Fans of the Dallas Cowboys are combing through the free agent lists and waiting anxiously for the combine to try to figure out who the team may sign and draft to try and fill some of the holes that became so evident in 2011.
But when I was looking for something else, I glanced at the team roster at the mothership, and I noticed that there were a lot of names I had not seen in a while there, and a couple I had never seen at all. Normally, I would just chalk this up to stockpiling some camp bodies early, but then I noticed that most of the unfamiliar names on the list seemed to line up with the more obvious needs the Cowboys have, particularly on defense. And Dallas does have a recent history of finding starters from the UDFA and small college ranks, like Tony Romo and Miles Austin, and also in picking up players that did not work out with other teams but turned into pretty good acquisitions, like Laurent Robinson.
While most of these names will undoubtedly fade back into obscurity, I do think that there is a good likelihood that one or two of them will at least be a backup on the roster next year. And maybe, just maybe, one or two of them will turn out to be more than that. But all of these are unknown quantities, to some extent, so here is a list of them. They are all players that did not see any time on the 53 man roster (as best as I can tell), but are now listed as Dallas Cowboys.
See which of these ring a bell after the jump.
Most of these names joined the roster after the end of the regular season, some from the practice squad, and some apparently signed off the street. I am not looking at any of the free agents here, just players that are on the roster until the team cuts them.
Baraka Atkins DE 6'4" 271 lb 27 YO. College: Miami (the U). Drafted in the fourth round of the 2007 draft by the Seahawks, he saw limited action for two years, accumulating 29 tackles and 2 sacks. He was cut before the 2009 season, and was signed by both the Broncos and Steelers, but was a late cut before the regular season for both teams. He was signed to a futures contract on 01/10/12.
Mario Butler CB 6'1" 188 lb 23 YO. College: Georgia Tech. An UDFA who never saw the field during the regular season, he wound up on the practice squad at the start of the year. The first question is why he did not get a chance at any time during the season with all the problems the team had in the secondary. The second question is how likely is he to be worse than what the team put out there. His name has often come up as someone who may have some upside.
Robert Callaway DT 6'5" 312 lb 23 YO College: Saginaw Valley State. You have to wonder about someone whose name is misspelled on the team website (or maybe everywhere else?), but this one is a bit intriguing. After spending a year on the Lions practice squad, he did the same at Dallas, and there were some comments made about how he had looked good this year. Given the small college background, he might be one of those late blossomers who might come out of the off season and play a part.
Kai Forbath K 5'11" 197 lb 24 YO. College: UCLA. Was injured. Possibly an insurance policy, but I find it hard to imagine he is going to beat out Dan Bailey. Once upon a time, he may have had some small trade value, but those days seem gone forever in the NFL.
Andre Holmes WR 6'5" 208 lb 23 YO. College: Hillsdale. You don't get much smaller than Hillsdale College. Holmes was originally signed by the Vikings, but picked up for the practice squad at the end of the preseason. He is part of what I call the Laurent Robinson insurance unit, kept around in case Laurent's agent wins the argument about playing where you had success versus going for the big payout.
Orie Lemon LB 6'1" 244 lb 24 YO. College: Oklahoma State. Coming out of the preseason, there were several who thought that Lemon would be a more valuable player to have on the roster than Keith Brooking. They might have been right. He is one of the players I think have the best shot at sticking with the team and eventually playing a significant role as a backup ILB and special teams player.
Raymond Radway WR 6'3" 193 lb 24 YO. College: Abilene Christian. He was, by most estimates, exactly three seconds away from making the starting day roster. Instead, a broken leg put him on IR. Now, the team is going to see if he has recovered from the injury, and then see what happens with Laurent Robinson. If Mr. Robinson stays, then the target becomes Kevin Ogletree. Without any knowledge of how the rehab is going, I still would guess he has the best shot of anyone here of earning a roster spot. Especially if he can return kicks or punts.
Brashton Satele LB 6'0" 248 lb 24 YO. College: Hawaii. Spent a year on the New York Jets practice squad. Signed a futures contract on 01/12/12. Given his history, one of the longest of the long shots.
Justin Taplin-Ross CB 6'3" 214 lb 22 YO. College: Utah. An interesting note is that he is listed on some sites as a safety. He apparently had trouble with passing the physical due to an appendectomy, from what I have been able to gather, but I have not been able to come up with a source to back that up. Supposedly well liked by the coaches.
C. J. Wilson CB 6'1" 195 lb 26 YO. College: Baylor. Another player that is a safety when you look at some sites, but carried as a cornerback on the Dallas roster. He was a seventh round draft pick by the Panthers in 2007 and hung around, getting credit for being active in 23 games before getting cut for 2011.
Those are the unknowns. Three defensive backs, two linebackers, two defensive linemen, two wide receivers and a kicker that seems the odd man out. The others all play positions that the Cowboys either definitely need or have to be concerned about pending free agency. Could one or more of these players turn out to be part of the solution for Dallas? I would say Radway is likely to stick, and Lemon and Callaway both have a pretty good shot. Butler and Taplin-Ross are maybes, but not strong. How do you see it?