It seems like most people agree: The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best rosters in the NFL. This is evidenced by the fact that the Cowboys have won a lot of games (obviously not the most important ones) over the last handful of years. They are thought to be among the top-level competitors across the entire league heading into the 2023 season.
None of that can be true without a stable foundation, though. The goal is obviously to have incredible talent all the way down to your 53rd overall player on the roster, but the reality is that most rosters are top heavy due to the way that the salary cap works in today’s game. Recently Bob Sturm wrote about how you generally have 8-10 players that comprise 60% of your salary cap space as an example of this overall idea.
You cannot have success in the NFL without a very strong nucleus of players. Thankfully the Cowboys rank near the very top of cores across the league, at least through one set of eyes.
ESPN ranked the Cowboys core of talent just outside of the top 5 across the entire NFL
Recently the worldwide leader put together a ranking of every core across the entire NFL. They defined a core as the five most important players to each team while offering a consideration for age as some core players on teams are a bit older.
After it was all said and done, ESPN determined that the Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills (in that order) were the top 5. The Dallas Cowboys just missed out and came in at number six.
6. Dallas Cowboys
Roster core: QB Dak Prescott, LB Micah Parsons, WR CeeDee Lamb, G Zack Martin, CB Trevon Diggs
Average core age: 26.8
The Cowboys’ core is a clear display of why they are a true — perhaps even underrated — Super Bowl contender. Prescott isn’t at a Mahomes or Allen level, but he’s supported by a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Parsons, a star No. 1 wideout in Lamb and a future Hall of Fame offensive lineman in Martin. And no player has more interceptions over the past two seasons than Diggs (14).
Incidentally the Cowboys have a younger average age among their core than all but one of the teams ranked ahead of them (Bengals). You can take that however you want to, but one deduction is that the Cowboys have a bright future that could last a while.
Of the five players listed, three of them have three or fewer years of NFL service (Parsons, Lamb and Diggs). While that contributes to the excitement of how much of their careers lie ahead for the Cowboys, it also reinforces that there are a lot of financial hurdles in the short-term future of this team. All three of those players will need extensions from the Cowboys very soon and another (Prescott) will need one not only in general, but to help alleviate salary cap space to accommodate the others.
People tend to overuse the terms “window” and/or “win now” when it comes to the NFL and sports in general, but the Cowboys are certainly well-positioned to contend this coming season, although their youth factor allows that to be sustainable if they make the correct decisions in the process.
Do you think the Cowboys should be ranked higher or lower? Head down to the comments and let us know.