The Cowboys completed their final roster cuts on Tuesday, though the roster continues to churn ahead of the season opener in New Jersey. But we have a pretty good idea of who was cut from the team for good and which ones are practice squad targets or have already been brought back. You can follow all the moves with our tracker here.
There were a few surprises when all was said and done, though. Kelvin Joseph was traded to Miami for Noah Igbinoghene; Jabril Cox and Matt Farniok were both released and are already on other teams’ practice squads; Simi Fehoko was cut in favor of rookie Jalen Brooks and seems unlikely to return; and undrafted rookies T.J. Bass and Hunter Luepke both made the initial roster. And that’s without even touching the out-of-nowhere trade for Trey Lance last week.
Mike McCarthy had mentioned several times throughout training camp and the preseason that there would be quite a few roster decisions that would be very difficult to make, and he was correct on that. But the decisions the team did make, and the specific players they included and left out, send a very clear message: the Cowboys are not messing around in 2023.
Look at Joseph, a second-round pick in 2021 who was expected to grow into a starting role opposite Trevon Diggs. Immensely talented but technically unrefined coming out of college, Joseph never showed much growth and had off-field troubles on top of it. The Cowboys extinguished any hope of Joseph claiming a starting job this year when they traded for Stephon Gilmore, and they brought in competition with rookie Eric Scott Jr. Joseph didn’t earn his spot, and now he’s gone.
Cox was a similar case. A fourth-round pick in 2021, Cox was widely projected to be a second-round pick and thus generated a lot of buzz in Dallas as a steal. But he tore his ACL halfway through his rookie year, something Cox would never really recover from. He spent much of last year on the inactive list and fell behind Damone Clark (who wasn’t even supposed to play last year after undergoing spinal fusion surgery before the draft) on the depth chart. He just never seemed to measure up to the expectations he came into the league with, and now finds himself on the Commanders’ practice squad.
Also drafted in 2021 was Farniok, a versatile offensive lineman from Nebraska. He played sparingly as a rookie but showed off his position flex last year in the preseason by playing all three interior spots. Farniok ended up starting two games (and playing most of a third) last year at left guard, but he didn’t fare so well. Farniok’s 13 pressures allowed was the most of any Cowboys lineman during that span, including rookie Tyler Smith. Farniok entered camp this year as the top backup interior option but he once again struggled, giving up the most pressures and quarterback hits on the team throughout the preseason.
On the flip side, players like Bass and Luepke made the roster because they forced the Cowboys’ hand. Bass was the only Cowboys lineman to not give up a single pressure in the preseason, and Luepke showcased his ability as both a runner and receiver in the final preseason game. Even second-year safety Juanyeh Thomas, who had arguably the best preseason of anyone on the team, forced the coaches to keep him and go six deep at safety.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy on undrafted rookie T.J. Bass, who made 53-man roster: "He just kept getting better. You see his lower leg strength and just his ability to stick and stay inside of people. ...I like his mindset. He plays the right way. Definitely earned his spot."— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 29, 2023
In previous years, the Cowboys have had a tendency to hold onto players despite poor preseasons because they saw long-term potential in them. That was essentially the case with both Joseph and Cox, and the same could be said of players like Taco Charlton, Cam Fleming, Rico Gathers and, to a lesser extent, Jeff Heath.
No more. McCarthy knew there were going to be difficult decisions, but he and his staff dug down deep and reserved their roster spots just for the ones who went out and proved themselves this summer. Now is not the time to hold onto struggling players and hope they figure it out next year. McCarthy is trying to win in 2023. Beyond that, not much else matters. And the Cowboys’ roster cuts reflect exactly that.