For football fans, the finalization of the 53-man roster often feels like the end of a long process. Just like the draft signals the end of a long process of evaluating college talent, with endless mock drafts, scouting profiles and draft strategies, the announcement of the 53-man roster often feels like the final step en route to building an NFL team that stretched from free agency and the draft through rookie minicamp, OTAs and training camp, replete with endless iterations of 53-man roster projections.
Bill Parcells was fond of saying that "the NFL is a talent acquisition business." Jason Garrett might argue that it’s less of a business and more of a talent acquisition "process." Either way, the Cowboys are constantly looking for ways in which to upgrade their roster, by whatever means available.
And while the football public has traditionally focused on the draft and free agency as the primary means of talent acquisition, for NFL franchises, the announcement of the 53-man roster is another milestone in a year-round process of acquiring, developing and retaining player talent for their team.
At noon on Sunday, the claiming period for players placed on waivers during the final roster cuts will expire, and teams can begin signing players to their 10-man practice squad an hour later.
If you thought the 53-man roster signaled some kind of end point, think again: There's bound to be a whirlwind of activity as teams sort through the players other teams have released, in the hope of finding a few diamonds in the rough or patching roster holes. The Cowboys will be one of those teams, and if the past few years are any indication, chances are the newly minted Cowboys 53-man roster won't last for more than a day, if that.
2016: The ink on the first 53-man roster hadn't quite dried yet when the Cowboys announced they had signed QB Mark Sanchez just minutes after last year's roster cut deadline,.
2015: The Cowboys kept their feet still on Roster-Cuts-Saturday, but acquired RB Christine Michael in a trade with Seattle on Sunday. On Monday, they claimed OT Jordan Mills off waivers from Seattle (only to release him a week later).
2014: A few hours before final roster cuts, the Cowboys completed a trade for DE Lavar Edwards. The next day they claimed OT Donald Hawkins off waivers and followed that up by signing Korey Toomer and C.J. Spillman a day later. A day after that, they signed DT Jack Crawford and infamously signed Michael Sam to their practice yet another day later.
2013: The Cowboys traded for DE Edgar Jones on the day of final cuts, then traded away DT Sean Lissemore and TE Dante Rosario the next day. Other roster moves between final cutdowns and the season opener: claimed LB Kyle Bosworth off waivers, traded for DE/DT Caesar Rayford, signed OG Brian Waters and DT Jerome Long.
2012: Acquired center Ryan Cook on the day of final roster cuts in a trade with Miami, and claimed tight end Colin Cochart off waivers a day later.
2011: Picked up FB Tony Fiammetta off waivers, signed WR Laurent Robinson and OG Derrick Dockery. Added WR Andre Holmes and DT Rob Calloway to their practice squad in the week between final roster cuts and the opening game.
There's no doubt that the Cowboys will scour the waiver wires once again this season, and they'll almost certainly make a few late signings. The Cowboys' recent history as outlined above suggests that those late additions will probably not be names that Joe Public would instantly recognize, but that won't stop Joe Public from getting excited about names he still remembers from one of the recent drafts. After all, roster cuts are that time of year when fans looks only at a cut player's college draft profile and completely ignore everything that happened since.
As you are reading this, Will McClay and the rest of the front office are probably on the phones trying to improve the roster.
Be it by trade, be it by waiver wire claim, be it by simply signing a free agent, recent history suggests the Cowboys won't sit still over the coming days as they look to continuously improve their roster.