One of the key themes of this and every other offseason is finding out which players will be on the final 53-man roster. Teams usually enter training camp with a pretty clear idea of which players are roster locks, and which which positions are still open.
Take quarterback for example. It's pretty safe to assume that Tony Romo will be the starter and Kyle Orton the backup. It's highly unlikely that there will be a third QB on the 53-man roster. But while the QB position is fairly clear, there is no such clarity for the offensive line.
Nominally, the Cowboys starting offensive linemen are set: Smith, Livings, Frederick, Bernadeau and Free are the presumed starters.
In reality, a good argument could be made that of those five, only Tyron Smith is a lock for the starting job. In fact, you could even make an argument that only Smith and Frederick are locks to make the roster altogether.
Livings and Bernadeau were brought in last year to buy the Cowboys some time until their young linemen were ready for NFL action. What if one or two of those young guys actually emerge this year and relegate Livings and Bernadeau to backups - would it make sense for the Cowboys to keep the veterans around? Same thing with Doug Free: what do you do with him if Jermey Parnell beats him out for the starting job?
Conversely, if none of the young players are able to challenge for a starting spot, how much longer do you want to keep them around?
In vacuum, it sure looks like there's a lot of flux along the O-line. Of course, there are salary cap implications to consider, and the cost of cutting some players may ultimately be what secures them their roster spot. Here's an overview of what it would cost to cut each of the 14 linemen currently on the roster:
|Name||2013 Cap Hit||Penalty to Cut||Total Savings if Cut|
It's interesting to note that the five players projected as starters are also the only five players that would cost the Cowboys cap money if they were to be released. This doesn't make them an absolutely sure thing to make the roster, but it's unlikely they'll be released this year. All the other players wouldn't cost the Cowboys any money to cut, the Cowboys could even recoup some cap space by releasing some of them.
One thing is pretty clear though. All the backups are playing for their jobs this year. And that motivation may just be enough to get one or two of them a starting spot on the Cowboys 2013 O-line.
I asked Bryan Broaddus earlier this morning who he thought were roster locks along the O-line. He gave the only answer possible without resorting to a lot of hypotheticals:
But where's the fun in waiting for an answer? I want an answer now! So who do you think are roster locks for the Cowboys O-line this year?
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