The Dallas Cowboys put out their 53-man roster on Saturday as we now have our first look at the prime time players the team will present to us on the football field in 2019. Of course, there’s bound to be some shuffling around, but based on this initial roster... what does it tell us exactly about the player resources for the future? Which players are locked down for the long haul and which players are approaching free agency soon? Are there any position groups we should be worried about?
In order to find these answers, we’ve broken down each year through the 2023 season and identified how much cap space the team has allocated to each player on the current 53-man roster (cap numbers are courtesy of Spotrac).
If we’re being technical, both the Cowboys quarterbacks on the roster are in the last year of their contracts, but does that make you nervous? We all know Dak Prescott is going to receive a contract extension at some point; we just don’t know for how much. If push came to shove, the team could always choose to franchise tag him for the 2020 season, assuming they don’t use that tag for someone else.
Cooper Rush has emerged victorious for the backup job, but because he was an undrafted free agent, his contract was only for three years. Because of that; however, he’ll be a restricted free agent next season giving control back to the team should someone try to sign him next season.
With Mike White not making the team, the team should look to the draft soon for another young arm they can bring in to develop behind Prescott.
Similar to Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott will receive a contract extension as well. In fact, it might be coming real soon as contract talks are really heating up. Not only will the Cowboys have Zeke locked down for years to come, but they also have rookie running back Tony Pollard on the books for four super-cheap seasons. Once Zeke gets signed, the running back position for the Cowboys is sitting in great shape.
And let’s just go ahead and have a hat-trick of contract extensions by assuming Amari Cooper is sticking around as well. The team invested a first-round pick to get him, he’s produced on the field, and he’s an extreme high-character guy. What more could you ask for?
Not only is Cooper going to be here a while, but second-year receiver Michael Gallup is going to be very cap-friendly over the next three seasons. With buzz generating that he could be in for a breakout season, Gallup might be one of the best wide receiver bargains in the league real soon.
And roster surprise Devin Smith has two cheap years on his deal with the team. He’s finally healthy, and if he starts to resemble those skills that made him a second-round pick in 2015, that’s going to end up being a bargain as well.
The team also signed veteran receivers Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin to one-year deals this offseason. Chances are, this could be the last year in Dallas for one of them, if not both. Noah Brown, should he return, has two more seasons left on his deal.
Had the team kept Cedrick Wilson, he would’ve been signed through the 2021 season and given the team three seasons of cheap labor.
The team is going to have some decisions to make shortly with their tight end situation. Jason Witten could retire any moment. We know that because he’s already done it once before. He only signed a one-year deal this offseason.
Blake Jarwin is also in his final year of his deal, but he’ll be a restricted free agent, so the team should hang on to him through the 2020 season.
And Dalton Schultz is here for three more years for super cheap. He’s still developing and his ceiling is still yet to be determined.
The Cowboys may look to the draft one of those top collegiate tight end in the early rounds, who will be cap friendly for the next four seasons. Of course, we’ve been saying that for the last couple drafts and nothing has ever materialized. With Jarwin’s pass-catching and Schultz’ blocking, the team is still sitting in pretty good shape for the next couple years.
If the Cowboys offensive line can just stay healthy, they are in fantastic shape as they have all three of their All-Pro’s locked up for at least the next five seasons (Zack Martin is on the books for 2024 as well). With the recent draft investments of the two Connors, Williams and McGovern, they’ve added a couple more players with some good years of service on their deal. And if UDFA Brandon Knight develops into a reliable player, just tack on even more resources for years to come.
The team does have a few players that could be leaving soon as La’el Collins, Joe Looney, and Xavier Su’a-Filo are in the last year of their contracts. And Cameron Fleming has an easy-out option for Dallas after the season. While the Cowboys are sitting in great shape on the offensive line, they’ll have to work a little bit to get their tackle position in order after the season.
The defensive end position group is sitting in great shape due to the Cowboys ability to draft good players, coach them up, and retain them. DeMarcus Lawrence was given a long-term deal this offseason, and youngsters - Dorance Armstrong and Joe Jackson are going to be permanent residents of Dallas for at least the next few seasons. Even Taco Charlton is under contract for two more seasons with an option for a third should he suddenly turn into this great edge rusher.
The Cowboys do have some questions they’ll have to answer soon. Both Robert Quinn and Kerry Hyder are only on the books for the 2019 season. Will either of them be sticking around after that? Will they let Tyrone Crawford play out his contract or save $8M next season with a much cap-friendlier $1.1M dead-money hit? And then there is the enigma that is the Randy Gregory situation. He still has two inexpensive years left on his deal as he just recently signed a one-year extension back in April.
The good news is the Cowboys loaded up on defensive ends, so they now have choices.
While the team is set on the edge, things are much different on the inside as three of the four defensive tackles they have on the roster are in their last year of their contracts. Granted, Antwaun Woods will become an exclusive rights free agent, so the team will get to hang on to him for real cheap.
Tysten Hill is the outlier here as he’s still got his entire four-year rookie deal ahead of him. Of course, we don’t know how that all will play out.
The team will need to bring in reinforcements real soon. If they could hang on to Daniel Wise, that would give them some extra years to work with. Then again, if they could somehow find a way to give Maliek Collins a second contract, then that changes things up quite a bit.
The Cowboys are sitting in great shape at linebackers as they have a young star duo of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch sticking around for a long time. The team just extended Smith, plus LVE comes with a fifth-year option that will keep him in Dallas through 2022.
The team does have three of their linebackers in the last year of their deals in veterans Sean Lee, Joe Thomas, and Justin March. So, that will have to be addressed. It certainly didn’t hurt that UDFA Luke Gifford showed he might be in the mix as a viable reserve. That would be four more years of financial heaven for the Cowboys.
One of the biggest surprises about Donovan Olumba or Mike Jackson not making the 53-man roster is that the team passed up a chance to keep a young, cheap player on the books for the next several years. Instead, they went with the veterans, who all have expiring contracts soon. The 2017 Day 2 draft picks, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, still have two years remaining, but Byron Jones, Anthony Brown, and C.J. Goodwin are all in the final year of their contracts.
This is an area where the Cowboys have some work to do. Chido and Jourdan buy them a little time, but some changes are coming. Hopefully the team can hang on to at least one of their starters, Jones or Brown, as losing both of them is going to leave a big void in the secondary.
Similar to corner, the safety position isn’t all that better in terms of future commitments as entering the year, they only had one player signed beyond the 2019 season. And that player is hopeful breakout candidate Xavier Woods, who has two years left on his rookie deal.
Luckily for Dallas, rookie Donovan Wilson made quite the impression and he could end up being an inexpensive option at safety for the next four years. The team still has a little bit of work to do to keep the fridge stocked for the future, but it’s hard not to be excited for the Xavier and Donovan pairing.