Is this the year the bubble finally bursts for Stephen McGee?
Is it too early to talk about which Dallas Cowboys players are probably on the bubble of making the team or not? Well, yes, but I see no reason to let that stop me.
I have already included a brief look at one ridiculously premature 53-man roster projection in an article of mine. Well, that bit of semi-informed guesswork from Tim MacMahon at ESPN DFW has inspired a counter article from his ESPN colleague Todd Archer. While I did find both of the takes on the roster a bit conservative, without many names I could really call a surprise, they did bring up some names that are a little shaky already. With the large number of rookies, some of whom are getting some really good press, there are some veteran players who may be victims of the Turk come training camp. Some were names I pretty much have expected for some time to be at risk, and there are a couple of names that surprised me. (Sorry, CowboysFan4Life, but I didn't see your version in time to include it in my discussion.)
And there is a new dynamic now with the expected flat salary cap number coming in the next few years. All of a sudden, there is a lot more reason to keep young (and inexpensive) players as opposed to more costly veterans.
So here is a list of players I think are on the bubble, based on what I read during the OTAs and minicamp. I am not claiming this to be comprehensive, and certainly I expect the list to undergo some changes once the players get their pads on in training camp. And I'm not talking about any rookies in this group, since all of them, even Morris Claiborne, are technically trying to make the team, not keep a job. This is only players that were active on some NFL team last year. But right now, these are the players that I think are most at risk of losing their roster slot, along with my reasons why.
Take the jump for more.
Stephen McGee I doubt anyone is surprised to see his name topping the list. Despite some favorable, but not quite wholeheartedly so, comments from Jason Garrett, the general impression was that McGee was inconsistent and failed to capitalize on the opportunity presented him when Kyle Orton was sidelined with a minor injury. If he does not inspire any confidence that he can at least be the number two, what exactly is his value to the team? His ceiling looks to be pressing firmly into the crown of his head. He is not so much at risk of being cut to make room for another quarterback as he is of the coaches deciding to carry only two quarterbacks. Orton puts Dallas in a unique position, since he could probably challenge and beat out several starters in the league. The team could sign a late-camp-cut quarterback from another team to its practice squad just to have a disaster plan in place, and roll with just two signal callers. That would allow going deeper somewhere else - something that seems increasingly attractive.
Mike Jenkins Yeah, I know what Jerry and JG and Stephen say about how the team has no plans to trade him and how the Cowboys need him more than anyone. The guy is sulking, asking for a trade, and not showing any real commitment to the success of the team this year. He is expected to be on the PUP list at the start of camp. He is insisting on not coming to Dallas and doing rehab under team supervision. Yes, the idea of having four extremely talented corners available is great, but at what price? And just how effective is Jenkins going to be? I seem to recall him turning toreador at times when he was supposedly bought into things. If the two UDFA corners, Isaac Madison and Lionel Smith, continue to show the kind of improvement they have so far, then the team's desire to keep Jenkins might begin to waver a bit. And now the Percy Harvin situation with the Vikings offers a whole new avenue for the team. It is almost a mirror image of the Cowboys' state of affairs with Jenkins, gives both teams a chance to improve a position, and the coaches and management in Minnesota also have their lips moving.
Kevin Ogletree I think the Tree is going to have to do more than his competition to stay with the team. A consensus among the writers is that he is number three or out the door. In other words, he has to prove he is better than all the other wide receivers to stay with the team. If someone like Danny Coale or Andre Holmes beats him out for the number three slot, then the team is not going to keep Kevin at the cost of a Dwayne Harris or Cole Beasley. And if the team should send Mike Jenkins north and bring Percy Harvin in, then KO can also make like a Tree. If I were making a bet, it would be that he is not going to clear the admittedly high bar that is set for him. There are just two many hungry young bodies, and I believe at least one will pass Ogletree up, sending him packing.
Marcus Spears/Kenyon Coleman They are in pretty much the same boat, and it is not unthinkable that both may wind up gone. They are both getting older, both have been overshadowed by the play of Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore, and Tyrone Crawford looks to be getting one roster slot. They may be in an either/or position, and Clifton Geathers may be the player that makes both expendable, based on this argument from Archer:
The Cowboys have put almost two years into developing Geathers and I think he might be a Jerry Jones' pet cat.
Would the team keep a player just to make Jerry happy? Well, if the cost isn't too high, yeah.
Brodney Pool This is an odd one, but I have seen the idea in more than one place. If Matt Johnson is what he looks like (he seemed to do surprisingly well in his one day at minicamp and just impressed the heck out of everyone with how much he learned on his own) and Barry Church keeps pressing hard, Pool may be too expensive to keep as a backup. Gerald Sensabaugh is one starter, but if the team does not need Pool on the other side because someone else emerged, then the team may go with Danny McCray as the other backup. Here, the question of how many safeties are carried comes into play. The team may just go with four, and, for example, keep six corners (Mario Butler is another player that may be a factor there even if Jenkins is not). It may take five safeties on the final roster for Pool to have a job - if he can hold off Church and Johnson.
Bill Nagy/Kevin Kowalski/David Arkin/Pat McQuistan And there may be another name or two you could throw in from the O line group, like maybe the injured Mackenzy Bernadeau, although I think he is more secure than any of the four I listed initially. There is a numbers game here, and something has to give. McQuistan would give the team two backup tackles, which seems like a good idea, but that forces one of the other players off the team. As Archer observed, the team might feel one of the UDFAs in camp would have enough upside to put them on the practice squad. The team usually has a couple of offensive linemen inactive for each game anyway, so managing the personnel is not much different using the PS. The offensive line is still one of the biggest head scratchers for the team.
Alex Albright I hate to mention him, since he really beat the odds just making the team last year, but I just don't know if he can stick given the numbers this year. He is facing competition from both Kyle Wilber and Adrian Hamilton. I just believe he is going to fall by the wayside, and I feel a little sad. He certainly has given it all he can. Besides, I love the underdog.
Those are the guys I think are on the bubble this year. Do you see any I may have missed? (I did think a bit about Victor Butler, but I think he has too much experience and does too good a job rushing the passer - only injury would be likely to take him out.) Did I name anyone you don't think deserves to be here? The comment thread awaits, and you have your chance to make your own case for or against any of the players.