A Very Early Cowboys Roster Projection

Jerry Jones

Now that the draft is over, the focus will be on trying to determine who will make the final 53 man roster for the opening week of the season.  Below is a very early roster projection.

Players that are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after the upcoming season are noted, as are players that could possibly retire or be released after the upcoming season.  Note that this isn’t a prediction for the 2018 season.  Most of those marked as potential cuts will likely return for 2018, but keep in mind that the team is expected to have a high number of picks in next year’s draft.  This notation is made because the team is likely considering that possibility in their long-range roster planning.  All salary and free agency information is from www.OverTheCap.com.

Quarterback (Roster 2, Practice Squad 2)

Dak Prescott

Kellen Moore (Pending FA)

Practice Squad – Jamiel Showers and Cooper Rush (PS)

Moore is the front-runner for the backup spot.  Jameil Showers and Cooper Rush make the practice squad with Showers continuing to work at safety in addition to quarterback during practices.  Rush looks like a guy that can be groomed into the primary backup for 2018.  He has somewhat limited arm strength and mobility but is very intelligent.  Does that sound like a former Cowboys backup quarterback?  Hint – the former quarterback has red hair just like Rush and is now the head coach.

Running Back (Roster 3, Practice Squad 1)

Ezekiel Elliot

Darren McFadden (Pending FA)

Alfred Morris (Pending FA)

Jahad Thomas (PS)

Elliot and McFadden are locked in.  Morris very well could be vulnerable, but there isn’t much competition at the moment.  Morris has a salary of $1.2 million and can earn an additional $500,000 in game day roster bonuses.  If Morris is inactive on game days, his salary cap charge will be less than a million more than a rookie replacement.  The initial projection is that Garrett values Morris’ professionalism and reliability and makes the roster, but he could be vulnerable to being replaced by a rookie with a good camp or a veteran cut near the roster deadline.  Jahad Thomas sits on the practice squad to audition for a roster spot in 2018.  In this scenario, the team would go without a scat back as a receiving option, but Lance Dunbar wasn’t used much when he held that role recently.

Fullback (Roster 1, Practice Squad 0)

Keith Smith (Pending FA)

Smith returns as the fullback.  Rod Smith will compete for a roster spot with special teams play but falls short.

Wide Receiver (Roster 6, Practice Squad 1)

Dez Bryant

Terrence Williams

Cole Beasley

Ryan Switzer

Brice Butler (Pending FA)

Noah Brown

Andy Jones (PS)

The top four are locked in, but the remainder is difficult.  Butler could be vulnerable as a 5th receiver because he doesn’t play special teams.  Noah Brown, with his size and aggressive nature, should be able to be an asset on special teams and as a blocker, so he makes the roster.  The choice between Butler and Andy Jones is close to a toss-up.  I went with Butler for his experience and ability to be a backup to Bryant.  The team should be able sneak Jones on the practice squad for another season unless he shows well in the preseason.  However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Butler not make the cut.  Jones could match his receiving ability while also contributing on special teams.  The team goes heavier here than last year.

Quincy McDuffie and Lucky Whitehead don’t make the cut after the team drafted Ryan Switzer to be the punt returner and with Jourdan Lewis’ also having return capabilities.

Tight End (Roster 3, Practice Squad 1)

Jason Witten (Possible Pending Retirement)

Geoff Swaim

Rico Gathers

Blake Jarwin (PS)

There continues to be speculation that James Hanna won’t return 100% healthy, and he doesn’t make the cut in this projection.  If he is healthy, he would make the roster.

Offensive Tackle (Roster 4, Practice Squad 1)

Tyron Smith

Chaz Green

Emmitt Cleary (Pending FA)

Byron Bell (Pending FA)

Dan Skipper (PS)

Guard/Center (Roster 4)

Travis Frederick

Zack Martin (Pending FA)

La’El Collins

Jonathan Cooper (Pending FA)

Joe Looney doesn’t make the cut simply because he is just a marginal player.  Expect Zack Martin to be signed to a long term contract prior to the beginning of the season.  The team could keep a guy on the practice squad to bring up if one of these four are injured, or they could use a backup OT as an emergency guard.

Defensive Line (Roster 10, Practice Squad 2)

Taco Charlton

Maliek Collins

Cedric Thornton (Potential 2018 Salary Cap Cut)

Demarcus Lawrence (Pending FA)

Charles Tapper

David Irving (Pending FA)

Tyrone Crawford (Potential 2018 Salary Cap Cut)

Stephen Paea (Pending FA)

Benson Mayowa (Potential 2018 Salary Cap Cut)

Damontrae Moore

Joey Ivie (PS)

Jordan Carroll (PS)

With two pending free agents and three other veterans that could (but most likely won’t) be salary cap casualties before 2018, the Cowboys go deep at this position and also put their two rookie DTs on the practice squad.

Linebacker (Roster 6, Practice 0)

Sean Lee

Jaylon Smith

Damien Wilson

Anthony Hitchens (Pending FA)

Mark Nzeocha

Kyle Wilber (Pending FA)

James Morris is a strong considering due to his value on special teams, but is the final cut.  He could be kept on speed dial during the season.  Looking forward to 2018, Hitchens may depart because he is a marginal player and hasn’t contributed much on special teams, and Wilber will only return if he signs a team friendly contract and continues his strong special teams play this season.

