The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of bodies who will be fighting for a roster spot this year. With new players coming in, the team will have to make room and that means saying goodbye to some of the longer-tenured Cowboys players.
But which Cowboys veterans are most at risk of being left off the team’s 53-man roster? Before we make our selection, let’s get a rundown of the Cowboys players with the greatest amount of seniority...
Tyron Smith’s has been one of the best bargains in football due to the front office getting him signed on a super long-term deal. But that bargain can turn to liability when he’s unable to stay on the field. Smith has missed 20 games over the past two seasons combined and it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to keep him healthy. That being said, $13 million per year for a premier left tackle is still an excellent bargain, so he is safe.
The 2014 draft stars, Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence, are locks to make the roster. Martin, even at the age of 31, is still one of the best interior linemen in the league. Lawrence was thought to be a possible cap casualty this offseason, but a pay restructure has him safely secured for another three years.
The 2016 draft guys all have unique situations. Dak Prescott is undoubtedly safe as the team just re-signed him to a huge four-year, $160 million deal last season. Ezekiel Elliott is also very secure for this year as his entire salary is guaranteed. Next season, it’s a different story though. And Anthony Brown, who normally is everyone’s favorite cap casualty candidate, is coming off a good season. His $5 million base salary combined with his low $1.5 million dead money hit makes him an ideal candidate. The only problem is he’s sort of a good value now.
Finally, the six-year players include Jourdan Lewis and Noah Brown. Lewis is similar to Anthony Brown in that the Cowboys could save a little money by releasing him, yet at the same time, his cost is low enough that it would make sense to keep him around. Noah Brown is a player Cowboys fans try to cut every year because we lose sight of how much the coaching staff loves him. Brown is a good special teams player as well as a good blocking receiver.
Prediction for longest-tenured Cowboys player to be released: Jourdan Lewis
The path for Lewis being released consists of any of the younger corners stepping up and showing potential. Players like Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, and rookie DaRon Bland all have a shot to compete for reps at cornerback. If any one of these players performs, it could either push Lewis out of the slot or push Brown from the outside. In either scenario, Lewis is the odd man out because if Brown loses his spot on the outside, he’d just take Lewis’ spot in the slot.
Let’s change it up a bit, and now include the longest-tenured players in the league whether it’s been with Dallas or not. The candidates then become...
Looking at the players we haven’t previously discussed...
Jake McQuade and Bryan Anger are key special teams players and favorites of coach John Fassel, so their job should be safe. Jayron Kearse is coming off his best season as a pro and just signed a two-year extension so he’s not going anywhere. C.J. Goodwin is the team’s special teams ace with a low cap cost, so he seems like a good bet to keep his job.
Where it becomes interesting is at edge rusher between recently signed Dante Fowler Jr. and last year’s free agent signing Tarell Basham. Both cost about the same, so financially, there’s not a lot to consider between the two. They are also both veteran players who you don’t want hogging reps from the younger guys like Chauncey Golston, Sam Williams, or even Micah Parsons. That could mean that one of these vets is viewed as an experienced depth guy while the other is viewed as a progress stopper. Who is which is anyone’s guess.
Prediction for longest-tenured NFL player to be released: Tarell Basham
Basham does have a slight edge over Fowler because he’s been with Dallas a year already, but the ceiling for him isn’t very high. Fowler, on the other hand, has some appealing upside and it would be nice to see Dan Quinn harness that greatness into a rebound season.