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Decoding Dallas: What Do The Early Moves After The Cutdown Tell Us?

Let's try to get into the heads of the Cowboys' brain trust, shall we?

Christine Michael was the first acquisition for the Cowboys' active roster, but he likely won't be the last.
Christine Michael was the first acquisition for the Cowboys' active roster, but he likely won't be the last.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The final cutdown to the 53-man roster was a rather boring affair for the Dallas Cowboys. There were no big surprises. Things got a bit more interesting as the team began the process of filling out the practice squad. And the first churn happened with a trade to add some depth at running back in the form of Christine Michael. But things have gone slowly. Although we don't know what the team's actual reasoning is for the course things have taken as we get under a week to go for the opening game against the New York Giants, it is always fun to try and read the tea leaves to try and decipher the thinking behind everything.

The Cowboys did not pick up any players on waivers. This could be due to the team being at the same spot they were in the draft, 27th. But they may not have made any claims at all.

The logical conclusion is that the team was simply not interested in any of the castoffs from other clubs. We like to think the team has much better depth across the board than it has in past years, and this would support that belief. However, Dallas has a history of making some additions to the roster after the first version of the 53 is established, and that was what happened with the Michael trade. In it, the team got a very talented athlete with a sky-high SPARQ score, but one that had issues and, according to some comments from the staff of his old team, the Seattle Seahawks, did not always seem to put the correct effort forth on the field. This did not seem to stem from any problems with his work ethic, but more from not executing his assignments correctly. (Admittedly, this is interpreting what was said about him as much as anything.) However, he is rather like Joseph Randle in the sense that he was stuck behind a real workhorse RB1 in Marshawn Lynch, but he did have a very strong average gain per carry in limited action. The Cowboys seem to be betting they can succeed with him as they have with other players. When you keep in mind the way Corey White seems to have blossomed after having been released by the New Orleans Saints and how Davon Coleman seems to have overcome some very similar problems with how he performed on the field, there is a certain blueprint for the team here. Michael is not going to be an instant challenger to become the lead back, but does bring some immediate depth at a position where we simply don't know how things will work out with Randle and Darren McFadden. Given McFadden's injury history, adding one more back does make sense. And his price, a conditional seventh-round pick, is about as cheap as it gets.

There may likely be more moves to add players to the roster. One position to watch is swing tackle, where Darrion Weems does not inspire overwhelming confidence. Whether or not the team can find a good candidate to add to the offensive line is an open question, but it is likely that the staff is sifting through all the options out there.

The process of forming the practice squad seems to be going more slowly than normal. While the team had what appears to be a very strong group in the 53, none of the players that were waived were picked up by anyone else in the league. The depth of the roster may have been just about exactly right - and that may be why the team is not quickly signing its own to the practice squad. The one name that most of us thought would get a chance somewhere else was Ben Gardner, but no one was interested. It is telling that it has been reported that the Cowboys did not even talk to him about the practice squad. They obviously did not see in him what so many here thought they did.

To make room for Michael, the team released Lavar Edwards. He may be added to the practice squad if he gets through waivers. Since he was seen as good enough to keep on the initial roster, he should be good enough for the PS. When the team had eleven rushmen, plus Greg Hardy waiting in the wings, there might not have been much emphasis on using a PS slot for another defensive lineman. Now that they have dropped Edwards, he might be one reason they are not in a hurry to fill the practice squad up.

The Cowboys did sign Kellen Moore for the practice squad after he cleared waivers. Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News noted this connection to Dallas.

Moore was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Lions in 2012. Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was Detroit's offensive coordinator at the time Moore was signed.

If they had targeted him for the PS, they would not put in a waiver claim, since that requires signing the player to the 53-man roster. Once he cleared waivers, then he was eligible for the PS. This may be what is going on for other players as Dallas seeks to finish out the practice squad signings. The team may be targeting Moore as a replacement for Brandon Weeden, whose contract ends after this season. They will have a season to evaluate what they have in him, and he also provides something of a disaster option at quarterback who will know the playbook. It is minimal cost and absolutely no risk for them. And it certainly appears that they consider him an upgrade over Dustin Vaughan, who they passed over for Moore.

The team also signed Jameill Showers to the practice squad, but bringing Moore in indicates that they are more interested in Showers' special teams contributions. The injury rate is high for teams players with the high-speed collisions that characterize kick and punt returns. Showers could be a nice bit of insurance if they need to replace one of the core team members.

Gus Johnson was the first PS player known to have signed, and obviously serves as a bit of insurance at running back. Tim Scott appears to be the fourth member of the practice squad so far.

That is another possible call up. With six spots still available (since we don't know the actual plans for Edwards as this is being written), look for the Cowboys to fill them with other players that they think could step up to the active roster if needed. The fact they are taking so much time indicates that they are being very careful about who they sign. Given that the team also has reportedly declined to keep Laurence Gibson for the practice squad, it looks like they are taking almost as much care with the PS as with the active players.

More moves will undoubtedly be coming soon, and may have happened between this being written and when it is published. We will strive to keep everyone apprised of the latest developments as soon as we can.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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