With final roster cuts a little over two weeks ago, there are still some very difficult decisions awaiting the front office of the Dallas Cowboys. With only so many available roster spots, it looks inevitable that the team will have to release some roster-worthy players. The Cowboys are deep at certain positions like wide receiver and defensive end, whereas some other no-so-deep positions like offensive line and safety are still going to require the team to hang on to a certain amount of players at those spots to shore up their depth. The net result of this predicament is that good players will get cut, while needed players will stick around.
With an understanding that the team will have to part ways with some of their talent because of roster space, it’s possible the front office looks to trade away a couple of these guys in order to bolster the team in some other fashion, whether it be in the form of a player at another position or future draft capital. If a player is not going to have a key role on the team or is a potential looming roster cut, then why not try to get something for him? Here are five players who the Cowboys could potentially trade before the season begins.
We’ll start things off with a controversial one as many people love Lewis. In fact, some fans are scratching their head as to why Anthony Brown is ahead of him on the depth chart playing the slot corner position. While it may be baffling to some, the coaches have their reasons. There is no secret that new defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard likes his corners big and Lewis does not fit that bill, but that doesn’t automatically relegate him to the bench, does it? The answer is - no, however Lewis has to show he can do what is being asked of him from his new coach. If his size restricts his ability to jam at the line of scrimmage and obstruct the receivers path, then Lewis won’t be able to do what Richard expects and his role on the team could be reduced, which is what we could be seeing right now.
Lewis’ stock is pretty good as he had a great rookie season. And now that his legal troubles are behind him, he looks like a great value pick in last year’s draft. His value to another team may be more than it is to the Cowboys and if a couple other depth corners like Duke Thomas, Marquez White, and Charvarius Ward show that they are worth keeping around, the team could choose to cash in on Lewis’ value right now.
Last year, the Cowboys had Jason Witten as their pass-catching tight end and anything shown from another tight end just felt like a bonus. It was easy for the team to unleash Rico in the preseason and give him some snaps to play with. This year, things are different. With no Witten around, the team is in search of other guys who can fill the void. Snaps must be distributed effectively so they can see what they have in Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, and rookie Dalton Schultz. That could leave Rico on the short end of the reps, but there are still three more preseason game left to go and it’s just a matter of time before Gathers is catching touchdown passes again.
If Rico starts hauling down red zone targets, he is going to make a strong case towards being on an NFL roster, however - that doesn’t mean it will be Dallas. It’s not hard to figure out that the coaching staff is not enamored with Rico like they once were and it could mean the end of days for him with the Cowboys. While a couple splash plays here and there may not earn him a spot on the roster, it could jack up his trade value and open the door for the Cowboys to get something in return for a player they may have been planning to cut.
The Cowboys drafted Tapper in the fourth round of the 2016 draft because of his athleticism and potential as an edge rusher. Unfortunately, injuries haven’t allowed him to show what he can do. But he’s healthy now and he’s looking pretty good so why would Dallas up and decide to ship him off when he’s finally in a position to contribute?
The short answer is - the Cowboys don’t have room for him. After years of throwing darts at high-upside defensive end prospects, extenuating circumstances have forced the team to be patient. Well, that patience is starting to pay off as everything is falling into place at once. DeMarcus Lawrence looks like an elite pass rusher in this league. Taco Charlton is already flashing great second-year growth, and the rookie Dorance Armstrong is fast out of the gate, already exceeding expectations and earning more reps. Oh yeah, and Tyrone Crawford is their rock of stability and Randy Gregory is their wild card who is back and ready to make some noise.
Even if Tapper is a solid rotational player, when would he play? Do you want him taking snaps away from Gregory or Armstrong, who are just going to get better with more experience? No, you don’t.
If Tapper has a good preseason, deal him away to a team that needs help at defensive end and grab some extra draft capital for the future. Something is better than nothing and the team just doesn’t have room for him.
The Cowboys linebacker position group is in the best shape it’s been in a while as they look good up and down the depth chart. Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith are going to be beasts, but the new kids on the block look pretty good too. Rookie Leighton Vander Esch has star potential and his athleticism will show up plenty throughout the season. Free agent Joe Thomas looks like a great fit and could earn himself extra playing time. Even low-man on the totem pole, Justin March-Lillard, looks very solid in what reps he has been given.
So, why would the Cowboys mess up a good thing? Well, they probably won’t and Wilson’s job is likely secure in Dallas, but there are couple reasons he’s worth mentioning. With the added talent the team has acquired this offseason, Wilson’s role should be reduced quite a bit. With so many snaps played in the nickel and dime packages, there aren’t going to be a lot of snaps for the depth linebackers. Wilson was once thought to be a good option in coverage, but with Vander Esch around as well as the vast improvement of Jaylon against the pass - Wilson’s number won’t be called as much in those situations.
Wilson is on the last year of his rookie contract and his days in Dallas are coming to an end. If sixth-round rookie Chris Covington starts showing up on the field, the team may want to keep him in their back pocket for the future and trading away Wilson would allow them to get something in return. Linebacker depth is very important and this isn’t a move I would expect the Cowboys to make, but I wouldn’t rule it out completely.
A couple months ago people wouldn’t think that undrafted free agent Lenoir would even have a shot at making the team. But after what he’s done on the field since, the young receiver is proving that he belongs in the NFL. Bottom depth receivers are a dime a dozen and I’m sure there are other teams out there that have a surplus as well so it’s not like Lenoir would bring in a good return. We are talking about a late-round draft pick at best. And for Lenoir to even warrant that, he’d have to continue to play well and make more splashes in the remaining preseason games. But if he’s catching touchdowns in preseason, is he really someone the Cowboys would want to give up for a late draft pick?
That’s a tough question and the answer could lie in what they feel they have in Deonte Thompson. While Thompson hasn’t been on the field due to injury, new receivers coach Sanjay Lael has a great idea of what the veteran receiver offers. Dallas may have every intention of keeping Thompson and if they do - the receiving group is extremely crowded. Right now they have Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin. That’s five. With both Thompson and Lenoir, that would be seven and that’s just too many WR’s to keep on the roster. And that’s not even taking into account Noah Brown, who made the squad last year so we know the team likes what he brings to the table. The Cowboys have other positions that demand spots to where they cannot go that long at receiver.
That means the Cowboys will have to pick who they want to keep and that could mean letting a good receiver go. If Lenoir is that receiver and he continues to shine in preseason games with more toe-tapping touchdown catches, it could generate an interest from another NFL team.
Who do you think the Cowboys should trade away?