In the past month, the Dallas Cowboys have been busy fine-tuning their roster in preparation for training camp. The moves include six releases, six signings, and four contracts handed to rookies as the Cowboys finished signing the year's draft picks. We'll focus on the roster additions and subtractions, which are the transactions that have a real impact on this team (because RKGs don't stage contract holdouts, right?).
If you're ever interested in looking through the Cowboys' transactions, past or present, the ESPN database has a record of transactions that, for the Cowboys, dates back to the January 9, 2002 firing of offensive coordinator Jack Reilly.
The first transactions we'll cover took place on May 30. The Cowboys made a quick switch at backup long snapper (exciting, isn't it?), replacing Charley Hughlett with Jackson Anderson. Hughlett was with the Cowboys in camp last year and appeared to be the team's next-in-line behind the flawless L.P. Ladouceur. L.P. had reportedly been considering retirement, so it seemed that the Cowboys were looking to be prepared for that time if it were to come.
Ladouceur did not retire, however, and the Cowboys continued to rely on him throughout the 2012 season. On February 28th of this year, the Cowboys further cemented L.P.'s spot on the roster, giving him a five-year extension to continue his error-free ways. Despite this, the Cowboys have still been attending to the long-snapper position. During rookie tryouts they brought in Jesse Smitherman from Texas Tech for a look. They re-signed Charley Hughlett, and also got a look at Jackson Anderson (from Duke), who happens to be from Frisco.
It appears that after all of this attention, the Cowboys' coaches (or perhaps Hughlett himself) decided that the non-contract position of emergency long snapper was not a fit for Hughlett. The fact that the replacements examined (Smitherman and the now-signed Anderson) are Texas locals further indicates that the team is not looking to replace a healthy Ladouceur, but rather to have an emergency replacement nearby and ready to come in if Ladouceur gets injured.
Also on May 30, the Cowboys signed former Buckeye J.B. Shugarts. J.B. didn't successfully stick as an undrafted free agent last year, and offers the Cowboys little more than depth. He's 6'7, but otherwise non-distinct. The Cowboys may be looking to further spread the repetitions, particularly at left tackle, during training camp in order to minimize injury risk. It's well-known in sports that the injury risk is higher when practicing with inexperienced players, so I'm all for any move that allows us to sit our starters while we're breaking in our UDFAs this summer.
Released to make room for Shugarts was Carlton Mitchell. Mitchell was a 6th-round pick of the Cleveland Browns who amassed three receptions in two seasons with the club. The Browns cut him during the preseason in 2012 when he was injured. Once recovered, he lasted all of three days with the Jacksonville Jaguars before missing the rest of the season without a team. Now that the Cowboys have released him, he's been signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 6'3, 215-pound receiver, who happens to run a 4.4 forty and sub-7-second three cone will likely sit behind established veteran and 'proven route runner' Kevin Ogletree.
On June 3, the Cowboys upgraded their depth at the tight end position, signing Dante Rosario. Curiously enough, Rosario ran a 4.78 forty-yard dash at the combine and still managed to put together something resembling an NFL career. Also curiously similar to our second-round pick, Rosario performed well in his short shuttle and had an elite-level three-cone drill, although his shorter stature (at just over 6'3) likely aided in those achievements when contrasted with the 6'6 Escobar.
Rosario's career has been made as a flexible H-Back. He's been a consistently productive backup tight end and is more than capable of seeing the field for the Cowboys as the 4th tight end (or the second 'second tight end,' behind James Hanna, to be more specific).
Rosario displaced Paul Freedman from the roster. Freedman's profile on NFL Draft Scout offers a number of reasons why we ought not mourn the loss of Freedman from the roster. His 5.26 forty and 11 bench reps (along with any other number from his workouts) should show that this isn't an elite athlete we're losing. Freeman may have had the gift of soft hands and parlayed that into a short stint with the Cowboys (this is speculation, mind you, I don't know whether or not he can catch), but his athleticism measurables indicate that he likely had trouble keeping up. Rosario is clearly the superior option to provide competition at the tight end position.
