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Ranking the Dallas Cowboys players by roster job security

About a week from final cuts, who are the locks to make the team and who should still worried?

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

As we close in on final cuts for the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys will soon have to decide who comprises their 53-man roster for Week 1 of the 2023 season. While some spots are still up for grabs, others were decided even before free agency. Today, we’re going to break down the roster by varying degrees of job security.

From guys like Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons to the likes of Jose Barbon and Ben Banogu, there’s a wide range of probability among the current players. Who’s already a lock or at least closing in on being one? Who’s on the bubble? Who doesn’t have a prayer?

With the unfortunate news that LB DeMarvion Overshown and TE John Stephens suffered season-ending injuries last Saturday, they’re not included in these rankings. If they were healthy, Overshown would be a lock and Stephens would be neck-and-neck with Hendershot on the third tier.

The 100 Club

QB Dak Prescott
QB Cooper Rush
RB: Tony Pollard
RB Deuce Vaughn
WR CeeDee Lamb
WR Brandin Cooks
WR Michael Gallup
WR Jalen Tolbert
TE Jake Ferguson
TE Luke Schoonmaker
OT Tyron Smith
OT Terence Steele
OG Zack Martin
OG Tyler Smith
C Tyler Biadasz
OL Asim Richards
DE DeMarcus Lawrence
DE Sam Williams
DT Osa Odighizuwa
DT Mazi Smith
DT Johnathan Hankins
LB Micah Parsons
LB Leighton Vander Esch (added after mistakenly left off the list originally)
LB Damone Clark
LB Jabril Cox
CB Trevon Diggs
CB Stephon Gilmore
CB DaRon Bland
S Jayron Kearse
S Malik Hooker
S Donovan Wilson
P Bryan Anger
LS Trent Sieg

That’s 34 players with almost zero explanation needed. You can rifle off these starters and other key players from the top of your head and fill over half the roster. You also have the newly-drafted prospects like Luke Schoonmaker and Mazi Smith who are going to make the team even if their inexperience limits their immediate playing time.

A few of the names on the list merit some discussion. Some might still think Deuce Vaughn is more of a novelty but the Cowboys didn’t draft him for a cute story. He’s proven to be dangerous with the ball in his hands and should only be more threatening when he has Pro Bowl talent leaving him with fewer obstacles to navigate. Vaughn is here to stay for at least his rookie season.

Asim Richards may seem out of place on this list but consider the overall picture on the offensive line. He’s a fifth-round rookie with position flex and who seems to be getting better with more practice and game time. Especially now with injuries to guys like Chuma Edoga and Matt Waletzko, the idea that Richards would get cut next week seems ridiculous.

Jabril Cox went from likely to locked thanks to DeMarvion Overshown’s injury. Even if he doesn’t claim a major role in the rotation, Cox still fills a vital depth need and will hopefully find his groove again after struggling to return from the 2021 ACL injury.

“Whoah! Really?”

WR KaVontae Turpin
TE Peyton Hendershot
DE Dorance Armstrong
DE Chauncey Golston
CB Jourdan Lewis
DB Israel Mukuamu

These next six would be absolutely shockers if they don’t make it, but there at least seems to be a trace of possibility. Turpin’s now finding an offensive role in addition to his special teams work, but at least there are options like Vaughn, Tolbert, and Rico Dowdle who could field kicks and punts. If the Cowboys find Vaughn and Turpin to be redundant players on offense, there’s the slimmest of chances that Turpin takes the fall.

Hendershot probably doesn’t make this tier before the John Stephens injury but now he has a pretty clear path to the roster. Dallas likely keeps four tight ends and Hendershot is easily number three at this point.

Armstrong and Golston appear here, again, as their release would be stunning but not completely impossible. Dallas can save over $5 million in cap space by cutting or trading Armstrong and have a wealth of pass rushers right now. Golston is entering his third year and could be threatened if he’s not a cut above the competition.

Lewis is here but probably wouldn’t even get released, more likely getting tucked away on PUP on IR before his contract expires in 2024. But like Armstrong, Lewis has younger and cheaper guys coming behind him which make it hard to completely guarantee his presence.

Mukuamu has had a quiet August due to injury, allowing some to assume he’s getting passed by guys like Kelvin Joseph, Juanyeh Thomas, and Markquese Bell. But remember, Mukuamu was asked to play a big role in last year’s playoffs and didn’t look bad doing it. His versatility as a CB and S is highly valuable and to see him get dumped now would be jarring.

