Last night, a group of players wearing Cowboys uniforms played the Texans in the fourth and final preseason game of the year. That gave 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 roster.
By 4:00 p.m. EST tomorrow, all NFL teams must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the active list. The Cowboys are currently maxed out at the mandated 75 players, which means 22 players have to be cut over the next 24 hours or so.
The first round of roster cuts this past Tuesday, as hard as the cuts were for the individuals involved, were pretty straightforward from a roster point of view, as they mostly involved bottom of the roster guys, camp bodies, and recently signed players.
But the next round of cuts is going to be much harder. The competition for a Cowboys roster spot may force the Cowboys to release some veteran players.
- Jaylon Smith will remain on the NFI list, Rico Gathers is probably a practice squad candidate, and Kavon Frazier may or may not make the 53. But the other six drafted rookies will almost certainly make the roster.
- Undrafted free agents like TE Austin Traylor and perhaps a rookie offensive lineman are making a case for why they should be part of the 53-man roster, which means there could be between seven and nine rookies on the roster, which in turn means seven to nine fewer spots for veteran players.
- A big part of cutting down the roster is about special teams and about which 46 players will be active every week. Jason Garrett has stated that in an ideal world, the Cowboys would like to keep players who can develop into position players while performing well on special teams until they are ready - a mindset that clearly favors the potential of the young guys over the experience of the veteran guys.
The Cowboys brought in Cedric Thornton, Alfred Morris, Benson Mayowa, Joe Looney, and Justin Durant as free agents, but it looks like they are all pretty safe. But there are other veteran free agent acquisitions and a number of former Cowboys rookies whose names pop up when talking about potential roster cut casualties. Below are nine of those players, all with a chance of getting cut, though some have a better chance of sticking around than others.
- Second-year DE Ryan Russell may get the last open spot on the defensive line, but even if he does, it's likely off to the practice squad once Demarcus Lawrence returns from his suspension.
- Second-year QB Jameill Showers may not have done enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster this season, so he might be looking at another year on the practice squad.
- Third-year WR Devin Street is the sixth man in a five-man WR rotation and is almost certainly not going to make the team.
- Fourth-year TE Gavin Escobar has valiantly battled back from a torn Achilles last year, but his future in Dallas is uncertain. There have been rumors that the Cowboys are looking to trade him, but even if he makes the roster, James Hanna's eventual return from the PUP list could force the issue.
- Fourth-year safety J.J. Wilcox officially lost his starting spot to rookie Byron Jones last year, and with a lackluster performance this preseason may have now lost his roster spot as well, again to a rookie in Kavon Frazier.
- Fourth-year DE Lawrence Okoye was released by the Cardinals last year for parking in head coach Bruce Arians' parking spot, the Cowboys will release him this year because he couldn't find a spot on the D-line.
- Fifth-year CB Isaiah Frey was signed as a free agent in June but did not show enough to move ahead of Anthony Brown or Deji Olatoye on the CB depth chart.
- Fifth-year guard Ronald Leary has been the subject of much trade speculation, and while he's in no danger of losing his roster spot, that roster spot could end up being with another team - despite the vigorous protestations of the Cowboys so far.
- In his sixth year as a pro, the Cowboys became QB Jerrod Johnson's 10th pro team when he signed with the team on Thursday. If he's released on Saturday, he'll have lasted twice as long in Dallas as anybody expected.
But even the "final roster cuts" tomorrow won't really be final.
A day after final roster cuts in 2013, the Cowboys traded DT Sean Lissemore to theand TE Dante Rosario to the . A few days later, they cut OG Nate Livings, S and LB Alex Albright.
In 2014, they waived OG John Wetzel one day after final cuts and waived CB Jemea Thomas a day later.
Last year, they waived DE Lavar Edwards on the Sunday following final cuts and waived free agent acquisition LB Jasper Brinkley on Monday.
Recent history shows that bottom of the roster veterans live dangerously in Dallas in late August/early September.
Which veteran players do you see missing the cut on Saturday, or possibly being traded at some point over the next week?