On June 5th, the Cowboys waived Robert Callaway as an injured player after he underwent microfracture knee surgery. This was viewed by some as a big loss for the Cowboys, as Callaway had always been impressive in practices with his burst, especially for a man of his size. It's not entirely clear whether or not Callaway is still with the team, as Wikipedia lists him as a free agent while FOX Sports lists him as a member of the Cowboys' injured reserve. If he is in fact on the Cowboys' injured reserve list, then there is still hope of him either being designated for return or competing for a job next season. Either way, we should wish him a speedy recovery and another opportunity to prove himself on the football field.
Taking the spot vacated by Callaway is Eric Frampton, a Safety that saw the field for the Cowboys toward the end of last season. Frampton was not a terrible fill-in, especially on such short notice with no time to learn Rob Ryan's system, but is still not someone the Cowboys want starting for them in 2013. He provides an option as depth for the Cowboys' young safety corps, competition in camp, and a more experienced opponent for the tight ends and backs to work against in one-on-one drills. If the Cowboys keep a 5th safety, particularly if Will Allen doesn't stick (which I don't see as all-too-likely), then Frampton might have a chance to get on the final 53.
The final two moves saw the Cowboys working to bolster the depth at defensive tackle, particularly with Callaway out of the mix for the foreseeable future.
The first casualty of the Cowboys' defensive tackle movement was cornerback Malik 'Fig' James, released on June 12th, a potential discipline issue with potential 4.2 speed. Fig didn't last long with the Texans, his first stop, and didn't do any better with the Cowboys, where he initially replaced the A&M punt return and corner, Dustin Harris, whom many believed had a chance to make the Cowboys' final roster. Here's me hoping that the difficulty corners are having here is a sign of Scandrick, Webb and Moore having solidified themselves as clearly superior options.
Replacing James the same day was Jeris Pendleton. The largest concern with Pendleton as a potential depth guy is his age - although only in his second season, he's going to hit 30 years of age this November. Pendleton spent last season with the Jaguars as their final draft pick, but was cut in late May which allowed the Cowboys to bring him in for a look. If he sticks, it won't be for 'upside,' and the fact that he came from Ashland University doesn't bode well for his current skillset. Could a Jaguars cut become a gem for the Cowboys? I doubt it, but we still need camp bodies at defensive tackle.
On June 20th, the Cowboys released veteran, former Super Bowl champion, defensive end Anthony Hargrove. Hargrove was brought in to provide solid depth behind a bunch of guys who've never played defensive end as professionals. His release seems to indicate that the Cowboys have been pleased with the progress of the younger guys at the position, including the likes of Kyle Wilber and Tyrone Crawford (or, at least, I'd like to think that that's what it means!).
The final addition to the roster, which came on June 25th, was Jerome Long, another defensive tackle. He was meant to be brought in immediately after Hargrove's release, but was busy becoming a father. Congratulations to him for that. Looking at his numbers, however (with no speed/agility measurables available), I see a player at an explosive position that lacks explosiveness (23 bench reps, 23" vertical). The only reasons he could be on the roster are excellent game tape (he apparently posted 69 tackles and 5 sacks in his senior season), a dire need for camp bodies, or a recommendation from fellow San Diego State alumnus Gavin Escobar. He didn't stick with the Chiefs, but I'll wait for OCC and Rabble to give first-hand accounts of how he plays before I write him off.
What do all of these moves mean for the Cowboys' final 53-man roster? You tell me! Go on into the roster builder and see what you can come up with.
Oh, and in case you've been wanting this feature, the roster builder now splits cuts appropriately for the post-June 1st period. That means that players you cut will have less impact on this year's cap and more impact on the 2014 cap. You can also track the dead money you accumulate for 2014 now, and see those figures on the player info panels.
Dallas Cowboys Interactive Roster Builder