Cornerback (Roster 6, Practice Squad 2)

Chidobe Awuzie

Orlando Scandrick (Potential 2018 Salary Cap Cut)

Anthony Brown

Jourdan Lewis

Nolan Carroll (Potential For Team To Not Exercise Option for 2018)

Marquez White

Jeremiah McKinnon (PS)

We don’t know the truth behind whether Scandrick was actually “shopped” during the draft.  I can see two possibilities.  First, Dallas could have mentioned Scandrick to a team or teams with the thought that they could deal Scandrick if they could draft Fabian Moreau.  I would have made that deal if possible, and it is not surprising that no one offered a third round pick for him. Second, and this is more unlikely and sort of a conspiracy theory, a team that likes Scandrick or has ill will for Dallas may have floated the rumor in order to get the feisty Scandrick upset with the team.

Safety (Roster 5, Practice Squad 0)

Byron Jones

Jeff Heath

Xavier Woods

Kavon Frazier

Robert Blanton

This is the easiest position other than the specialists to forecast at this time, which probably means it won’t be accurate.

Specialists (Roster 3, Practice Squad 0)

Dan Bailey

Chris Jones

LP Ladouceur

It it ain’t* broke, don’t fix it.

*Apologies to my second grade teacher who constantly said “ain’t” isn’t a word.

Overall Thoughts

The teams’ depth appears to solid until the very end of the top 53.  There aren’t any projected cuts that feel like they are definitely NFL caliber players.  That may change if a few unexpected undrafted free agents shine during training camp.  Looking forward to next off-season, the competition should really get hot if the team keeps all ten of its projected draft picks (6 plus a nearly certain 4 compensatory). Guys that barely made the cut include Alfred Morris, Brice Butler, and Damontrae Moore.  Those who just missed the cut are James Morris and Jahad Thomas.  James Hanna would be added if he is healthy.

Speaking of undrafted rookie free agents, none are projected to make the roster.  That would be the second straight season after several years of at least one UDFA making the opening day roster.

Let us know in the comments what I got right and what I got wrong.

Frank B.

Frank B
Writer with a financial background who specializes in roster management and the salary cap.
Frank B

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4 thoughts on “A Very Early Cowboys Roster Projection”

  1. EverybodyTalks

    I think what you have done with the roster is pretty accurate. I don’t see a lot of areas where UDFAs break through. Noah has a good chance for the reasons you listed. Perhaps Ivie or Carrol also.

    As far as Scandrick, a third possibility is someone saw the CBs being drafted by Dallas and put a phone call in to see what the going price was. I believe, based on Scandrick’s mentality, that there was a positive. That being, he has always seen himself as under-appreciated and these rumors will fire him up.

    I question Marquez White aa well. Still, he is a 6th rounder and I think our secondary coach can develop him. White has the build, but his coverage skills need work. So 6 corners and 5 safeties looks dead on. With all the veteran WRs being picked up by the NFC East, our rookies will be thrown in the fire early.

    Unlike some, I believe we have a very good upgrade on the DL. The 2 rookies, Taco and Tapper will surprise – maybe Tapper more than Taco. Paea and Moore, both coming back to Marinelli, will also surprise. Marinelli looked super excited when Joey Ivie was taken. My gut agrees with you on Thornton and believes Joey Ivie or Carrol replace Cedric Thornton. If not, perhaps those young pups are enough of a nip at his heels to have Cedric earn his paycheck.

  2. After getting a chance to review video of the later round draft choices, I would make a change to my projection. Unfortunately, I came away unimpressed with the three games of Marquez White on Draft Breakdown. The team obviously has access to much more information and may have a plan to get more out of him. Maybe a change in the type of coverage they plan to use versus what he primarily used at FSU. He played a lot of zone with a large cushion at FSU. Maybe he had an injury that hampered his play last season. In the games I watched, he gave up a lot of receptions, wasn’t aggressive in trying to make tackles, and had a few bad penalties.

    I thought the video of Joey Ivie was more impressive. The problem at defensive line is the numbers, which are already on the high end at ten. Who would have knock off the roster? Possibilities include:

    Cedric Thornton – Cutting or trading Thornton would incur $3.75 million in dead money, although there would be cap savings of $500,000 for 2017 and there would be no further dead money in future years. His salary amounts for 2017, 2018, and 2019 are $3 million, $4 million, and $4 million. If Thornton’s play is below expectations again, it could be worth it to take the hit in dead money and keep Ivie instead.

    Damontrae Moore – Moore has already been released by several teams, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him not make the cut. In his favor is a very cheap two year contract. If he plays well in 2017, the team can retain him for 2018 at low cost.

    Stephen Paea – Paea only received $500,000 in guaranteed money, so that dead money hit is low. The team would save $1,406,250 in cap charges if he is cut or traded.

    Benson Mayowa – Cutting or trading Mayowa would incur $2.2 million in dead money, although there would be cap savings of $400,000 for 2017 and there would be no further dead money in future years. His salary amounts for 2017 and 2018 are $1.75 million and $2.75 million. Mayowa played decently in the latter half of last season, so he is less likely to not make the cut.

    1. The good thing is, if the other parts of the team produce as expected, they can still be a very good team with league average DL play. And there are a few players with the upside to surpass current expectations.

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