Prior to 4:00 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday this week, all NFL teams must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players on the active list. The Cowboys got a little bit of a head start with a couple of roster moves last week, and now have 88 players on their roster, meaning 13 players will have to be cut by Tuesday.
Later this week, the Cowboys play the Texans on Thursday night in the fifth and final preseason game of the year. That will give the coaches one last opportunity to evaluate the players at the bottom of the roster before the Cowboys and every other team will have to finalize their 53-man roster by 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 31st.
As hard as these initial cuts on Tuesday will be for the individuals involved, from a roster point of view, these cuts are pretty straightforward as they usually involve the bottom of the roster guys, camp bodies, and recently signed players. In fact, going by the first cuts over the last few years across the league, it's unlikely that there will be many noteworthy names in this group.
But that was then, and this is now - the competition for a Cowboys roster spot is tougher than it's been at any time in recent memory, and that may force the Cowboys to release some veteran players in the first round of cuts:
- A strong 2013 draft class means every single draft pick, from top to bottom, is a virtual roster lock.
- A late but strong push for roster spots from undrafted free agents like safety Jeff Heath, linebacker Brandon Magee, and perhaps even linebacker Cameron Lawrence is knocking competition up an extra notch
- Street free agents like QB Alex Tanney, CB Micah Pellerin, and WR Anthony Armstrong are making a compelling case for why they should be part of the 53-man roster
Among the veterans that may have reason to be worried are Nate Livings, Ryan Cook, and maybe Danny McCray, to name just three.
Nate Livings: It doesn't make any sense financially to cut Nate Livings, but Jerry Jones has already begun talking about Livings in the past tense. The Cowboys may be willing to wait a couple more weeks for Livings to recover, but you've got to wonder if Livings is just another name in an increasingly long line of 'veteran help' (Brandon Moore, Brian Waters, Nate Livings ...) that simply never materialized for the 2013 season.
Ryan Cook: Cook has been injured and unavailable for most of preseason. Time is running out for the 30-year old utility lineman, and his release would provide the Cowboys with an extra $1.1 million in cap space this year.
Danny McCray: Reports are that Eric Frampton may be almost as effective as a special teamer and Frampton may have the added benefit of actually being able to play safety in a pinch. Or are we fans simply down on McCray because we suffer from New Toy Disease every season? There would be no penalty in releasing McCray, and replacing him with Frampton would save the Cowboys $768,000.
If there is such a thing as a downside of roster depth, it's that you have to make some tough decisions about players who have served you well in the past. But there is also an aspect to roster depth that Cowboys fans may have all but forgotten about over the last decade: You don't always have to release your players - you may actually be able to get some value for them.
The Cowboys haven't traded away players since Patrick Crayton and Pat McQuistan in 2010. Who says there's not a team in 2013 that might be willing to trade a developmental guard prospect for a special teams ace and team captain?
Which veteran players do you see missing the cut, either on Tuesday or on Saturday, or possibly being traded this week?