The Dallas Cowboys may not be as deep as they have been in years past, but that doesn’t mean they will have an easier time when it comes to putting together their 53-man roster. There are still decisions to make for Stephen Jones, Will McClay and head coach Mike McCarthy that include talent, but go beyond who the best player is right now (or in three weeks).
In addition to who offers the best performance, the team will be looking to ensure they don’t say goodbye to potential they want to continue harnessing. Beyond that there is the injury factor for guys the club may look to bring back during the season, and the rules to which those maneuvers can happen. Mixed all together and there could be some interesting decisions made come August 30. Here’s a look at six players who could be on the outside looking in at the initial 53-man roster.
QB Dak Prescott
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LOL, yeah right.
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
WR Noah Brown
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Wait, isn’t Brown reportedly having a breakout camp? Aren’t the Cowboys rather thin when it comes to veteran receivers? What gives here?
Well, key in on that word veteran. After playing in 13 games in 2020, Brown is now a vested veteran, meaning that he would not have to endure the waiver process if released off the offseason roster.
Waivers would mean any team could put a claim in on his contract and he’d be awarded to whichever club had the worst 2020 record. Vested veterans aren’t waived, they’re outright released.
Dallas has employed this tactic in the past, and Brown could be right back with the organization as soon as a player is moved to returnable-IR.
There are several candidates for this, including Brown’s fellow WR James Washington. Someone will be cut so that Washington can make the initial 53-man roster and then quickly get shuffled to injured reserve. Brown’s low salary make him a perfect candidate for this type of roster trickery.
ST ace CJ Goodwin
(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Goodwin is a player the Cowboys have done what is referenced above with before, being released in 2020 but then being re-signed a day later and on the field for Week 1. While that is a strong possibility, the strongest possibility, fans can’t look past a potential scenario where Dallas looks to keep a young corner such as DaRon Bland and simply doesn’t have room for Goodwin on their roster anymore.
That seems unlikely; not that they try to find room for Bland but that it comes at Goodwin’s expense. He’s an extremely valuable piece but as a vested veteran, he could be used as a roster chess piece.
DE Tarell Basham
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Basham had a Pick-6 in Thursday’s practice against the Denver Broncos and seems to be well loved in the locker room, but don’t count out him being involved in a numbers game at defensive end.
Dallas lists Micah Parsons as a linebacker, but the Cowboys still likely have five players ahead of Basham on the depth chart. DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong are starters, Dante Fowler was their biggest free agent acquisition and Chauncey Golston and Sam Williams are third-round and second-round picks from the last two drafts.
DE Dante Fowler
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For the same reasons Basham’s listed, Fowler must be mentioned as well. Dallas could certainly roll with six DEs, but if they need depth elsewhere, the decision might come down to which veteran looks to be more valuable between these two guys.
Both players come with a significant dead money penalty of at least $1 million (Basham: $1.25 million). From a glass-half full perspective, cutting either would result in at least $1.75 million worth of savings.
DT Trysten Hill
(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Hill is one of those players whose career can go in multiple directions. Hill was out until mid-November last season after an ACL tear the year prior. Finally fully healthy this training camp, he’s shown the same bursts of talent that were on display prior to the injury in the moribund 2020 campaign.
The Cowboys aren’t necessarily considered deep at defensive tackle, but Hill could be on the outside looking in when the cuts come. He also could be enticing to another team as a trade option.
DT Carlos Watkins
(AP Photo/Steven Senne)
The first of Dallas’ Thick-Six participants last year, Watkins could also see himself on the chopping block. Like Brown, his potential exodus could also have ulterior motives. A low-salary vested veteran, Watkins could have an agreement with the team to return soon after they place a handful of players on injured reserve.
Rookies like OL Matt Waletzo and John Ridgeway who was hurt in the practice against Denver, could be considerations for this type of move.