The final releases to get down to the 53-man roster for the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL are due on August 31st. It is, however, hardly the final roster. There will be changes. Some may come in the form of outside signings. It is not at all assured that the backup quarterback for Dak Prescott is currently in the building, for instance. There are also some maneuvers that are made every year to utilize the IR rules. That is especially true now that all players who go on IR in the regular season are eligible to return. The league made an intelligent decision to retain that from the COVID rules of 2020.
There is, of course, a hitch. That only applies to players who are on the roster after the deadline to get to 53 on the 31st. If the Cowboys put someone on IR now, such as they have recently done with Sewo Olinilua, Hunter Niswander, Reggie Robinson II, and Anthony Hines III, they are done for the season.
Dallas currently has four players that could well make the 53-man roster, only to be placed on IR while the team signs replacements, likely from among the players they just released. Here are the ones to expect.
DT Neville Gallimore
Carve this one in granite. Gallimore was projected to be a starter. When he was hurt, it left the defensive tackle position very shallow. We know that Mike McCarthy and Dan Quinn both prefer to have five DTs to go with five defensive ends on their roster. At the moment, they barely have that many viable candidates. The fifth man in the group appears to be Justin Hamilton, who should be on the roster for at least the first three weeks of the season until Gallimore is eligible to return.
That does not mean that Hamilton is the player the team would waive and then hope to bring back. It is not a direct correlation. He could be the one, but the team might have an idea that other teams could claim him. They may well choose to waive someone else they intend to bring back that they are very confident would not be snatched up. If they elect to carry a fullback, as McCarthy likes, Nick Ralston is an excellent candidate to be waived and re-signed. Very few teams put any real value on the position, so he is likely to be one of the pieces involved in this little chess match.
Another way the team could work things is with a position that they want to fill from outside the roster. Backup quarterback, mentioned above, is one way. They could release all the current backups while entering into negotiations with one or more released by other teams. That’s likely to take a day or two anyway. Meanwhile, the vacancy can be filled temporarily by Gallimore or one of the other names on this list.
The calculus is just further complicated by there being four players involved in this, which means some kind of corresponding moves will have to happen for each.
DT Trysten Hill
Hill is a very different case, given that he has been on the physically unable to play list all camp long. What we don’t know from outside is the timetable when he is expected to be ready to play, if at all this year. If he isn’t, he might drop out of this equation and just go straight to season-ending IR. The team could even just release him outright, but that seems highly unlikely given the draft capital he represents. It is more probable that the team will do a similar dance with him and stash him on IR, with a longer stay as something of a ready reserve for depth if needed. He should be on the initial 53.
DE Chauncey Golston
He has also been languishing on PUP. The third-round pick is not going anywhere, although the eventual goal may be to get him onto the practice squad to make up for all the practice time he missed. Despite our handwringing, the chances of another team snatching him when he was unable to practice at all are actually very slim. However, he would have to be activated from PUP to try and get him straight to the PS. Going the activate and put on IR route seems the most likely for him as well. This is a case where the player who would be initially waived to make room for Golston to go IR could come from the same position group. Currently that looks to be Bradlee Anae. Frankly, given Anae’s performance in the preseason, he may be a bit more of a risk to expose to waivers. This one bears watching.
OL Josh Ball
Ball has not been on PUP, just hasn’t been playing in preseason or apparently doing much if anything in practices. Like Golston, he probably represents a bit too much investment for him to not be kept in some fashion, and a stint on IR seems the ticket. Like Hill, he would likely stay there unless injury dictates otherwise. He is another case where someone like Brandon Knight or Matt Farniok might be the one the team waives to bring back. Another possibility for any of the players to take a chance on waiving is the sixth wide receiver if the team decides to carry one. Should they be claimed, which would still be highly unlikely, it would hardly be a severe blow to the Cowboys given how strong their top five are.
There might be other players that could wind up spending a day or so on the roster before going on IR. None are as obvious as these four, however. The first few days after that first 53 is named are always subject to churn. There could be even more if the staff spots some obvious upgrades anywhere on the roster on the waiver wire. It is going to an interesting week and a half leading up to the season opening game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.