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Cowboys roster review reveals what they already have heading into the offseason

Could the Cowboys field a complete team in 2023 just using players already under contract?

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

As they prepare for the 2023 offseason, the Dallas Cowboys will no doubt start by looking at the players already under contract. It’s a good exercise for us as well. To assess the team’s needs from the draft and free agency, let’s try to cobble together a roster using only players that are currently signed up for next season.

It’s a simple but effective concept. You often check the fridge and pantry before you go to the grocery store, right? In true Parcellsian spirit, we’re going to look at the ingredients we already have in stock and see if it’s enough to cook with in 2023. It will give us an idea of where the Cowboys most need to focus their offseason efforts.

Quarterback (2)

Dak Prescott
Will Grier

Losing Cooper Rush means a lot more now than it would have in the past. Some thought Grier might push him out last year, but Rush held on to the backup job and then raised his stock tremendously with his 4-1 run as the starter in early 2022.

Still, a depth chart with Prescott and Grier in the top two spots isn’t awful. Grier has real-game experience and could be better suited to the offense that Mike McCarthy and Brian Schottenheimer will be installing. There are certainly better backup options out there, but this is a tenable QB depth chart.

What’s really missing is a third guy for future development. Hopefully, Dallas will address that with one of their later draft picks this spring.

Running Back (2)

Ezekiel Elliott
Malik Davis

We might have been excited with this tandem after the 2022 preseason, but Elliott’s struggles in 2022 make it a far scarier prospect. With legitimate questions circling around Zeke’s future with the team, Dallas clearly has offseason work to do at running back.

While Davis has flashed some potential at times, it’s not enough to assume he can just step in and replace Tony Pollard. Whether it’s through the franchise tag or a new contract, Dallas will need to find a way to keep or replace their best running back in the coming months. Elliott just isn’t that dude anymore.

Davis at least gives them a good option to help fill the depth chart. Rico Dowdle will also be a free agent this year, albeit restricted, but his injury history may make the team look elsewhere for additional support.

2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Wide Receiver (6)

CeeDee Lamb
Michael Gallup
Jalen Tolbert
Simi Fehoko
Dennis Houston
KaVontae Turpin

If their young prospects are ready to start contributing then this depth chart might work for Dallas in 2023. But with neither Tolbert or Fehoko proving themselves at all so far, the Cowboys clearly have to address their WR3 spot and perhaps more in the coming months.

Perhaps the biggest question, though, is what Gallup will be able to offer next season. Will he finally bounce back from the 2021 ACL injury or have we truly lost him as a legitimate starting option? That’s a huge issue for Dallas to decide this offseason; just which spot on the depth chart are they trying to fill?

If they’re confident in Gallup’s recovery then that relieves a lot of pressure. But operating on faith could be dangerous, especially given the lack of reliable depth behind him. Even bringing back T.Y. Hilton or Noah Brown isn’t the answer here. The Cowboys need to make a significant move to bolster the current offense now and for the next few years.

Tight End (4)

Jake Ferguson
Peyton Hendershot
Sean McKeon
Ian Bunting

We’ve been talking about the idea of a Ferguson-Hendershot duo at TE for a while now. If Dallas does let Dalton Schultz walk as a free agent, which feels likely, then we could very well see the youth takeover in 2023. With McKeon as the third guy, it’s a relatively inexperienced but intriguing trio.

Ferguson replacing Schultz doesn’t feel like a huge risk. If you maintain the belief that Schultz is more of a system product than a game-changing talent then Ferguson’s skills should fill the void. But if there’s any worry about Dak Prescott losing one of his favorite targets, Dallas might hedge the bet with a move for another veteran to help strengthen the depth chart.

Offensive Line (9)

G Zack Martin
OT Tyron Smith
OT Tyler Smith
C Tyler Biadasz
G/C Matt Farniok
OT Josh Ball
OT Matt Waletzko
C Alec Lindstrom
G/T Isaac Alarcon

Worst-case scenario; Dallas could field a starting line with the Smiths at the tackle spots, Martin and Biadasz in their usual roles, and Farniok at left guard. They’d have little depth and some worries about Tyron’s durability, but it would be roughly the same as the line they deployed at times last year.

Thankfully, bringing OT Terence Steele back won’t be complicated as a restricted free agent. But losing Jason Peters and Connor McGovern as versatile depth hurts and, at the very least, needs to be looked at this year.

If Tyron Smith is going to be a salary cap casualty, that makes the offensive line a much more critical offseason issue. But even if the veteran returns, neither Ball or Waletzko has shown they can be trusted yet as a swing tackle. Clearly, Dallas has work to do here.

