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How will the Cowboys settle these two roster questions this week?

The Cowboys only have 52 players on their roster, and one of them will force the team to pay a conditional draft pick if he’s a game-day active again this year.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

During the bye, the Cowboys cut cornerback Nolan Carroll. They replaced him by signing free agent linebacker Justin March-Lilliard. But Stephen Paea also retired because he couldn’t play up to his personal standards on bad knees. The Cowboys have not yet filled Paea’s slot on the roster. A check of Ourlads.com shows only 52 players on the roster.

In addition, the Cowboys made two trades as they were forming their opening 53-man roster. Both of them were conditional. They traded a conditional seventh-round pick to the Green Bay Packers for linebacker/defensive end Jayrone Elliott. Elliott lasted until Damontre Moore’s two-game suspension was over, and then he was cut before the draft-pick compensation kicked in.

At the same time, the Cowboys traded for cornerback Ben Benwikere (who gained some fame for being among those torched by Julio Jones to the tune of more than 300 yards while he was on the Panthers), and used him to replace Marquez White, who was brought back to the practice squad. The Benwikere trade was also conditional, with a Cowboys’ sixth-rounder going to Cincinnati if he was a game-day active four times in 2017. Benwikere so far has not played a snap on defense, but has been active and played a total of 36 snaps in three games on special teams. If he’s active again this week in San Francisco, the Cowboys will need to surrender a sixth-rounder next year.

Why keep Ben Benwikere?

The Cowboys could keep Benwikere as insurance for a while longer and just not activate him so as not to trigger the draft pick compensation. But it’s baffling why Benwikere would be kept and active if he’s only being used in a limited special teams role. The Cowboys have been without cornerbacks Nolan Carroll (since cut), Chidobe Awuzie (two games), Jourdan Lewis, and Orlando Scandrick (one game each) during the opening five games, but none of that has led them to put Benwikere on the field on defense. Last year, the Cowboys kept Leon McFadden the whole year but only played him 56 snaps, 39 of which were in the final meaningless game in Philadelphia. The difference is that Leon McFadden didn’t cost the Cowboys a sixth-round draft pick. That’s the same round Anthony Brown, Kavon Frazier, and Xavier Woods were selected in over the last two years.

If the Cowboys keep Benwikere, but don’t think he’s good enough for any role on defense — they had to play Xavier Woods as an emergency slot cornerback in week two against Denver when Orlando Scandrick was out and Chidobe Awuzie got hurt — what’s the point? A sixth-round pick has more value than being thrown away for a special teams player you could replace from someone on the practice squad. This is a baffling decision (so far).

Who will the Cowboys add to the roster this week?

There is no requirement to have a 53-man roster as far as I know, and since only 46 can dress, the 53rd man can’t play on Sunday anyway. But it seems odd not to activate someone from the practice squad or add them from outside. Who will the Cowboys add?

The Cowboys have three defensive linemen on their current practice squad — Richard Ash, Lewis Neal, and Jarron Jones. The latter two are rookies. Ash was a late-season addition to the Cowboys line last year. He only played in the end-of-season Philadelphia game to relieve linemen who were resting for the playoffs. Neal seemed to show the most promise in preseason and was thought by many to be a candidate for the Cowboys’ season-opening roster.

The Cowboys don’t necessarily need to add anyone this week to replace Paea on the game-day actives, as Paea was inactive last week against Green Bay, and the Cowboys dressed eight defensive linemen. That means the Cowboys could add to the roster anywhere to replace Paea.

What do you think the Cowboys should do?

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