The Dallas Cowboys have made the requisite cuts to get to their initial 5- man roster for 2022. The operative term here is “initial.” There will be almost weekly changes from now until the end of the season, and we know a handful are already planned as the team performs the machinations used to get players on IR, to the practice squad, and other things that let them control the entire roster.
Nothing signals that change is inevitable more than releasing every quarterback not named Dak Prescott. There are also players that will be going to IR as soon as it is legal under league rules as well as others we know will be added back. All that means that there are still some players on the bubble.
To figure out who and how many could still be released to make room for other moves, we need to look at that initial roster. These slides are courtesy of RJ Ochoa.
Of these names, we already know some things that are coming. Tyron Smith and James Washington are expected to go to IR, opening up two spots. However, they still have to find places for a backup QB, presumably Cooper Rush, K Brett Maher, LS Jake McQuaide, and probably ST ace CJ Goodwin. That means at least two of the names on the slides above will not be there much longer.
One way to do this might be some more IR designations. CB Kelvin Joseph is one player who could be stashed for a few weeks via that route. DT John Ridgeway might be another. Both had some issues during camp that can be used to justify it. All NFL teams use what I refer to as the hangnail technique, where something that really should not keep them off the roster is used to manufacture a reason. It is a future move, and if they designate them as eligible to return, they have players who could be brought back in season as needed.
RIdgeway is also a player who could just be waived with an eye to getting him onto the practice squad. He was outplayed during camp and preseason by Quinton Bohanna. The team probably only wants to carry one big body 1-tech on the roster. Ridgeway would likely benefit from a year of development to come back and compete next year.
If they keep Joseph on the team for the regular season, that could make Nahshon Wright a possible candidate for the same kind of treatment. He struggled at times in coverage, especially in the preseason games. There are many who question if he is even worth bringing back to the PS. The Cowboys are always loathe to admit they got any draft pick wrong, and that would tilt things to stashing him.
Even with Washington headed to IR, that leaves the wide receiver room heavy with seven. If the decision is to only roll with six, Dennis Houston is the logical choice to get to the practice squad. Many would worry about him being claimed, but that is usually an overrated danger. However, the team should still be putting feelers out to see if there is any interest in him from other franchises. A lot of that goes on behind the scenes as all teams want to make sure they aren’t making a mistake.
The known moves aren’t the only place there should be concerns. One thing that jumps out is the lack of depth for the offensive line. They only have one backup for C/G in Matt Farniok. They might be planning to bring back Alec Lindstrom. That would fit their loudly stated preference for their own guys, and would force a corresponding move. As other teams are releasing their own players, they also should be looking long and hard at the backup tackles like Josh Ball. He had a generally difficult time during camp and preseason games, although he did do a bit better when at RT. Matt Waletzko looked noticeably better, mostly at LT. He should be the one they keep if the other has to go to make room for an outside addition. Frankly, it should be an open question whether they would even try to sign Ball to the PS based on his performance over the summer. However, he also represents a draft pick, and that would likely lead to an offer. It still might not be the best idea.
Offensive line is not the only place they might want to bring in outside talent, just the most obvious. We all know that the team, meaning Stephen Jones, hates to invest in free agents. But if they do see something they covet out there, Luke Gifford is probably another player who could be sacrificed. With the team using Jayron Kearse as a de facto linebacker, and Markquese Bell seeming to be groomed for the same kind of role, they could easily go with just five. This is a close call between Gifford and rookie Devin Harper, and could go either way. Both might still squeak through the next week and a half, but it would not be a surprise if one got the PS treatment.
Those are the players who may not be sleeping too well leading up to the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It may not mean their journey with the Cowboys is over, just set back a bit. We will be bringing you all the news as it happens here, so stay tuned.