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Dallas Cowboys Roster Analysis, Part 2

In Part 1 of our Cowboys roster analysis, we delved into the decision by the team to keep just three cornerbacks and what might have led the Cowboys to choose Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore over Junior Siavii. There's no doubt that the 53-man roster will likely undergo changes as the season progresses, but with their initial roster cuts the Dallas Cowboys made some very interesting decisions.

With the current CBA designating that a veteran player is guaranteed a season's worth of salary if on the week one roster, it appears the Cowboys might be planning on bringing back a couple of players after the game against Washington. Cletis Gordon is a candidate, but you also have to wonder which players the Cowboys kept would be cut to make room.

Along those same lines I wanted to clarify an issue that came up from the discussion on the Cowboys keeping only three cornerbacks. Some were under the impression that the Cowboys would move Alan Ball to cornerback if something happened to the top three; in fact, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah should be the first option at that backup position. This allows the Cowboys to have just one backup player on the field, rather than shuffling two players around.

As we get into Part 2, we look at the controversial decision by the Cowboys to trade Patrick Crayton as well as trying to determine what role Leon Williams will have this season.

Offensive linemen

The Cowboys went deep at this position, deciding to keep ten offensive linemen when many teams keep eight or nine. While the injuries to Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo likely played a part in this scenario, you also have to wonder if this was an instance of the Cowboys not willing to risk losing a young player while trying to get them onto the practice squad.

After a rough start to camp Robert Brewster, Sam Young and Phil Costa all showed great promise and potential and I doubt that all three would have passed through waivers. So on top of Montrae Holland and Alex Barron, the Cowboys keep three backup linemen on the 53-man roster.

Here's the issue: Holland is the only true backup guard among all the backups, and right now it's "50/50" that he starts against Washington. Brewster, Barron, and Young are tackles and Costa has received reps at center only. If Kosier is able to play on Sunday then the Cowboys roll with Holland as the backup, but if Holland is starting....things start to get interesting.

Perhaps, as a contingency plan, the Cowboys give reps to Costa this week at guard. It will certainly be interesting to hear what Wade's plan is and it all depends on Kosier's status for this week. If Kosier and Colombo are out, then your starters are Free-Holland-Gurode-Davis-Barron with Kosier, Colombo and Young as your likely inactives. That leaves Costa (center) and Brewster (tackle) as your active backups. Perhaps the Cowboys have eight active on the roster and roll with Young as well.

Whatever the scenario, week one is going to get interesting. After week one, with Kosier and Colombo hopefully healthy, it eases up a bit. There's talk about the Cowboys releasing Holland bringing in a replacement guard but there's a very, very small chance of that happening; Holland would be guaranteed his salary for the season after the Redskins game and unless he absolutely bombs (likely) then he's staying.

[Update: The DMN reports that Andre Gurode will be the backup guard against Washington should Kyle Kosier not be able to play. This means that if a guard were injured during the game, Gurode would slide over and Phil Costa would come in as the center.]

The Cowboys didn't want to lose any of their young linemen and decided to keep them all. Based on the position we're in right now, you can't blame the Cowboys for planning for the future and keeping three young and promising linemen.

Going deep at linebacker.

All preseason I had the Cowboys keeping just eight linebackers total. They decided to go with nine, going deep at inside linebacker and keeping Leon Williams. After watching Jason Williams continue to struggle (yes, he struggled) and Sean Lee fail to secure that nickel linebacker position, it became increasingly obvious that Leon Williams might be needed on this team.

Leon Williams was up and down this preseason, making several big plays each game while also blowing assignments and missing open field tackles. Yet the Cowboys might be willing to deal with the bad while cashing in on the good; for now, the Cowboys still don't have an answer at nickel linebacker.

It's likely the Cowboys roll out different players throughout the game, going with a combination of Jason Williams, Leon Williams and Mike Hamlin. Sean Lee should have the chance to earn that spot as the season progresses, but as the season starts Leon Williams is a needed commodity on the team.

You also have to think that Leon Williams might be one of the first to go if the Cowboys bring in outside help onto the 53-man roster.

The trade of Patrick Crayton

Last week I wrote how much of a mistake it would be for the Dallas Cowboys to trade or release Patrick Crayton, based on his status as the most consistent and reliable wide receiver of the Tony Romo era. For a team headed into a big season with Super Bowl hopes, Crayton was the type of player that the Cowboys desperately needed: a savvy veteran with great chemistry with the starting quarterback.

After his trade Cowboys fans were certainly divided on how they felt about his departure, and many were upset that a seventh-round pick is all the Cowboys were able to get in return. If Anquan Boldin is worth a third and fourth-round draft pick, and Santonio Holmes is worth a fifth, then a seventh-round pick is all the Cowboys should have hoped to get. In fact, for a player that was going to get released anyway, a seventh-rounder is one heck of a deal. Any talk about Jerry getting "fleeced" again in a trade is nonsense.

It's very clear at this point that Crayton was going to be released. There are some who say this was purely a monetary decision by the Cowboys. While I'm certain the Cowboys are keeping an eye on the future and what their cap hit might be next season, every indication coming from the team was that this was a move specifically because of the youth of the position and Crayton's apparent role on the team headed into the season.

Realistically, Patrick Crayton was the fourth receiver on the team. He also probably lost his job as punt returner to Dez Bryant and with AOA showing promise as a returner it seems his role as the backup was likely lost as well. This left the Cowboys with a 31-year old fourth receiver, who would likely keep either Sam Hurd or Kevin Ogletree off the roster.

Seeing what the Cowboys did at other positions, it's apparent the Cowboys were only going to keep five receivers this season. Jerry Jones loves Kevin Ogletree so he wasn't going anywhere; this left the decision to come down to a decision between Hurd and Crayton. With Hurd providing solid ability at receiver and a veteran, productive presence on special teams, it's easy to see why the younger receiver would win out.

While there might have been money involved in the decision this was also a decision for youth. The Cowboys have a number of younger receivers who could make an impact not only this season (Hurd and Ogletree) but perhaps next season as well (Manny Johnson and Jesse Holley). Jerry Jones over the past few years has made it a point to release or trade "progress stoppers" as the Cowboys fight to stay youthful and talented from season to season.

There's also rumblings that the Cowboys just flat out didn't like Crayton or his attitude. I doubt it was anything that bad but I'm certain there was some annoyance at the things he's said publicly after the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant.

In the end, this was likely the best decision for all parties involved. I know I was upset about a trade last week but based on what's been said and the team he was traded to, you have to think that for the Cowboys and Crayton this was the best case scenario. The Cowboys did their long-time receiver a service and Crayton went to a team that not only needed him, but is a team that has a great shot at the Super Bowl themselves.

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