We continue the dive into the Dallas Cowboys’ offseason roster. The first part of this series examined the QB, RB, and TE positions, and the second covered the WR and OL units. Now we shift to the defense. Let’s start with guys up front. In an unusual development, Mike McCarthy has stated he prefers to go with six DEs and four DTs on the roster, giving us a sneak peek at how the team is going to be built.
You can lock these in for different reasons. Lawrence is of course still early in his huge contract, plus is simply the best EDGE on the roster. Crawford offers the ability to flex inside, which has been valuable in the past. And Anae is one of the stunning values the Cowboys got in the draft, which pretty much assures he will be included.
Dallas has not just one, but two huge wild cards this year. Both are still awaiting a decision from Roger Goodell on reinstatement. The team seems very optimistic about both, but we have learned that when the commish is involved, it is extremely hazardous to tabulate any fetal domestic fowl.
There is also the question of just how ready they will be to play after so long out of the league. The hope is that they will round back into form quickly, but hope is not a strategy. At this point, we simply don’t know if either of them will be able to contribute this season.
Armstrong was on the roster last season but had limited snaps and production. That still gives him a real leg up for that sixth DE spot, if not higher. Jackson spent the year on the practice squad, while Jelks was on IR. Both were late-round draft picks in 2019, so the team will be hoping to get some return on the limited investment, but they will not have much of a chance of being on the roster if Gregory and Smith do make it back into the league. It’s not a great situation for them, but they are valuable insurance at this point.
As UDFAs, the normal expectation is that they are mainly fighting for a chance at the PS. But it is worth noting that Carter got the biggest guarantee of any Dallas UDFA at $145,000. He is a small school project, but the team obviously saw something in the college teammate of their seventh-round pick, QB Ben DiNucci. If you are shopping for a pet cat, he might warrant your consideration.
It is a sign of how things have changed in the interior of the defensive line that the three apparent locks going into camp (whenever that may be) are all new names for the Cowboys. McCoy and Poe, along with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, are the biggest free agent signings and are both expected to be big contributors. Gallimore was another of those steals, in this case in the third round, and was reportedly basically tied with second round pick CB Trevon Diggs - which means he was also a consideration in the first, especially if the Cowboys had elected to trade back. Of course, we all know that didn’t happen, to our incredible delight.
The second-round pick from last year was a disappointment, to put it mildly. His future with the team is a bit cloudy. However, we are pinning great hopes on the new coaching staff, in this case Mike Nolan and particularly Jim Tomsula. It would be a real boost for the team if they could find a proper role for Hill and make that pick pay off.
The starter from last season is a unique case as an Extended Rights Free Agent. That means the Cowboys have complete control over him, and just have to extend a tender to keep him. It is unclear why that hasn’t happened, although it may simply be a matter of him not counting against the salary cap now with no rush to do anything. It does allow an extra measure of flexibility, and hopefully the organisation has made their intentions known to him. If he is back, it might well mean that Hill could get pushed out. Given the latter’s draft status, that would be at least a bit of a surprise. But once again, the new regime in Dallas is not playing by the same rules as under Jason Garrett. They are not invested in Hill, and the results of the draft may hint that there will be no real objection from ownership whatever call is made.
And that’s a good thing.
It seems a bit harsh to put the camp body label on Hamilton. But it also is a bit of an unavoidable conclusion. It is possible he would be the next player cut if the team has to open up another spot on the roster during the offseason. Roster churn is already under way with the addition of CB Daryl Worley, plus the cuts of LB Chris Covington and CB C.J. White. With no real resume, Hamilton’s situation is very tenuous before we even get to camp.
The Cowboys also added one DT UDFA. He is in much the same boat as Hamilton, but might actually have a better chance of surviving to the start of camp so the team can see what they have in him.
These are included here, since the linebackers and secondary will take some space to discuss in the final installment of the series.
Let the kicking competition begin. And this looks to be a very legitimate camp battle, with Forbath’s perfect performance after replacing Brett Maher stacked up against Zuerlein’s ties to new special teams coordinator John Fassel. Hopefully, this will be based strictly on merit. May the best leg win.
It was a bit of a surprise that the Cowboys didn’t at least sign a UDFA punter to give Jones some competition. His performance fell off in 2019 as part of an overall collapse of special teams. Don’t be surprised to see someone added before camp opens.
Mr. Perfect basically has the LS job until he doesn’t want it or time finally catches up with him. Fortunato is the obligatory camp snapper brought in to reduce the workload on Ladouceur. At most, the new guy is just cheap insurance.
That is how I see these players stacking up. We’ll finish them up in the next outing, and then I will take a stab at projecting a 55-man roster, and maybe even a PS lineup, for the regular season.