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Defensive End (4)

DeMarcus Lawrence
Dorance Armstrong
Sam Williams
Chauncey Golston

This group, along with LB Micah Parsons’ considerable usage as a pass rusher, makes for one of the team’s most solid areas going into the offseason. Second- and third-year development from Williams and Golston should allow for organic improvement without the need for any major changes. Keeping Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator certainly helps that notion as well.

They could certainly use at least one more body, perhaps re-signing Dante Fowler Jr. or adding another mid-round DE in the draft. But thankfully, the core is already strong and should only improve going forward.

Defensive Tackle (3)

Osa Odighizuwa
Neville Gallimore
Quinton Bohanna

Veterans Carlos Watkins and Johnathan Hankins are both free agents, clearly creating some holes that need to be filled. Even if you’re happy with Odighizuwa, Gallimore, and Bohanna as the top three in the DT rotation, you need at least two more guys to get through the season.

Hankins was especially good as a space-eater, making a clear impact in his limited time as a mid-season acquisition. Getting him back on a modest deal to have a full offseason with Quinn could make him far more effective in 2023.

Whether it’s new contracts for Watkins and Hankins or bringing in some fresh faces, the Cowboys have to at least add more bodies here. How they feel about the young guys will determine just what level of investment is made.

Linebacker (6)

Micah Parsons
Damone Clark
Jabril Cox
Devin Harper
Devante Bond
Malik Jefferson

Are the Cowboys ready to make Clark and Cox key players on defense? If so, then they can focus on depth this offseason. But while Clark may be ready for a significant role in 2023, Cox has yet to play major minutes and could be too high a risk.

Losing Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Barr as free agents would create a dramatic shift from a season ago. Vander Esch has arguably his best season since his rookie year and Barr proved to be a savvy pickup. You could see both coming back if the prices are right.

Beyond these players are a whole lot of unproven and unreliable options. They may bear fruit with time, but trusting any of them to be an injury away from a big role would be negligent management.

NFL: JAN 22 NFC Divisional Playoffs - Cowboys at 49ers Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cornerback (5)

Trevon Diggs
Jourdan Lewis
DaRon Bland
Nahshon Wright
Kelvin Joseph

If Lewis returns at full strength and Bland continues building on a great rookie season, Dallas has a capable top three for next year. Wright and Joseph make for solid depth with hopes for third-year improvement, but still not where you’d thought they’d be as Day 2 draft picks in 2021.

At the very least, the Cowboys have guys to step up and replace Anthony Brown’s likely departure as a free agent. But even with sufficient bodies, Dallas needs to look at getting better at this position. Finding a better CB2 to pair with Diggs could make a huge difference for the entire defense going forward.

With around $4.7 million in cap relief if Lewis is released, we could see that move coming. Dallas may elect to draft or sign a new starting cornerback, making Bland the slot corner and hopefully strengthening the group overall.

Safety (5)

Jayron Kearse
Malik Hooker
Israel Mukuamu
Markquese Bell
Tyler Coyle

Dallas has a capable starting duo and some intriguing depth for next year. Losing Donovan Wilson would hurt, but it could be mitigated if Mukuamu and Bell step up with more opportunities. Mukuamu also provides some versatility as a CB option, which he showed late last season.

Outside of potentially re-signing Wilson, Dallas likely stands pat at safety. It’s not a position they’ve given much priority to in recent years and have lucked out with minimal free agent moves and late-round draft picks. With bigger needs at several other positions, it’s hard to see them changing that strategy now.

Special Teams

P Bryan Anger

Kicker Brett Maher and long snappers Jake McQuaide and Matt Overton all have expiring contracts. Will Dallas just run it back with Maher and McQuaide or will they be looking for some new blood?

Jerry Jones said recently that the team is “starting over” at kicker, naturally leading to speculation that Maher won’t be re-signed. But despite his disastrous night in the first playoff game, Maher had a Pro Bowl-worthy season and shouldn’t be summarily dismissed. That “starting over” comment may have simply meant they’re going to explore all their options, which could still include allowing Maher to compete.

Whatever they do, Dallas clearly has to make some moves to at least field a kicker and long snapper in 2023.

Overall, we see that the team isn’t quite solvent yet for next season. Some positions like wide receiver, offensive line, and linebacker would be woefully short on depth and perhaps even in the starting lineup. Some simply don’t even have enough bodies, like at running back, defensive tackle, or on special teams.

This helps give us a sense of where the Cowboys will focus their salary cap and draft resources. They’re going to have lean on some internal growth, such as at defensive end or safety, but that would be too risky at other positions.

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