Cowboys Roster Has Already Been Churned Before Training Camp

Ronald Martinez

As the start of camp grows closer, most focus on what additions to the Cowboys' roster we can look forward to. But there have already been improvements made by simply letting people go.

The release last Friday of Lawrence Vickers by the Dallas Cowboys is really just the latest chapter in a rather large housecleaning that the team has undertaken since the end of last season. While we are mostly thinking about who will be cut from the roster during training camp, the Cowboys have already made significant cuts this year. SportsDayDFW put up a slideshow of the other eleven players form the 2012 roster that Dallas has parted ways with since the end of the season. I saw some things I found interesting in the total list - which I have reproduced here so you don't have to go through the time of clicking through the slideshow (which is, of course, a way to provide graphics for your enjoyment and not just a means of padding the click counts for a website).

Player Age New Team
LB Victor Butler 25 New Orleans Saints
DE Kenyon Coleman 34 New Orleans Saints
LB Dan Connor 27 New York Giants
CB Mike Jenkins 28 Oakland Raiders
RB Felix Jones 26 Philadelphia Eagles
LB Orie Lemon 25 Kansas City Chiefs
P Brian Moorman 37 Pittsburgh Steelers
WR Kevin Ogletree 25 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TE John Phillips 26 San Diego Chargers
S Gerald Sensabaugh 30 Retired
DL Marcus Spears 30 Baltimore Ravens
FB Lawrence Vickers 30 Unsigned FA

With Dallas really only signing two outside free agents itself (linebacker Justin Durant and safety Will Allen), it seems pretty clear the team was focused on clearing out players that no longer fit the needs of the team. And when I looked at the list, it certainly made a lot of sense based on the past season. I do not see one of these players that I really wish the team had back. Victor Butler may be the closest to that, and I will bow to the decisions of the coaching staff as to him not fitting in. But all the rest are either in the "no regrets" or "downright glad" category. This was, to me at least, clearly an exercise in addition by subtraction. I cannot see one of those names beating out anyone for a spot on the roster this year. A couple might come close, but I don't think the team would be better in the long run by having any one of these names bump someone off the 53 man roster.

This is pretty clear evidence that things are being done a bit differently around Valley Ranch these days. After years of hanging on too long to aging players, and signing them to contracts when they were just starting the downhill slide, the team is starting to let go of players when it should, not two years too late. And none of the departures were a case of losing a free agent you cannot really afford to hang on to. Somehow Stephen Jones and company have massaged the cap to allow the team to keep the one player that could have left, Anthony Spencer; sign Tony Romo to a contract extension; be able to open negotiations to extend Sean Lee; and still have room to maneuver freely in camp without letting cap considerations control who they cut and don't cut.

And I don't believe the team is done with clearing out some deadwood. I think at least one more veteran player, either Nate Livings or Mackenzy Bernadeau, will be gone by the final cutdown.

But even if the two guards brought in last year (along with Connor and Vickers) both survive, that still is 12 players gone from the 2012 roster. 23% of the roster has turned over without even getting to camp. Plus the team is likely to have the Josh Brent issue resolved by the league by then. One way or another, he will be gone soon. By the time all is done, the turnover will exceed 25%. That is a huge infusion of new blood, mostly young new blood.

Is this a one year shakeup, or is this the wave of the future? I am hoping for the latter. Football is harsh, and requires a steady infusion of talent. Jason Garrett has always preached churn at the bottom of the roster, but there has to be some level of churn all the way up and down the depth chart. You cannot cling to a fading star for sentimental reasons. Everyone has to earn the spot on the roster. The top stars, like Romo and Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware, are on the roster because they still deserve the spot. They should only be there as long as they can fight off any challenge (not that any of them, particularly Romo, look to have anything to worry about for a year or two). When one player starts to falter, there needs to be a hungry player ready to take over, and capable of carrying the load. You can't do it all with rookies - but the more you can use, the better. It is both cheaper and more productive to search for the next star coming out of college than to try to buy one on the free agent market.

It is encouraging to see the turnover. It is also nice to see that all but Sensabaugh and, for the time being, Vickers, have found another job somewhere (although Butler is out already with injury and likely to miss the entire season). It speaks well for the respect the other teams have for the Cowboys that almost all their players at least got another chance somewhere else.

As I mentioned earlier, it is sometimes called addition by subtraction. It is a fancy way of saying you sometimes get stronger by removing your weaker parts. It takes a clear knowledge of your own players, and a willingness to cut anyone who is no longer helping the team. This year, Dallas has done one of the best jobs it has in a long time.

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