Prior to 4:00 PM EST on Tuesday, all NFL teams must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players on the active list. As the deadline approaches, I thought it might be interesting to play a little roster builder game with the other front page writers. With that in mind, I solicited from them a list of the players they thought would be pared away in an effort to get down to the league mandated 75-man limit.
Before we look at our respective lists, a few words about the state of the Cowboys' roster. As of Sunday night, they had 87 men on the active roster, so they will need to release or otherwise designate twelve of them to reach the mandated limit. A look at the position distribution across the roster might offer some clues about which positions can sustain cuts and which cannot. At present, the Cowboys have a very balanced roster: 41 players on offense, 41 on defense and 5 specialists. They are arrayed as follows:
QB (4): Romo, Weeden, Vaughan, Showers
RB (6): Randle, McFadden, Dunbar, Malena, G. Johnson, Hill
FB (2): Clutts, Agnew
WR (11): Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Street, Whitehead, Harwell, Jenkins, Goodley, Porter, Gates, Bates
TE (5): Witten, Hanna, Escobar, Swaim, Barden
OT (5): T. Smith, Free, Weems, Gibson, Dill
OG (5): Leary, Martin, Collins, Wetzel, Patrick
OC (3): Frederick, Bernadeau, McDermott
DE (9): Hardy, Lawrence, Mincey, Gregory, Russell, Edwards, Gardner, Obada, Boatright
DT (7): T. Crawford, Hayden, J. Crawford, T. McClain, Coleman, Bishop, C. Taylor
LB (11): Lee, Hitchens, Wilber, Gatchkar, D. WIlson, Brinkley, K. Smith, J. Brown, Baggs, K. Glaud, D. Johnson
CB (9): Scandrick, Carr, Claiborne, Patmon, Jones, White, Ross, Steeples, Sweeting
S (5): Church, Wilcox, Heath, McCray, Scott
P (2): Jones, Hornsey
K (1): Bailey
LS (2): Ladouceur, Kreiter
The position groups that appear to be heavy are wide receiver and linebacker, so I wouldn't be surprised to see more than one player at each position released - an assumption substantiated by the high number of recent arrivals (aka camp bodies) at both positions. On the other hand, it would be surprising to see a safety or a center released at this juncture; both positions are too thin to accommodate any cuts. Lets see whether, and to what degree this position distribution might have impacted our choices. Here's who the various FPWs thought would be asked to turn in their playbooks on Tuesday afternoon:
|7||Kenneth Boatright (DE)||Boatright||Boatright||Boatright||Boatright||Boatright|
|9||DaKorey Johnson (LB)||Johnson||Johnson||Johnson||Johnson||Johnson|
|10||KaLial Glaud (LB)||(LB)||Glaud||Hill (RB)||Baggs||(CB)|
The most obvious thing that jumps out here is how much we are in agreement. All six writers believe that Ronald Patrick, R.J. Dill, Ray Agnew, Brandon Barden, Kenneth Boatright, Carif Taylor, DaKorey Johnson, Tom Hornsey and Casey Kreiter will receive their walking papers by end of business Tuesday. In other words, we are unanimous on 75% of the cuts. Moreover, five of the six think they'll be joined by WR Phil Bates. The other likely candidates are wide receiver Clyde Gates (who was one of the Cowboys Dallas Days invitees during the 2011 draft season); RB Michael Hill, linebackers KaLial Glaud and Donnie Baggs (talk about a great Mafia name); and CB Rod Sweeting.
This level of agreement means one of two things: 1) we have all been reading the same reports - and from the same journalists who hang out together at Oxnard - so are receiving and then processing the narrowing results of groupthink within our little community; 2) the cuts are fairly straight-forward and unsurprising because the Cowboys roster has very few in-between types on it: everyone can either very clearly play at an NFL level or not (and these are the "nots").
The other is that we all agreed that the team would cut Kenneth Boatright yet keep Orlando Scandrick. Both men suffered significant injuries in training camp and, as a result, present complicating scenarios. The team must decide what to do with them, and the possibilities abound: Will they release Boatright outright? Place him on Injured Reserve? On PUP? How about Scandrick? Will they move him to IR, or might they see if they can keep him on the active roster during the season, betting on the outside chance, however slim, that he might be able to help out in January?
What is likely to influence these decisions is the fact that the Cowboys coaches and personnel folk - you know, the men who actually have to make the decisions - have to field a team for the Cowboys' fourth and final preseason game on Thursday. Given that the Dallas starters won't play at all and that the key role players should see little to none of the field as well, the players they cut on Tuesday are precisely the ones the Cowboys need to be taking reps during Thursday's most meaningless of games. Thus the front office has to trod an unenviably narrow path: they can't cut anybody they want to see more from, yet have to retain enough down-roster bodies to field a team of players whose injuries, should they happen, won't impact the 2015 campaign.
Let's say that there are 35 starters and key role players on the team. That leaves a wafer-thin 40-man roster for Thursday's contest. Faced with a similar crunch during last year's cut-down to 75, the Cowboys cut Ben Gardner and placed Amobi Okoye on the NFI (Non-Football Injury) list. This time last year, the Cowboys simply didn't have the wiggle room to keep those two on the roster without exposing a valuable player to injury in the final preseason clash. And, remember, the number one offseason goal is to get to game one with near-perfect health.
As a result, I wonder if we'll see them place Scandrick on IR on Tuesday (he may be joined by Boatright, or the DE might simply be released/ injured). Yes, such a move or moves would only open up a roster spot or two, but with things so tight, that little bit might serve as welcome relief come the fourth quarter Thursday night.
What do you say, BTBers? Whose list do you like best? Which cuts did we whiff on? And: if they decide to put Scandrick on IR, which of these players survives this cut-down and plays on Thursday?