The Cowboys have played in four preseason games, had 21 official practices in training camp, had 12 days of OTAs, and did a lot of other work that doesn’t show up on the official calendar.
All of which gave the coaches, scouts, and front office personnel ample time to evaluate the entire roster before the Cowboys and every other team will have to finalize their 53-man roster by 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday.
And with the quality of the roster improving from year to year, the competition for a Cowboys roster spot will inevitably force the Cowboys to release some veteran players.
The top five draft picks (Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, Michael Gallup, Dorance Armstrong, Dalton Schultz) will all make the roster by virtue of their draft pedigree alone. RB Bo Scarbrough is a strong consideration for a running back spot, Chris Covington has an outside chance at a roster spot as the seventh linebacker, and Mike White is likely a practice squad candidate.
A big part of cutting down the roster is about special teams and about which 46 players will be active every week. Jason Garrett has stated that in an ideal world, the Cowboys would like to keep players who can develop into position players while performing well on special teams until they are ready - a mindset that clearly favors the potential of the young guys over the experience of the veteran guys.
All of which means there are bound to be veteran free agent acquisitions and a number of former Cowboys rookies whose names pop up when talking about potential roster cut casualties. Below are eight of those players, all with a chance of getting cut, though some have a better chance of sticking around than others.
- Second-year WR Noah Brown looks to have been outplayed for that potential seventh WR spot by Lance Lenoir, so it’s likely off to the practice squad for Brown - who is unlikely to attract any outside interest as he didn’t play a single snap this preseason.
- Third-year tight end Rico Gathers has a lot of fans among Cowboys fans, but none of them gets a vote on who makes the 53-man roster. The Cowboys knew they were taking on a project when they drafted Gathers, but are they really willing to throw in the towel?
- Third year DE Charles Tapper is stuck behind DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Taco Charlton, and Dorance Armstrong at DE. Whether he makes the roster as the fifth defensive end probably depends a lot on how many guys they keep at DT.
- Third-year DT Jihad Ward causes something of a stir when the Cowboys traded for him this offseason, but things have quieted down a lot since training camp opened. In a deep room for defensive tackles, Ward might not find a seat.
- Fourth-year safety Marqueston Huff was signed by the Cowboys in January, and should have had an easy route to a roster spot given the injuries at safety, but it looks like he’ll be looking to join his seventh NFL team after roster cuts.
- Fourth-year OG/OT Chaz Green is playing on the final year of his rookie contract, but his preseason play hasn’t given the Cowboys any reason to hold on to him, even if he is a former third-round pick.
- Fifth year DE Kony Ealy is on his fourth team already, and despite his high draft pedigree, it feels like he’s on the outside looking in at the final defensive line roster spot, where recent signee Caraun Reid may have moved past him in just two preseason games.
- Sixth-year DE Datone Jones is a former second-round pick, and while he hasn’t played up to his draft pedigree, he’s done an okay job as a hybrid DE/DT player the Cowboys like. But he’s been battling a knee injury, and when push comes to shove, that injury might just cost him a roster spot.
But even the “final roster cuts” tomorrow won’t really be final.
- A day after final roster cuts in 2013, the Cowboys traded DT Sean Lissemore to the Chargers and TE Dante Rosario to the Bears. A few days later, they cut OG Nate Livings, S Eric Frampton and LB Alex Albright.
- In 2014, they waived OG John Wetzel one day after final cuts and waived CB Jemea Thomas a day later.
- In 2015, they waived DE Lavar Edwards on the Sunday following final cuts and waived free agent acquisition LB Jasper Brinkley on Monday.
- In 2016, they waived Jameill Showers one day after roster cuts to make room for Mark Sanchez.
- Last year, the team released Cedric Thornton and waived Mark Nzeocha on the Sunday after roster cuts, and claimed Brian Price off waivers from Green Bay and acquired Jayrone Elliott in a trade with Green Bay.
Recent history shows that bottom of the roster veterans live dangerously in Dallas in late August/early September.
Which veteran players do you see getting cut on Saturday, or possibly being traded at some point over the next week?