We hear the concern every year from a section of the fan base. “There’s no way Dallas will be able to cut that player without another team claiming them off waivers. No way that dude gets to the practice squad!” Some times, those fans are right. Most of the time, those fans are wrong. Those chants of worry often come from the most tuned in parts of the fan base. Those who subscribe to twitter lists of every media member covering the Cowboys, every blogger, every knowledgeable fan.
They’ve kept track of every kind word from someone on the coaching staff, every excellent OTA rep and certainly every impressive play made during training camp in Oxnard. Every year, there’s a series of guys who become camp darlings for some. But here’s the thing, every club has them. Every team, save for the really bad ones, have a bunch of players who aren’t good enough to be part of the major rotation and exist on the fringes of the 45-man game day roster, much less the 53-man active roster. Other teams rarely want those guys from your favorite club. They have their own guys.
And those guys have been in camp all spring and summer, were mostly handpicked by their front office and their coaching staff and are well integrated. They’ve proven to be the-prospect-with-potential under the circumstances and style of play that organization will use for the coming season. They would be preferred over grabbing the guy that would have to learn the system on the fly, getting little in the way of helpful reps in regular season practice.
Sure, there are players who other teams covet. Teams that lost out on a player in a UDFA bidding war; those are the most dangerous. But by and large, teams are able to get the guys they want back to the practice squad. Sometimes, when a team feels the prospect is really at risk, they’ll reach out to a low-cost veteran, someone who doesn’t have to clear waivers under a one-year deal who they can create a wink-wink agreement to bring them back after stashing someone on returnable IR.
The Cowboys have done this before, with Jake McQuaide and Jeremy Sprinkle in 2021, C.J. Goodwin and others in 2020. Occasionally the club is burned, but this more so happens after injuries occur during the season and teams poach prospects to fill in the holes in their roster.
With all that said, here’s a list of players who the in-the-know fans are worried about, but would likely be able to make their way to the practice squad were Dallas to release them in the cut down to 53 players.
Jan 16, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive back C.J. Goodwin (29) catches a pass for a first down on a fake punt in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Goodwin’s an interesting test case. One of the best special teams guys in the league and certainly in recent Cowboys’ history, he literally adds nothing to the defense. A cornerback by trade, Dallas has three sure-fire starters ahead of him and three young hopefuls drafted in the second, third and fifth rounds of recent drafts; with the fifth-round currently showing the most promise.
Goodwin could be released and let walk. He could be released just to be brought back after the club moves someone to returnable IR after the initial 53 (like in 20200. He could be released, added to the practice squad and be a game-day call up.
Or he could actually make the 53.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dennis Houston (3) participates in drills at the NFL football team’s practice facility in Oxnard, Calif. Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
During the early days of training camp, Houston was the talk of the town. The UDFA out of Western Illinois was being lauded by everyone, including QB Dak Prescott for his precise route-running and sponge-like nature to information. Then the preseason games started. Houston saw 27 snaps in Week 1 and got two targets. He saw 22 snaps in Week 2 and zero targets.
Smells like a stash attempt.
Dallas Cowboys center Alex Lindstrom (65) goes through drills during the NFL football team’s rookie minicamp in Frisco, Texas, Friday, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
The Boston College UDFA seems like a PS candidate through and through as Tyler Biadasz and Matt Farniok seem to be (or should be) competing for the starting role with the other backing up. Lindstrom’s ankle injury in the preseason opener could lead to a redshirt situation as well, but regardless he’s done nothing to entire a league that passed him by during the draft process.
Aug 17, 2022; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (91) looks on during joint practice against the Los Angeles Chargers at Jack Hammett Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The veteran defensive tackle who had the club’s first Thick-6 in 2021 (of three total) could be caught in a numbers game.
He didn’t sign for much money in the offseason, inking the one-year, veteran salary benefit offer. He certainly would be some level of risk, but if the team was looking to create a temporary roster spot so they could move someone to returnable IR, Watkins is an ideal candidate for the switcheroo.
Aug 18, 2022; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Mika Tafua (52) during joint practice against the Los Angeles Chargers at Jack Hammett Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The UDFA out of Utah had a sack and a pass deflection in the latest game against the Chargers, but he had an average signing bonus ($55,000) indicating the competition for him wasn’t too strong following the draft and he’d likely make his way back to the club who wanted him the most to begin with.
Aug 18, 2022; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys safety Juanyeh Thomas (40) catches the ball during joint practice against the Los Angeles Chargers at Jack Hammett Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Georgia Tech product has seen a bunch of snaps in the preseason but he’s behind a surprisingly strong group of safeties; something that hasn’t been said in Dallas for a long time. He may be one of the riskier players to get to the PS as his UDFA signing bonus was significant ($165,000) indicating interest from other teams.
Jul 28, 2022; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brandon Smith (80) catches a pass at training camp at River Ridge Fields in Oxnard, CA. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The WR was a good performer of the 2021 preseason and landed on the practice squad, and once again he’s made some of the biggest in-game catches during the 2022 exhibition slate. The Dallas WR depth chart isn’t well revered this year though, so league eyes aren’t likely looking for their castoffs.
Jul 29, 2022; Onxard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver T.J. Vasher (16) reaches to catch a touchdown pass in the end zone as he is defended by cornerback Kelvin Joseph (1) during training camp drills at River Ridge Fields in Oxnard, CA. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Remember all of the offseason talk about Vasher, and then the incredible catch he made in training camp. He’s seen one target through two preseason games, against Denver. Feels like a stash move.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Kelvin Joseph (24) breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver Noah Brown (85) at practice at the NFL football team’s training camp in Oxnard, Calif., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
I’m on a limb here, but I just see Brown as the type of guy amenable to being released to make room for putting a player on IR so they can come back. He’s likely WR2 on opening day, but strictly as a procedural move, I see him and Goodwin being receptive to the idea.
May 14, 2022; Frisco, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Devin Harper (50) goes through drills during practice at the Ford Center at the Star Training Facility in Frisco, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The Oklahoma State linebacker was a sixth-round draft pick so the pedigree might make him attractive to a few teams, but he hasn’t done anything in the first two preseason games to warrant much concern.
Dallas Cowboys running back Malik Davis (34) participates in drills at the NFL football team’s practice facility in Oxnard, Calif. Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
The guy so many fans are worried about. Davis has played incredibly in his opportunities, but he’s fourth on the totem pole. Rico Dowdle is more adept at special teams right now and it would be really surprising to see Dallas carry four running backs. The concern is that Seattle is needy at the position and Davis will assuredly impress on Friday night.