This is the time of the NFL year when we are all about who is going to make the Dallas Cowboys. We just premiered the 2018 Pet Cats, the front page has seen 53-man projections both singular and plural, and we will be talking and arguing about who is likely to make the roster (or who we hope will) until the final cut-down before the start of the regular season.
But there is another side to determining the roster. Someone has to go. Many of the people who will not be on the initial 53-man roster (which, after all, will change and evolve as the wear and tear of the season progresses) are players that we all kinda figure are more or less camp bodies. Still, every year, there are a few veterans that don’t make the cut for one reason or another. Call them the stray cats (H/T to Dave Halprin for that). Or maybe you are like our moderator Jed, who thinks stray dog avoids besmirching cats (he does have a certain feline fixation). Here are some names that have been with the team for a while that have a real chance at missing out.
Of course, before we move on to the ones to come, we have to mention the two that have already gone, with much fanfare and a bit of consternation. Dez Bryant was released and Jason Witten retired to move on to a lucrative broadcasting job. There are not likely to be any bigger names than that. But there are some that will each be a bit of a surprise in some ways.
Green has hardly lived up to his draft position, with the exception of 2016, when he was at least a capable replacement at tackle for four games. But last season was an unmitigated disaster, and his failure at left guard was one of the first dominoes in the issues that led to the Cowboys missing the playoffs. He was slowed by injury early on, which should not have been surprising given his college history. And the ill-considered change of position, followed by trying to move him back to tackle, may just have ruined him. The fault is not entirely his. The coach or coaches who decided moving him to guard was a good idea deserve most of the blame for the magnitude of the error. It was simply a gross overestimation of what he was capable of.
Now, he is likely to be the victim of numbers. With Cameron Fleming now the projected swing tackle, Marcus Martin a much more capable option for guard depth, and Joe Looney the backup at center, there may just not be the numbers to keep Green. The Cowboys have often gone with only eight offensive linemen on the roster, and this year that looks to be likely again. And the roster at DallasCowboys.com still shows him as a G/T. It was a bad idea last year, and it would be again.
That one is probably a big surprise for many, but Williams is recovering from a foot injury. That may be enough to keep him out of training camp, at least to begin.
If so, it could mean that some of the new receiver talent (plus Noah Brown) could make Williams an example of the old adage “you can’t make the club from the tub”. He might just get replaced by someone (or someones) who prove to be worthy during camp and preseason.
That may not spell the end of Williams in Dallas, however. He could be placed on IR, and might make it back this year. If not, it makes financial sense to keep him. His contract runs through 2020, and there are zero savings if he is released outright. The injury can provide justification for keeping him on IR and having him come back to compete for a spot next year.
All this could change if he recovers quickly and is ready to start camp. At the moment, he is working on recovering. Still, every day of camp he might miss would just add to his risk.
Basically, the same arguments concerning Williams apply for Collins, who also is recovering from a foot injury. There are plenty of hungry candidates for his job, including popular pet cat pick DeQuinton Osborne. However, an outright release is much more a possibility for him. He is under contract through 2019, but there is no real penalty to the team in releasing him. He really needs to get better in a hurry.
Tapper has fought injuries since joining the Cowboys. He seems to have all the ability except availability. With Kony Ealy and Dorrance Armstrong Jr. now in the mix, Tyrone Crawford being prepped to be a full time DE, and the possibility of Randy Gregory being reinstated, there just doesn’t seem to be room to keep him on the team. It wasn’t really his fault, but that’s how football goes.
We’ll pause a moment for some of you to get the histrionics out of your system.
Done now? OK, here’s the thing about Gathers.
He has one year on a practice squad as a tight end. Period. No college experience, no NFL game experience outside of a handful of snaps in preseason last year, and he was not able to practice while he was on IR all last year. He has an ability to go up and get balls, especially in the red zone.
That is simply not enough. Especially on a team that puts so much value on their tight ends being an asset in the run game.
Last year, with Jason Witten still on the team, the plan appeared to be to get Gathers on the roster and maybe work him in some, but mostly he probably would have been inactive. The benefit would have been another year of practices to learn his job. That all went away with his concussion and neck injury, and now he is far behind. He is going to have to come in and show a lot to make the team. Numbers would also work against him, as the team at least looks like it will not be as reliant on having a TE on the field for every offensive snap.
The best thing for his development would probably be a return to the practice squad, but there is a real possibility that some TE hungry team would sign him away, particularly one that doesn’t really care about blocking skills. He was always a long-shot gamble. It is just very difficult to see how the team could afford to carry him on this year’s roster as a developmental project (again) while passing on someone who could really contribute in some way.
That’s my list. Of course, this is not to say all five of the players listed will be missing from the roster to start the season. But I think some will be. We will find out.