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Which player have the Cowboys released that has gone on to have the most success?

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There are some decisions you wish you could have back.

Detroit Lions v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys will have some difficult cuts to make this season in order to get down to 53 players. We’ve already discussed whether or not it would be a mistake to release a player like Rico Gathers. That’s the risk the team takes whenever they let players go. For the most part, the Cowboys have done a pretty good job at avoiding those face-palming moments where they cut a player loose at the end of camp only to have him play well on another squad. Of course, there have been some mistakes over the years and BTB member Nj_dallasfan proposed the question - which player have the Cowboys released that has gone on to have the most success?

That’s an interesting question and we have a few names to throw in the hat. For this exercise, we are limiting the candidates to players the Cowboys released during training camp up until final roster cuts. This doesn’t include players they let walk in free agency like Ron Leary which was more a financial decision than a testament to his playing ability. It also doesn’t include cap casualty moves like DeMarcus Ware, which also was driven by money. Instead, we are focusing on players who the team waived because they just didn’t think they were good enough to make the team.

Here are four cuts that the Cowboys probably wish they could have back.

Jimmy Smith

It’s not about the X’s and the O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s. That’s a message former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson believed was a big part of his championship team in the ‘90s. And boy was he good at collecting Jimmy and Joe’s. In 1992, he drafted one Jimmy in particular - Jimmy Smith.

The Cowboys already had a great wide receiver group in Michael Irvin, Alvin Harper, and Kelvin Martin, but that didn’t stop them from drafting Jimmy Smith in the second round. Buried on the depth chart, he would play in seven games his rookie season, mostly on special teams. He wouldn’t record a single catch. Smith did come away with a championship ring as the Cowboys finished 13-3 that season and crushed the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII.

Smith started off hot his second season. leading the team in receptions in preseason, but an emergency appendectomy would end his year. And as it turned out, he never suited up for Dallas again. They released him in July of 1994.

While his release seemed inconsequential at the time for the Cowboys as they were too busy winning Super Bowls, it turned out to be a costly mistake. Smith’s career took off when he joined the Jacksonville Jaguars. He played 11 seasons with the Jags and in nine of them he had over 1,000 yards receiving. He made the Pro Bowl five times which matched Hall of Famer Micheal Irvin. In fact, Smith finished with more catches, yards, and touchdowns than Irvin did during his 12 years in Dallas. When he retired in 2006, Smith was 11th all time in receiving yards with 12,287. Jason Witten just moved ahead of him last year (12,448).

It’s odd the Cowboys would invest a second-round pick in a receiver with the group they had, but clearly Smith proved he was worth it. Unfortunately, he just ended up proving it on another team.

The Jaguars benefited from the Cowboys releasing a wide receiver. Let’s hope Allen Hurns can help return the favor.

Todd Christensen

The Cowboys selected Christensen with their second-round pick in 1978. He was playing fullback and was leading the team in rushing when he broke his foot in the final preseason game. He was placed on injured reserve and never played a regular season game his rookie season. The following season, the Cowboys wanted to convert him to tight end, but he didn’t want to make the change. The team released him at the end of training camp.

After a short stint with the New York Giants, Christensen joined the Oakland Raiders where his career took a strong turn in the right direction. Starting on special teams, he worked his way into more reps. In 1982, he finally agree to play tight end and surprisingly it was a move that ignited his career. In just his second season at the position, he became an All-Pro, becoming only the second tight end ever (Kellen Winslow was the other) to lead the league in receptions. The following year, he helped the Raiders win the Super Bowl. All in all, Christensen played 10 seasons in the NFL and made the Pro Bowl in half of them. He made the All-Pro team twice and is a two-time Super Bowl Champion (1980 and 1983).

San Diego Chargers v Los Angeles Raiders Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

While Christensen had a great career, you can’t be too hard on Dallas for letting him go. The Cowboys clearly had the right idea in trying to get him to play tight end, but his reluctance to play the position didn’t help. It also didn’t help that they drafted another tight end in 1979 (Doug Cosbie) that ended up joining him in the Pro Bowl in ‘83, ‘84, and ‘85.

If you are keeping score at home, that’s two players who were killing it in preseason, endured some type of health issue to cut it short only to never play for the team again. Eh, that’s a little too Rico-ish for me.

Danny Amendola

Before Amazon’s All or Nothing graced us with a behind the scenes look at the Dallas Cowboys, the best inside look we’ve been able to see came in 2008 when the team was featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks. If you happened to watch that show, then you may know that undrafted free agent Danny Amendola was with the Cowboys his rookie year, but didn’t make the final cuts. With a receiving group of Terrell Owens, Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and Patrick Crayton - the team didn’t feel they had room for him on the roster. He would be waived and then signed to the practice squad.

The following season, he joined the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad, but the St. Louis Rams poached him and added Amendola to their active roster. He had a solid run with the Rams. In four seasons, twice he was targeted over 100 times. Amendola joined the New England Patriots in 2013 where he was part of two Super Bowl winning teams. Throughout his career, he’s had trouble staying healthy. In nine seasons, only twice has he played a full 16 games. He’s been solid when he’s on the field, recording over 600 receiving yards five times.

Amendola has had a solid NFL career, but he wasn’t a fit with the Cowboys back then. Tony Romo explains:

“When he came to Dallas, we were a vertical (offense), which means we would run down the field 20 yards,” Romo said, as transcribed by “We didn’t have this, like, east and west, 2-yard, really, game. We just didn’t have these little options — that little route there, that 4-yard, decide what to do. We didn’t have that. And I wanted to start putting that into the offense more and more. And we ended up getting rid of him, but we ended up getting it with Cole Beasley.”

Unlike Amendola, Beasley has proved to be very durable. His career season in 2016 of 833 yards, five touchdowns, and a catch percentage of 76.5% is better than any year Amendola has ever had.

Andrew Sendejo

The path for Andrew Sendejo was a little more scenic that most. In 2010, he didn’t get drafted and wasn’t signed as an undrafted free agent. He tried out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, but neither team was interested. So, what did he do then? He went and played football in the UFL (United Football League) for the Sacramento Mountain Lions where he finished second in the league in tackles. It was enough to draw interest from the Cowboys as they signed him to a two-year deal and placed him on their practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster and played in just two games his rookie season.

The following season, Sendejo wouldn’t make the Cowboys 53-man roster and was released during final cuts. The New York Jets scooped him up to gain some intelligence about the Cowboys defense in preparation for their upcoming matchup. After the game, Sendejo was sent packing. A couple months later, the Minnesota Vikings would sign him and that’s been his home for the past seven seasons.

Sendejo has been solid for the Vikings over the years. Paired with All-Pro Harrison Smith, the two make a good safety tandem. Sendejo is a physical player who doesn’t shy away for laying the wood on receivers. He has a tendency to sacrifice his body to lay down a big hit; sometimes legal, sometimes not.

Under the tutelage of former Cowboys defensive coordinator and current Vikings head coach, Mike Zimmer, Sendejo has proven himself a reliable safety in this league. The Cowboys have tried to supplement talent at this position with undrafted guys like Barry Church and Jeff Heath, but it looks like the best gem they found is the one that got away.

Which player the Cowboys have released in training camp do you think has gone on to have the most success?