The Dallas Cowboys still have two more preseason games left before they have to make their cut from 90 to 53. In these next few weeks there will be some players that do enough to force the coaching staff to keep them, and there will be some who could potentially play themselves off of the 53-man roster. One thing we may not be talking enough about is the “team control” aspect of the players battling it out for a roster spot.
For many of the down-the-roster players, there are multiple factors involved in who ends up making it, and who ends up getting cut. Age, talent, salary, and familiarity are some of the key ones, but one that may hold more weight this year than previous ones is team control. With the teams current issues of players coming up for contracts, there’s a good possibility that they could lose some of their contributors in the coming years. Players such as; Anthony Brown, Randall Cobb, Noah Brown, La’el Collins, and Maliek Collins come to mind. By no means is the team ready moved on from these players, but it will be tough to pay their big three, while also keeping many of their other key contributors.
So how does that affect the 2019 Dallas Cowboys roster? Well, when deciding on who to cut and who to keep, a player with multiple years left on their contract may be of more value than a guy with one year remaining. For instance, at wide receiver the Cowboys have some tough decisions to make. Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin are two players who are currently playing under one-year deals. While anything can happen, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where both of those players are back in 2020. Noah Brown is a guy who is under contract for two more years, but is currently struggling to get on the field due to injury. When taking a look at the future, the Cowboys may look to keep a guy such as Cedrick Wilson or Jon’Vea Johnson over a Noah Brown due to the more years of control in their contracts.
Staying on the offensive side of the ball, the offensive line is another position group this makes sense for. Xavier Su’a-filo, Adam Redmond, and Joe Looney will all be free agents at the end of the year. While Looney is likely a lock to make the roster because of his versatility and the play he showcased in Travis Frederick absence in 2018, the other two are by no means safe. With young guys such as Connor McGovern, Jake Campos, and Brandon Knight having more flexibility from a contract standpoint, could that give those guys the edge over the veterans with expiring contracts?
Another interesting position group to keep an eye on is at defensive end. While not suggesting that the Cowboys will part ways with Tyrone Crawford, it is something to think about when building for the future. Crawford has just two years left on his contract, and is slated to make $10.1 million dollars in 2019. If released before the start of the season, the Cowboys would save $7 million dollars. This would allow the Cowboys to create some space to help get some of these contracts done, and would allow for some of the younger players to get on the field. Crawford, like Noah Brown, is also rehabbing from injury and hasn’t sniffed the field so far this offseason. Crawford is a team leader, and is very close with the Cowboys coaching staff, so the likelihood of him being released for a player such as Joe Jackson or Jalen Jelks, is very, very slim - close to zero. But the Cowboys could think ahead for 2020 in deciding which defensive linemen to keep.
Another position the Cowboys have to look at the team control aspect when making cuts is in the secondary. With Byron Jones and Anthony Brown heading into their final years, the Cowboys cannot get themselves in a situation where at the end of the 2019 season, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are the only players under contract with experience at the cornerback position. While the “team control” option won’t affect Jones, Awuzie, Brown, or Lewis, it can decide who makes the roster as the teams fifth and sixth corners. C.J. Goodwin will be a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and Donovan Olumba, and Treston Decoud will be free agents in 2020. This could all potentially be taken into account when deciding who makes the team between these three, fifth-round rookie Michael Jackson and undrafted free agent Chris Westry.
The Cowboys certainly have to take more into account when deciding who stays and who goes after the third preseason game. But when the Cowboys are expected to make Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott the top paid players, or at least close to it, at their positions, the cap space will be limited to sign free agents. There’s only so much they can do in the draft to replace some of their key contributors. Making sure the middle to bottom of the roster is filled with guys who will be around for the next few years will be key to keep this team on track to compete for a Super Bowl.