As we head into the first pre-season game, many a player on the Cowboys' 90-man offseason roster is beginning to wonder what his chances are of making the roster. Realistically, for most of the UDFAs and street free agents brought in during the offseason, just making the practice squad must be considered a success.
But even those eight practice squad spots are highly contested. After the initial cutdown from 90 players to 75 on August 27, 22 more players will be released on August 31 as the Cowboys and all other teams get down to the 53-man league mandated roster size.
Of those 22, a maximum of eight will make the Cowboys' practice squad. To get there, they'll have to compete against last year's bottom-of-the-roster players as well as plethora of UDFAs and free agent pick-ups who have nothing to lose.
But what happens to the players who don't get a spot on the practice squad after final cuts? Do they automatically become the proverbial grocery packers at Wal-Mart or Target? Well, not if they made it through camp with the Dallas Cowboys, at least if last year is anything to go by.
On August 31 last year, the Cowboys released 22 players. A day later, on September 1, the Cowboys signed eight of those players to their practice squad. What happened to the rest?
I'm glad you asked. Here's an overview of all 22 players, which shows what happened to each player in 2012 and where he is today:
|Name||POS||Status 2012||Status Today|
|Signed by Cowboys|
|Benford, Tim||WR||Cowboys PS||Cowboys|
|Callaway, Robert||DT||Cowboys||Injury settlement|
|Coale, Danny||WR||Cowboys PS||Cowboys|
|Olawale, Jamize||RB||Cowboys PS/Raiders||Raiders|
|Released by Cowboys|
|Adams, Jeff||OT||Bengals PS||Dolphins|
|Atkins, Baraka||LB||- -||Saints|
|Carpenter, Rudy||QB||- -||CFL|
|McQuistan, Pat||OT||Cardinals||Free agent|
|Owusu-Ansah, Akwasi||CB||Raiders PS||Saints|
|Smith, Lionel||CB||Lion PS||Jaguars|
|Szczerba, Andrew||TE||Falcons PS||Falcons|
|Whitley, Eddie||S||Eagles PS||Eagles|
Couple of topline thoughts:
Of the 14 players released during final cuts, 12 found another NFL team in 2012. Most of them were initially signed to a team's practice squad, but seven of the players were eventually signed to the 53-man roster of another NFL team in 2012.
The players not to find a new team were DE Baraka Atkins, a five-year NFL veteran at the time, and QB Rudy Carpenter, a 4-year veteran. And while neither found an NFL team in 2012, both are still in football this year, Atkins with the Saints and Carpenter with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. And even in 2013, 12 of those 14 players are still with NFL teams. Exceptions: Carpenter is in the CFL and Pat McQuistan is currently a free agent.
Given that those 14 players didn't make the Cowboys roster in 2012, those are pretty impressive numbers. Looks like having the Cowboys on your resume doesn't hurt. And just for clarification, the Cowboys had no interest in Hamilton for their practice squad. They did not try to sneak him onto the practice squad. He was not “stolen”, “claimed” or otherwise misappropriated by the Ravens.
The eight players who did make the Cowboys' practice squad didn't fare too bad either. Six of them made a 53-man roster (Olawale was claimed off the Cowboys practice squad by the Raiders), with only Danny Coale (to IR) and Tim Benford not making it onto an NFL roster. Orie Lemon was picked up by the Chiefs this offseason, Olawale remains with the Raiders, and only Robert Callaway is currently out of football after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee and being waived by the Cowboys.
Overall, the numbers above look like a pretty strong argument in favor of the Cowboys and their scouting department. Of course, I didn't go through the numbers of the remaining 31 NFL teams to see how the Cowboys' numbers stack up, but I'm confident that having 19 out of 22 "surplus" players still in the NFL today is a pretty good rate.
Obviously, all the players listed above survived the first cut to 75 players. Most of the players who did not survive that first cut did not get a second chance at the NFL. So if you're a down-roster guy on the Cowboys' training camp roster, focus on making it to the 75. If you make that cut, you've made a significant first step towards a chance at an NFL career. And that's really all anybody can ask for.