Randy Gregory is coming back!
After 18 months, the NFL has lifted Gregory’s suspension. This is great news for the Dallas Cowboy who are looking forward to getting back the pass rusher they invested their 2015 second-round pick in. Over three calendar years, Gregory has only played in 14 games and has pretty much been an afterthought when it comes to the talent the team has at their disposal. But he’s back now and it’s okay to be excited. Of course, we still don’t know what to expect from him. While it’s unclear just how much of an impact he’ll make in 2018, one thing we do know is - he’s going to be around. And considering everything he’s had to go through to get to this point, you have to like his chances of doing whatever it’s going to take to make it count.
In order to make room for him, another player is going to have to be cut and that means already hard roster decisions just got even harder. So which player gets his walking papers? Before we speculate who’s on the chopping block, let’s rule a few positions out as they do not have very much leeway.
Fullback (1) - Jamize Olawale get’s the golden buzzer. He advances. Olawale has a stranglehold on the position and the only way he’s not a part of the team is if the Cowboys don’t keep a fullback. Based on recent history, that’s not going to happen.
Offensive LIne (8) - While the bottom of the depth chart still needs sorted out, the team needs to have eight offensive line players on the roster. The starters are locks (Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Connor Williams, and La’el Collins), as is the swing tackle (Cam Fleming). It’s really just a battle of who can land the final two spots. Joe Looney, Marcus Martin, Chaz Green, and Kadeem Edwards are all in the running. While there is not one player on that list who is a “must keep,” it’s still a numbers game and two of them make it.
Linebacker (6) - For the last three season the Cowboys have kept seven linebackers on the roster to start the season so six is on the low side. The team has more talent up top than they’ve had in a while so they might be able to go lean here. There are still some good battles to be had in order to get it down to six, but they cannot afford to go any leaner than that.
Secondary (9) - The Cowboys have gone with 10 defensive backs over the last two years with a different assortment each time (six corners and four safeties in 2017, five corners and five safeties in 2016). They went with nine DB’s the previous two seasons. While it’s unclear how the bottom of the depth chart will round out, the team has to keep at least nine defensive backs on the team. It’s a passing league. Anything less than nine would be flirting with disaster.
Now that we’ve identified what we suspect is off limits, where can we start looking for cuts?
QB - Avoid the Rush or throw up the White flag?
By taking Mike White in the fifth round, the team clearly has an interest in keeping him. And after a great preseason last year, Cooper Rush is a guy they like as well. It may have been their intention to keep both for now and sort it out later, but with roster space limited, the team may have to make a decision about which one they want to move forward with. Training camp and preseason action will have a lot to do with their decision and who knows - it may not be that difficult once they have more live action to evaluate from. The winner could land the backup job. leaving the Cowboys to hold their breath that the loser isn’t poached from the practice squad.
RB - Bo knows the practice squad
The Cowboys have kept four running backs in each of the last two seasons, but only went with three the previous two. With a workhorse like Ezekiel Elliott on the team, it’s not necessary to keep extra guys at this position. Sure, all these guys offer a little something different (Rod Smith plays special teams, Tavon Austin catches passes, and Bo Scarbrough smashes through people), but the team may have to decide what they can do without the most. That could leave the rookie on the outside.
WR - Just say Noah to six receivers
The Cowboys are absolutely loaded in numbers at wide receivers. Loaded, I tell you. Most are trying to pick their favorite two players from a list of four - Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Deonte Thompson, and Lance Lenior. Two from this group gives them a total of six receivers when you add them to the four that are expected to make the team - Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup.
While it’s hard to pick just two, it’s possible that only one gets in. The Cowboys typically go with just five receivers. They went with six last year because they liked all the talent they had at the position. I’m sure they like it even more this year with a group so deep, but can they afford to keep six?
TE - Bye, bye, Rico?
The Cowboys believed that Rico Gathers had the potential to be a playmaking tight end in this league. He’s been a great player to keep in their back pocket for the last couple seasons. Unfortunately, potential doesn’t always translate to on field production and the Cowboys no longer have extra space in their pocket. It’s time to put up or shut up.
Rico believes he’s got what it takes, but this won’t be about what Rico believes.
I’m sure we are all legends in our own minds, but that doesn’t cut it in the real world. Even if you worked at a burger joint and decided to go rogue and make a sandwich the way you think it should be done, that wouldn’t fly. If Rico is not blocking the way the coaches expect him to, then he’s not blocking. Bill Daniels from the Facebook group Dallas Cowboys War Room said it perfectly...
He’s right. I’ve done the math.
DE - Time to Tap out
Before the Gregory news, I had a hard time seeing Charles Tapper make this roster. Add Randy to the mix, and it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he’ll be released. For Tapper to sneak on this roster, it’s going to take the defensive line position to get hit with the injury bug. Unfortunately for Tapper, he’s the most probable candidate to get hurt as the third-year pass rusher struggles to stay healthy. Since he came in the league in 2016, he has played in as many games in his career as Gregory (two) in that span.
Not only would Tapper have to have an injury-free camp and flat out ball, but he’ll need to somehow restore confidence in the coaching staff that he can stay healthy. I’m not sure how he pulls that off.
While Tapper’s spot on the roster is clearly in jeopardy, the Gregory return now puts veteran Kony Ealy in the hot seat. Like Gregory, he was also the 60th pick in the draft, only one year earlier. At just 26-years-old, Ealy still has a lot left in the tank. Training camp will be telling and Ealy has a fighting chance, but things just got murky for the bottom of the depth chart at defensive end.
DT - The Price is wrong
With David Irving serving a four-game suspension to start the season, someone is going to get an extra month to prove themselves. Datone Jones and/or Brian Price are probably going to be that someone. With Maliek Collins and Jihad Ward at the top of the pecking order at defensive tackle (save that of Irving), it’s an open audition for any other bodies hoping to earn snaps. Both Jones and Price, as well as Richard Ash, Lewis Neal, Antwaun Woods, and Daniel Ross - are all fighting for a roster spot.
With Gregory back in the mix, he could challenge starting right defensive end Tyrone Crawford for snaps. And with Taco Charlton needing reps as well, it’s not out of the question that Crawford logs some time inside. That could further justify going short at defensive tackle.
What do you think they Cowboys do in order to make room for Randy Gregory?
This poll is closed
Go with just two quarterbacks
Send Bo to the practice squad
Roll with just five wide receivers
Keep five defensive ends only
Go short at defensive tackle