Final roster cuts this year are scheduled for Saturday, September 2nd. Prior to 4:00 p.m. ET, teams must reduce rosters in one fell swoop from the current 90 to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List.
The Cowboys have traditionally been very busy working the phones during and after roster cuts as they've looked to trade or add players.
- In 2013, a trade didn't materialize until after final roster cuts when the Cowboys traded for LB Edgar Jones from the Kansas City Chiefs on the day after final roster cuts. They then followed that up by trading DT Sean Lissemore to San Diego and TE Dante Rosario to Chicago the next day, both for seventh-round picks.
- In 2014, they traded DE Ben Bass to New England for CB Justin Green in mid-August and traded for DE Lavar Edwards on the day of final roster cuts for a conditional seventh-round pick.
- In 2015, the Cowboys acquired RB Christine Michael in a trade with Seattle for a conditional seventh-round pick after final roster cuts and traded for Oakland WR Brice Butler a week later.
- Last year, Denver contacted Dallas to try to trade Mark Sanchez prior to final roster cuts, but the Cowboys didn't budge, though they reacted quickly once the Broncos cut Sanchez.
Minutes after NFL Network's James Palmer reported that the veteran passer had been released by the Denver Broncos, the quarterback-needy Cowboys swooped in to announce that Sanchez had signed a deal with Dallas.
None of these trades delivered world-beaters to Dallas. In fact, outside of Brice Butler, none of the players acquired in the last four years lasted more than a season in Dallas, and the acquired picks haven't paid off either: The Dante Rosario pick was used to trade up for Devin Street, and the Sean Lissemore pick was used on Mark Nzeocha, who hasn't (yet) lit up the world.
But expecting world-beaters from these types of trades is not realistic anyway. These trades are about churning the bottom of the roster.
Which is why Will McClay and the rest of the front office are probably busy right now trying to line up a few trades in an effort to perhaps get better value for some of the bubble players they've penciled in for the 53-man roster.
With that in mind, there are a number of positions the Cowboys could look at in potential trade scenarios:
- The Cowboys have four running backs in Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, and Rod Smith. With Elliott's appeal hearing scheduled for Tuesday, the Cowboys may soon have clarity on Elliott's availability this season, which in turn will drive their roster choices at RB. Alfred Morris (who's been presented on a silver platter during the preseason games: 30 runs with a 5.3-yard average) or Darren McFadden (20 runs, 5.1-yard average) offer value in a trade scenario.
- The Cowboys' second-team O-line looked better than many first-team O-lines in preseason action. The Cowboys may not have enough room keep all the players they have, and tenured backups like Byron Bell, Joe Looney, or Emmett Cleary and the loser of the left guard competition (Jonathan Cooper/Chaz Green) might be of interest to somebody.
- The Cowboys have four wide receivers returning from last year (Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler), and have three receivers looking for roster spots (Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown, Andy Jones). What if the Cowboys decided to make room for the younger players by offering up Cole Beasley or Brice Butler in a trade?
Those are just a few random hypotheticals, and the Cowboys could be looking to trade any of these players for future draft picks, or to use them in player-for-player trades that would bring in a pass rusher or perhaps a defensive back to Dallas. We know that they were interested enough in Kony Ealy to put in a waiver wire claim, but not interested enough to swing a trade.
An equally likely scenario is that the Cowboys could be looking to invest one of their many picks from the 2018 draft a little early.
As it currently stands, the Cowboys will get four comp picks in the 2018 draft, likely a fourth-round pick, two fifth-rounders, and one sixth-round pick. Add their six regular picks and the Cowboys could have a total of 10 picks in 2018, including two fifth-rounders, two sixth-rounders and one seventh-rounder.
Given the trouble of finding roster spots for their late-round picks and UDFAs this year, I wonder if the Cowboys would be better served by investing one of those 2018 late-round picks in a trade this year rather than spending it on a rookie next year who might not even make final roster cuts.