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Bubble, bubble: A few Cowboys veterans are already facing a numbers game in staying on the roster

The draft hasn’t even come, and overcrowding is already setting in on the Cowboys roster.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
Noah Brown is one with a tenuous position.
Shane Roper-USA TODAY Sports

With the DeMarcus Lawrence situation happily resolved, the Dallas Cowboys are sitting in as good a shape in the offseason as we have seen in a while. With the draft still a few weeks away, there is already a nearly full 53-man roster of players that the team could roll into the season with feeling very good about its chances. Hopefully, they will add even more quality talent with their coming picks. That is great news for the team. It is not so good for a few veterans, however. A couple of position groups already are shaping up to have some real roster battles in camp. Add in a rookie or two, and things are going to be dicey for some familiar names.

Wide receiver

One of the major objectives this year is to make the roster even more Dak Prescott-friendly. A major component of that is to give him the best weapons in the receiving corps possible. That room is already looking a bit crowded, even if you weed out a couple of names that are likely fated to be nothing more than camp bodies.

The list of players who have a legitimate shot at making the roster:

  • Amari Cooper
  • Michael Gallup
  • Randall Cobb
  • Tavon Austin
  • Noah Brown
  • Allen Hurns
  • Cedrick Wilson
  • Lance Lenoir

The first four names on the list seem to be locks. Cooper and Gallup return as WR1 and WR2, with Cobb the heir apparent for the slot. Austin is the plan for the return specialist, with spot duty in the offense. That leaves the last four battling for perhaps two or at most three spots. And the team is looking hard at wide receivers with their 30 pre-draft visitors, with four already identified. They also have shown interest in a group of others with Dallas Day visits and other things, such as combine and pro day interviews.

Hurns and Wilson have big injury question marks on them, but both are hoping to be back by the start of camp, if not earlier. Brown and Lenoir have both been around for a while, with the former on the 53-man roster his first two years, and Lenoir mostly hanging around the practice squad with some time active as injuries led to him being brought up.

Clearly, something has to give.

Defensive end

You can never have too many edge rushers, but there are still only so many spots you can carry. And the Cowboys have stocked up with this group.

  • DeMarcus Lawrence
  • Robert Quinn
  • Taco Charlton
  • Dorance Armstrong
  • Randy Gregory
  • Tyrone Crawford
  • Kerry Hyder
  • Christian Covington

Lawrence and Quinn are the presumptive starters. Gregory is still facing suspension and no one knows if he will be available at all, but if he is, he will push someone off the roster, although it may not be another DE. Crawford can play at either end or 3-tech, and is a third lock.

Hyder and Covington are like Crawford, able to play end or kick inside, and the latter in particular may be more of a DT when the season roster is assembled.

That brings us to Charlton, who has so far not come close to living up to his first-round selection. He needs to make a real jump this year. The Cowboys have been reluctant to give up on first rounders even when they struggle, but we have already seen the team make some more aggressive moves this year than in the past. That may extend to making the hard decision if they don’t see the development they need. However, he does represent a significant dead money hit, which makes his outright release unlikely.

Armstong is in a much more tenuous position given that he only represents a fourth-round investment. If cuts come down to him versus Charlton and they are close, Armstrong would likely be at a disadvantage, especially in light of a very acceptable dead money hit of just a tick over $500K.

The Cowboys are also looking hard at two ends on the 30 visits list, and several other intriguing options, like Dallas Day invite Ben Banogu out of TCU. So it would be no surprise to see a rookie added to the mix.

Between the two positions discussed here, there are likely to be more than one who will not make it through the end-of-camp cuts. Outside of Charlton, none come with significant costs if released, and Hurns actually represents a nice potential gain in cap space. Injuries may make the decision for some of these players, but we always hope to see that at a minimum.

Of course, outright release is not the only thing that could happen.

Potential trade

The draft is coming, and the Cowboys are a bit low on capital after having invested their first-round pick this year in Cooper. Could some of these players be a way to get a little more ammo? While trades are still also an option after the draft, for now, let’s consider what the Cowboys could do before that.

Brown may be worth a late-round pick, and he or Lenoir could be used for a favorable swap of position with some receiver-hungry teams, especially if Will McClay’s staff has its eye on some of the rather plentiful talent coming out of college. Brown would be the most valuable here. With the rather strong position they have at the starting jobs, the Cowboys might be willing to part with him to help get one of those desired rookie receivers.

And Charlton may be worth an extra mid-round pick or a decent move up, given his first-round status and the fact several teams showed interest in him before he was taken in 2017. It would also alleviate that dead money problem. Armstrong is not as valuable, but still could be offered up for a day three spot.

The numbers right now argue that some of the names listed here are not going to be wearing the Star in the fall. There might not be any offers the team would be willing to accept, but making some inquiries would be a wise thing to do.

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