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Final Cowboys 53-man roster projection before cut deadline

Between the Trey Lance trade and preseason finale, what’s changed for Dallas official roster?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Between their trade for QB Trey Lance and Saturday’s preseason finale, the Dallas Cowboys have given us the last big pieces of new information ahead of the NFL’s cut deadline day on August 29th. Based on everything we know now, here’s a final projection for Dallas’ eventual 53-man roster.

It’s important to remember that another key number in this analysis is 46, the guys who will actually be active on game days. That means seven spots go to players who are being secured in reserve for either depth or developmental purposes. This sometimes causes guys to make the roster who feel like overkill at their position, but the team is more focused on protecting them for future use.

A perfect example of that comes at our first position.

Quarterback (3)

Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance

There was healthy debate before Friday night about whether or not Dallas would keep Will Grier as a third QB. Well, after trading a fourth-round pick to the 49ers for Lance, the Cowboys guaranteed that third roster spot for the position. Lance will spend the year in the lab with the coaches while Prescott and Rush continue their normal duties.

Running Back (3)

Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn

This top three was all but confirmed Saturday night when neither Dowdle nor Vaughn played in the preseason finale. While Malik Davis and Hunter Luepke both looked good, they both should make it to the practice squad.

Wide Receiver (5)

CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup
Jalen Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin

Now that Turpin has worked his way into more offensive snaps it allows the Cowboys to go with just five. This is further supported by the potential to use running backs like Pollard and Vaughn in receiving roles. With greater need for depth and roles at other positions, going long here to protect someone like Jalen Brooks just feels too luxurious.

Tight End (4)

Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot, Luke Schoonmaker
Sean McKeon

It feels like there is one roster spot floating out there for either Luepke at fullback, a sixth WR, or a fourth TE. Given Schoonmaker’s missed time in camp and the team’s reported preference of McKeon as a blocker out of the backfield, he seems like the safest bet to make it of the other options.

Offensive Line (9)

Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Zack Martin
Tyler Biadasz, Terence Steele, Brock Hoffman
T.J. Bass, Asim Richards, Matt Waletzko

Injuries are going to create some funny moves here at final cuts. The Cowboys will probably carry at least one of Josh Ball or Chuma Edoga, if not both, so that they can put them on injured reserve with the hope of having them back after the four-week minimum. That means guys like Bass or Hoffman may be among the team’s cuts but then get re-signed as soon as one of the others is put on IR.

While we’re only going back on current names here, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys end up adding at least one new guy via trade or off waivers. Richards is the only backup OL who should feel safe right now.

Defensive Line (9)

DeMarcus Lawrence, Mazi Smith, Osa Odighizuwa
Sam Williams, Chauncey Golston, Dorance Armstrong
Dante Fowler, Johnathan Hankins, Villami Fehoko

Perhaps the toughest choice of the entire roster is what to do with the back half of the defensive line. Does the team want more beef with either Bohanna or Neville Gallimore, or do they prefer the inside/out versatility and upside of guys like Golston and Fehoko?

But again, this is where the 46 versus the 53 comes into play. If you kept Bohanna or Gallimore, would they even dress? If not, they can’t help you in a game. Dallas can get Bohanna to the practice squad and will take the $2.7 million in cap space from releasing Gallimore.

Linebacker (6)

Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch, Damone Clark
Jabril Cox, Devin Harper, Isaiah Land

One reason for not keeping a 10th defensive linemen is that you have two linebackers in Parsons and Land who are mostly pass rushers. Land is a classic 47-53 guy for the roster; he may not dress once but has looked too good in the preseason to risk on the practice squad. With Armstrong and Fowler both free agents in 2024, plus now with Sam Williams’ legal troubles, there’s good reason to keep Land safe.

Defensive Backs (11)

Trevon Diggs, Stephon Gilmore, DaRon Bland
Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, Donovan Wilson
Israel Mukuamu, Eric Scott, Juanyeh Thomas
Markquese Bell, Kelvin Joseph

With safeties playing hybrid LB roles Dallas goes long here to keep Bell in the mix. Joseph hangs on as the replacement for C.J. Goodwin on special teams but with more defensive value. Eric Scott could go to the practice squad after a quiet preseason but they may not want to risk that with Gilmore and Jourdan Lewis both on expiring contracts.

Speaking of Lewis, all signs point to him starting the year on the PUP list. If he is activated for Week 1, Joseph is probably out.

Special Teams (3)

Brandon Aubrey (K), Bryan Anger (P), Trent Sieg (LS)

We’ll see if it lasts all season but Aubrey is the kicker for now. Showing off his leg Saturday night with a 59-yarder certainly didn’t hurt.

Don’t be surprised if Dallas uses the veterans Anger and Sieg for some roster maneuvers, cutting them before Tuesday’s deadline with a handshake deal to bring them back after moving someone else to IR.

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