Although we are all more than ready to put the travesty that is the 2015 season of the Dallas Cowboys behind us, we still have one last game to play against our long-time archenemy Washington. While a loss may be the most favorable outcome for Dallas going into the draft, there is still a certain satisfaction that would come from closing things out on a high note with a win, as our own Dawn Macelli has so clearly expressed. But the game does have an intrinsic value for the staff in letting them take one last look at many players that they have to make decisions on. We have been focused a lot on Kellen Moore trying to earn a chance to be the backup quarterback because of the disaster that position was. And a lot of down-roster players will have an opportunity due to injuries and other considerations. But there are also several veteran players who are likely on the roster bubble for the staff, and Sunday's anticlimactic finale is also their last chance to sway some minds.
Injuries have robbed some players who might be candidates for the team to part ways of a last chance to make their case, such as Barry Church, but here are some that likely have a lot on the line.
Greg Hardy. Based just on numbers, Hardy looks like something of a disappointment given his salary and the controversy he brought. But the coaching staff does not share that opinion.
Rod Marinelli says he would like to see Greg Hardy comes back. He likes where he is headed.— Mark Lane (@therealmarklane) December 31, 2015
It is probably going to come down to just how much Hardy would cost. Many assume that he will not get a lot of interest as a free agent because of those off-field issues, but that is probably not accurate. It always comes down to what a team thinks a player can contribute on the field, and since Hardy is not looking at a possible suspension for next season, a bidding war for his talent may develop. This will almost certainly be the same kind of decision process for the Cowboys as the DeMarco Murray one after last season. A good game for Hardy may nudge the price ceiling up for Dallas.
Rolando McClain. While Marinelli may be leaning towards keeping Hardy, it is likely that the thinking on McClain is the opposite. He has not been the frequently fierce defender he was in 2014. Bob Sturm discussed down how disappointing he has been in his weekly X and O breakdown of the Buffalo Bills game.
McClain has shown off some elite skills at certain times during his run here and was an amazing player out of Alabama But, a few snaps in a game like this have you questioning whether you can give him the job in 2016. This is not good enough at all.
The Cowboys would have to figure out who would take his place at the Mike position, since moving Sean Lee to the Will was very successful. They may try to find someone in the draft (Myles Jack, anyone?). But based on the approach of the past few years, they would first try to find someone in free agency.
Brandon Carr. He is a serviceable cornerback, but he is paid to be much, much better. This is the first year that the Cowboys can afford to cut him. With Orlando Scandrick due to return, and Terrance Mitchell and Deji Olatoye both showing some promise, Carr may also be more expendable than he ever has. Given that Carr has played all season, this game is not likely to change many opinions of him, but an exceptionally strong or weak showing could be noticed.
Morris Claiborne. This was unquestionably the best season of Claiborne's career, but it may not be enough. He has stated that he would like to remain in Dallas. However, money talks, and the Cowboys could be outbid for him. They might try to lock him up early, but the question is just how much it would take to keep him from testing the waters. He is fighting through injury to try and play, and given his injury history, how successful he is in doing that may carry a lot of weight in the minds of the staff.
Ronald Leary. After he was sidelined by injury, he lost his starting job to La'el Collins, and it looks like there is little to no chance of him getting it back. Still, the team would probably love to have a backup guard that could start for many NFL teams. He is a restricted free agency, which means the Cowboys could put themselves in a win-win situation by tendering an offer to him so that another team would have to send Dallas a draft pick (in 2017, I believe) if they signed him away. With Collins not practicing so far this week, it looks like Leary will have a chance to showcase himself for both the Cowboys and the rest of the league. For a player who went undrafted because of concerns over a degenerative knee condition, the chance of getting a nice second contract, no matter where, must be very gratifying.
Jeremy Mincey. Mincey is a real leader for the defensive line, but he certainly has had a down year. The emergence of DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, David Irving, and perhaps also Casey Walker may simply have made Mincey expendable. But with Irving now unavailable, Mincey will get one more chance to show his value to the team. Nonetheless, he may be a case of a very likable player who just will fall prey to the numbers game.
Those are perhaps the biggest names that have something to prove to the organization this week, but there may be others. What other veterans do you think might also be playing for a chance to extend their career with the Star?