The months long lack of football activity has us looking forward to Dallas Cowboys training camp even more than usual. With new coaches, an infusion of highly-anticipated talent, and a very solid core of returning players, our hopes are high. One of the most exciting parts of all camps are the battles to make the roster. We look at rookies, including UDFAs, and imagine who will be the next emerging star. There’s a flip side to that, of course. That means some veteran players are likely to be looking for a job when the roster is cut.
Here are five names that are likely in real peril of seeing their time in Dallas end.
The Cowboys have been loathe to cut ties with premium draft picks from past years, so at first glance, you’d think 2019’s second-round selection, and the first player Dallas took after trading away the first-round spot to get Amari Cooper, should be safe. But two things indicate that this may no longer be the case. First, the team cut ties with former first-rounder Taco Charlton last year after he failed to show enough development and growth. And as mentioned, this is a new staff that has no investment in him, as well as possibly having a very different philosophy under Mike McCarthy.
There certainly is a lot of new competition at defensive tackle for him. The Cowboys signed both Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe as free agents, then invested their third round pick in Neville Gallimore. McCarthy has expressed a preference to carry four DTs and six DEs on the roster, so that would seem to leave a place for Hill on the depth chart. But the Cowboys also have exclusive rights free agent Antwaun Woods lurking. Woods was more productive than Hill, by a good bit, last season. There is still a question of why the team has not tendered him, but there is no rush for them, as that ERFA designation gives them complete control over his future. If he is signed before camp, the DT room would suddenly look too crowded for Hill to make it out of camp. Hill has to make a huge leap to wind up back with the team.
With the reinstatement of Aldon Smith, Armstrong’s future may hinge on whether Randy Gregory also gets another chance to play. However, even in that case, Armstrong will mainly have to fight off two rookies, fifth-round pick Bradlee Anae and UDFA Ron’Dell Carter. He would probably stick if only one of them makes the roster, barring the team signing another free agent DE at some point. However, he did not stand out last season, so while he does not have as much to prove as Hill, he also is going to have to step his game up in camp. And he is going to have Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson coming after his job as well.
Brown is a former starter, and with the departure of Bryon Jones and the possibility of Chidobe Awuzie switching to safety, it would at first appear he is in good shape. But as they did at DT, the Cowboys invested heavily in corners this offseason. They signed Daryl Worley and Maurice Canady in free agency, then double-dipped in the draft to snag Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson II. Diggs is expected to get every chance to start this season.
It could be argued that Jourdan Lewis is the cornerback that is most threatened by the infusion of talent, as well as his notorious lack of size, but he was one of only two players to get more than one interception last year, and his stat sheet shows far more production across the board last season. Brown was already a bit of a falling player. Now with a new staff looking at groceries they picked, he has moved to the endangered list.
There is one thing that may change this, however. He just signed a new deal, and releasing him comes with a dead cap cost of $6.25M. It remains to be seen if that will have the team keep him if he is outplayed by some of that new blood.
The tight end group is hardly crowded. That might save Schultz, but there is a belief that a blocking tight end, as he has been, is not going to be valued nearly as much as previously. With Blake Jarwin set to start, the backups are likely to be chosen based on who shows the best hands in camp, as well as what they can do with the ball after they catch it. FA signing Blake Bell has a similar history and also has to show something, but another possible challenge to Schultz may come from UDFA Sean McKeon. He did not see a lot of games at Michigan, only playing in seven his senior season, but caught 13 balls. If he and Bell both show more as receivers than Schultz, the latter’s hopes may depend on the team carrying four TEs on the roster. That is hardly a given.
Fullback is a position that doesn’t even exist on many NFL rosters. Olawale also has the problem of appearing to have been a Jason Garrett player all along. McCarthy does have a history of using fullbacks effectively. The problem here is that Olawale has always seemed to fail to make significant contributions in his limited time on the field.
Now the Cowboys have brought in Sewo Olonilua. The UDFA was used as a halfback in his career at TCU, which is an indication that he could be more suited to being not just a lead blocker. He and Olawale are clearly in a competition for one spot. Without Garrett to protect him, Olawale has his work cut out for him.
Not having OTAs makes this all a bit speculative, but the final roster is still a numbers game. All of these players face some real challenges, and it would be rather unusual if all of them wound up making the cut. Dallas is getting universally high marks for their offseason. That means that the talent they brought in is viewed favorably. New faces mean that some familiar ones will be gone come September, assuming the NFL schedule stays on track.
What do you think? Which of these players are most at risk, and are there others you think should be included?