It’s number crunching time around the NFL. Like all of the other organizations, the Dallas Cowboys are in the midst of trimming their roster from 80 to get under the league mandated 53-man limit. There are plenty of tough decisions that will have to be made, but that’s just the nature of the business.
The Cowboys now have to decide who makes the initial 53-man roster and who doesn’t. They also have to decide who to try to get back on the practice squad. Like last year, NFL practice squads will once again be set at 16, however, there are a few changes for the 2022 season.
The NFL and NFLPA also agreed on changes to the practice squads. pic.twitter.com/OL9n9dUIka— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 25, 2022
Of the 16 players, at least 10 must be of the typical “practice squad eligible” category, with up to four of which could be in their third season on an NFL practice squad. As for the remainder of practice squad eligible players, they could only previously have two years. Just like the last two seasons, teams can have up to six veteran players with unlimited accrued seasons on their practice squad.
One change from last season is that practice squad players can now be elevated three times during the regular season before having to be promoted to the 53-man roster. In 2021, players were only allowed to be elevated twice. When it comes to the postseason, there is no limit on a player’s eligibility for elevation from the practice squad.
With all of that in mind, below are the players the Cowboys should try to keep either on the initial 53-man roster or find some way bring them back on the practice squad.
RB Malik Davis
- preseason week 1 - 29 snaps (39%)
- preseason week 2 - 18 snaps (33%)
- preseason week 3 - 38 snaps (50%)
Malik Davis has been in a neck and neck battle with Rico Dowdle for the RB3 spot behind Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard the entire offseason. Both running backs have been impressive, but when it comes to crunching numbers it’s difficult to imagine the Cowboys keeping four RBs on their 53-roster for the 2022 season.
To cut Davis would mean putting him at risk of being claimed by someone else on the waiver wire, which is highly likely considering his play in preseason. Because of that, it makes it even less likely they can bring him back to stash on the practice squad. Considering the unknown future of Zeke and Pollard next year, Dallas would be wise to find some way to keep him around.
WR Brandon Smith
- preseason week 1 - 29 snaps (39%)
- preseason week 2 - 19 snaps (35%)
- preseason week 3 - 34 snaps (45%)
When it comes to crunching the numbers at wide receiver for the Cowboys, Brandon Smith’s name isn’t one you typically see make the final 53-man roster. Despite being one of the more impressive WRs in preseason, he’s currently a long shot to stick around. The second-year WR shows plenty of promise, but sadly that may not be enough.
The undrafted free agent out of Iowa last year is someone the Cowboys would probably like to stash on the practice squad for the second year in a row. He’s shown big-play ability this preseason and that he can be a red zone threat, both of which the Cowboys could use more of the passing game. But, if cut, he may be difficult to bring back because of all that.
TE Peyton Hendershot
- preseason week 1 - 26 naps (35%)
- preseason week 2 - 31 snaps (57%)
- preseason week 3 - 36 naps (47%)
Will the Dallas Cowboys carry three or four tight ends on their final 53-man roster for the 2022 season? Depending on that answer, it could come down between Peyton Hendershot and Sean McKeon for the final TE roster spot behind Dalton Schultz and Jake Ferguson. If that’s the case, Hendershot may or may not the odd man out.
The undrafted free agent this year has arguably been the third-best TE for the Cowboys this offseason. Rumors are he has quite a few fans among the Cowboys coaching staff, which could mean he’s already locked up a roster spot. However, Dallas has invested two years in McKeon and may not be willing to give up on him just yet.
DT John Ridgeway
- preseason week 1 - 21 snaps (30%)
- preseason week 2 - 26 naps (35%)
- preseason week 3 - 47 snaps (64%)
The Cowboys fifth-round draft pick this year isn’t really someone who has stood out much this offseason to grab any headlines. But, given the nature of his position, and the role he plays in Dan Quinn’s system, that’s not all that surprising. Ridgeway is really just a two-down, run-stuffing defensive tackle, but one that shows enough promise to hopefully keep around.
Sadly for him, Dallas has more promising depth at DT than they’ve had at any point in the past few years. Because of that, he could be one of the few draft picks this year that gets caught in the number crunch. Ideally, the Cowboys would find some way to keep him on the 53-roster, but if not, they need to make him a priority to bring back on the practice squad.
LB Storey Jackson
- preseason week 1 - 49 snaps (71%)
- preseason week 2 - 33 snaps (45%)
- preseason week 3 - 23 snaps (31%)
The Dallas Cowboys will probably keep five linebackers, maybe six at most, on their final 53-man roster this year. With Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch, Anthony Barr, and Jabril Cox already pretty much set in stone, that leaves one, maybe two, spots up for grabs. For players like Storey Jackson, that doesn’t bode well for him making it through the final cuts.
Jackson was an undrafted free agent this year who is likely competing with Devin Harper and Luke Gifford for one of those final roster spot. Harper has been pretty impressive this offseason and a Gifford is one the Cowboys better special teams players. Jackson on the other hand has played just as well either, but still is likely on the outside looking in.