The Cowboys quietly released three players from the bottom of their roster on Monday. With the 2023 NFL Draft starting tonight, Dallas was clearly making room for their impending influx of rookie talent. Did these releases reveal anything about the team’s draft priorities?
The three cuts were not players of consequence; TE Ian Bunting, LB Devante Bond, and CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart. Mostly practice squad guys, only Bunting had ever appeared in the regular season for Dallas and it was just a handful of snaps in one 2021 game.
While these releases may have simply been about players the team felt had the least chance of making the roster in August, is it at all telling that they came from the tight end, linebacker, and cornerback positions? After all, the Cowboys still want to have enough bodies at these positions for their spring practices, training camp, and preseason.
If they mean anything at all, these moves only reinforce what many feel are already Dallas’ biggest needs going into the draft. It is widely speculated that the Cowboys will be targeting all three positions early, particularly TE and LB, with the potential for one of each coming with their first two picks.
Let’s say the Cowboys do take a TE on either Thursday or Friday night. That player walks in with a guaranteed roster spot, but so does returning prospect Jake Ferguson and likely Peyton Hendershot. That still leaves Sean McKeon and Seth Green, plus any potential late-round or undrafted prospects, to duke it out for the bottom of the roster and as camp bodies.
At linebacker, Dallas still hasn’t re-signed Anthony Barr or added anyone to replace him. Only Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch, Damone Clark, and Jabril Cox are safe bets to make the team this year. Many expect the Cowboys target this position early, perhaps with their second-round pick.
While Dallas may be loaded at cornerback for 2023, that could change quickly next year. Trevon Diggs, Stephon Gilmore, and Jourdan Lewis are all on expiring contracts. Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright could be in do-or-die situations this season. Right now, DaRon Bland is your only secured asset for 2024.
If the Taylor-Stuart move was more about the secondary in general, one could look at safety and wonder what the future holds. Donovan Wilson just got re-upped for the next three years but Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker both become free agents in 2024.
Again, this could easily be reading too much into the release of three relatively irrelevant players. But seeing the positions they played, and comparing it to the Cowboys’ already well-established needs, comes with a certain degree of coincidence. It doesn’t move the needle, but it just might give validation to what we already believed about the team’s plans for this draft.