It may be a new season, but the roster cuts will be the same as they've always been: As in previous years, the first roster reduction will happen at 4:00 PM ET on August 26, the Tuesday following preseason Week 3, when rosters will have to be trimmed to 75 players. The final roster reduction to 53 players will have to be completed by 6:00 PM ET on Saturday, August 30, two days after the final preseason games have been played.
Along the way, and perhaps even before those cut-off dates, some players that few of us will have expected will likely end up getting cut.
Last year, the Cowboys cut veterans Gerald Sensabaugh, Dan Connor and Marcus Spears in March, followed that up by releasing Lawrence Vickers in July before training camp started, and then traded away Sean Lissemore in the week before the season opener. Overall, that was a fairly moderate wave of cuts.
In the year before, the Cowboys cut Kyle Kosier, Terence Newman and David Buehler at the beginning of the league year in mid March, added safety Brodney Pool to the list of cut veterans after a week of training camp and later cut ties with Stephen McGee after camp.
The Cowboys started this year's wave of cuts with a big bang by releasing DeMarcus Ware at the start of the league year and designating Miles Austin a June 1 cut. Phil Costa also got the axe and has since retired from football. And while that first wave of cuts generated a lot of headlines, it did not affect a lot of players, which could mean that the second wave of cuts, during or after training camp, likely will see more players released.
The early list of candidates to not make the 53-man roster is headlined by backup QB Kyle Orton, who's currently in a standoff with the Cowboys over whether he retires or whether he can force the team to release him. Though counting him as a surprise cut may not be entirely accurate.
There's a remote possibility that OT Jermey Parnell could end up on the trade block like Sean Lissemore last year. Not because he's a bad scheme fit, but because the Cowboys could potentially use him in a player-for-player trade. He'd also free up $1.5 million in cap space. An even remoter trade possibility, but a possibility nevertheless, could be James Hanna if the right trade scenario presented itself.
Candidates for an outright release could possibly include FB Tyler Clutts (who will battle rookie FB J.C. Copeland for a spot - if the Cowboys decide to keep a fullback at all), LB Justin Durant (who could face some serious pressure from the young guys and offers a cap saving of $1.25 million), and perhaps punter Chris Jones (competition from UDFA Cody Mandell).
Also, outside of George Selvie and Tyrone Crawford, every returning defensive lineman from last year (DT Nick Hayden, DE Caesar Rayford, DE Ben Bass) is at risk of being replaced by a recently acquired free agent or even a rookie - and that includes DE Anthony Spencer: If his knee doesn't show satisfactory progress at some point, even placing him on the PUP list may not be worth the effort.
Finally, as much as I'd like to think each of the nine 2014 draft picks will make the team, outside of the top four picks, nobody is guaranteed a roster spot. In 2012, the Cowboys released Danny Coale (5th round pick) during final cuts but were able to re-sign him to the practice squad. Last year, both of the Cowboys' priority free agents, Brandon Magee and Jakar Hamilton were released during final cuts, and only Hamilton made it back to the practice squad, while Magee was picked up by the Browns. The Magee scenario could repeat itself again this year for any of the five 7th rounders as well as some of the UDFAs the Cowboys signed.
With 90 players competing for 53 spots, there are bound to be some surprise cuts. Who do you think could be the surprise cut from the team this year?