the lockout.
"I don't know anyone in my position who wouldn't support it," one general manager told me. "We'd love to be able to bring 90 in (for training camp). And from the players' side, it's more opportunities for them."
A move like this would have a couple immediate benefits. For one, a 90-man TC roster would ease the strain on each athlete's body by simply having more bodies around to share the reps. This may be particularly important as it's unclear what level of conditioning many players will have entering camp.
Secondly, it gives each team a good shot at stocking up their talent pool with UDFA's. And the Cowboys have been particularly lucky/effective in that regard in recent years.
Thirdly, it increases competition, which should be right up Coach Garrett's alley:
"What we’re trying to do on our offensive line and throughout our team is to create competition," Garrett said in his post draft press conference. "We want to bring good football players in and we want guys to earn their job."
Any way you look at it, a larger roster is a good thing. So why wasn't this been done long ago? Looks like that was just one more tiny piece in the CBA negotiations. Here's Don Banks from SI.com, who wrote about this exact topic in May 2008:
The impetus behind the owners' move to freeze rosters at 80 is the cost savings they realize from having fewer players in camp, especially given that teams were reportedly losing roughly $1 million per year on NFL Europa. More importantly, with team owners trying to build the case that their profit margins are surprisingly thin given the nation's economic downturn, and that the players received too much of the financial pie in the 2006 CBA settlement, they're in no mood to send the signal that another half-dozen camp roster spots per team is negotiable.
That's why the owners at the league's annual meeting last month in Palm Beach, Fla., tabled both a proposal by Tampa Bay to increase rosters to 90 at the beginning of camp, and an NFL management council proposal to make 86 players the operative limit at the start of the preseason. Both proposals remain on the agenda for further discussion at this month's spring owners meeting in Atlanta (May 19-21), but league sources tell me that no one sees much likelihood of the owners reversing their position before serious CBA talks resume with the NFL players union over the course of the next year or two.
The players like it, the coaches like it and the owners will learn to like it. If the NFL agrees to a 90-man roster this year, it'll likely be back in the following years as well.