“They Must Know Something We Don’t”

RB Rico Dowdle
DE Viliami Fehoko Jr
CB Eric Scott Jr
S Markquese Bell
S Juanyeh Thomas

Five guys who wouldn’t be shockers but would at least make you scratch your head. Dowdle appears to have won the backup RB job, or at least the short-yardage role, over Malik Davis and the absent Ronald Jones. His ability to return kicks and cover on special teams is also an easy path to the roster.

Junior Fehoko, a fourth-round rookie, would be a surprising cut. This is especially true after some solid performances and his potential versatility to set the edge or move inside on passing downs. He looks like an intriguing tool for Dan Quinn to keep working with.

It would be pretty alarming for rookie Eric Scott to not make the team after a month of hearing how he’s outshined other CB prospects like Joseph and Nahshon Wright. But every year there’s some guy who lights up training camp and then wilts closer to final cuts.

One of Bell or Thomas was making it, and now Overshown’s injury has made it likely that both will be on the squad. Bell is now more needed with the linebacker’s injury, being discussed to play in that hybrid role. Thomas is more the natural backup to Malik Hooker, but that could also be where Mukuamu finds snaps.

The Bubble

QB Will Grier
RB Ronald Jones
RB Malik Davis
FB Hunter Luepke
WR Jalen Brooks
WR Simi Fehoko
TE Sean McKeon
OL Chuma Edoga
OL Josh Ball
OL Matt Farniok
T Matt Waletzko
G T.J. Bass
C Brock Hoffman
DE Dante Fowler Jr
DT Neville Gallimore
DT Quinton Bohanna
LB Devin Harper
LB Isaiah Land
CB Kelvin Joseph
CB C.J. Goodwin
K Brandon Aubrey

We only have 9-10 slots left from our first three tiers (depending on if Lewis stays on PUP), which means over half of these players won’t be on the official roster. This is where the bulk of your debates and intrigue will come from in the preseason finale and next week’s moves.

Do the Cowboys keep a third QB? Do they think Luepke can do enough things as a true fullback or prefer McKeon for lead blocking? Where do all of those backup offensive linemen stack up a week from now, both with their performance and health concerns? Could a veteran pass rusher like Fowler get squeezed out by younger options in Fehoko and Land? Has Joseph done enough to earn his way back or is it too little, too late?

You may wonder why Aubrey is here given there’s no competition for the kicking job. While that may be true currently, he’s also competing with every new option that becomes available from other teams’ cuts. Can we really say Aubrey has done enough to keep Dallas from getting a wandering eye?

The Dark Horses

WR Dennis Houston
LB Malik Jefferson
CB Nahshon Wright

Before we get into the last group, these three guys deserve a little extra consideration. Houston saw regular-season snaps for Dallas last year and remains a solid option. His lack of any known special teams value probably does him in, though.

Jefferson seems like an afterthought now based on reports and the games, but he was listed above Devin Harper on the team’s most recently released depth chart. He’s missing time right now with a foot injury and that might be the death knell.

Unlike his fellow 2021 draft disappointment, Wright hasn’t been generating the positive buzz that Joseph has recently. Barring any injuries over the next week, it’s hard to see a place for him on the roster with Mukuamu and Scott seemingly more deserving. Still, he’s a third-year player that the team spent a third-round pick on. Coaches and scouts don’t like being wrong.

Everyone Else

WR Jose Barbon
WR Dontario Drummond
WR Tyron Johnson
WR Jalen Cropper
TE Princeton Fant
TE Seth Green
T Earl Bostick Jr
T Alex Taylor-Prioleau
C Alec Lindstrom
DE Ben Banogu
DE Durrell Johnson
DE Tyrus Wheat
DT Isaac Alarcon
CB Josh Butler
DB Myles Brooks
DB D’Angelo Mandell
DB Sheldrick Redwine
S Tyler Coyle

If any of these players make it through final cuts it will be a blind-side haymaker. You might see some practice squad guys out of this pack but there’s no conceivable math, barring new injuries or suspensions, that move these guys into contention for the 53.

That said, these out-of-nowhere moves do happen. As we freely admit in this annual exercise of projecting the roster, the coaches and front office have insights and biases that we don’t. These guys are auditioning constantly in meetings and even their personal conduct during camp and other settings.

And of course, even with the guys we mentioned in earlier groups, you never know who else the Cowboys are keeping track of from 31 other rosters. We opened that idea with the kicker but it applies across the board; over 1,200 players are about to be released or waived in the coming days. These rankings are based on how guys stack up against each other in Dallas, but the landscape could change if the Cowboys get aggressive on the waiver wire or trade market.

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