Are the Dallas Cowboys a top-heavy team, or do they have the necessary depth to survive the regular-season gauntlet? It appears on paper the club has several positions where the talent is overflowing, but there are a handful where injuries could cause a major downgrade in performance. The loss of rookies DeMarvion Overshown and John Stephens in Saturday’s exhibition against Seattle proved that point.
Linebacker and tight end are two of the club’s unproven spots and thus losses there seem to be catastrophic to the club’s talent level. Still, other positions seem well prepared for the 17-week grind as long as calamity stays at bay. It feels like Dallas has the ability to move some pieces at certain positions and potentially get plug-and-play returns at other spots of need.
Dallas needs veteran depth on the offensive line, so maybe there’s a chance to flip an asset for a team looking to save cap space there and allow younger, cheaper options to ascend. Maybe there’s some veteran help for Dallas to have as a backup to the youngsters at tight end and linebacker as well. Dallas can use future draft capital to acquire said help, but player-for-player swaps can be more enticing when feasible.
Here’s a look at several players who could be on the trade block following this weekend’s preseason finale against the Raiders.
If not them, who?
The Cowboys aren’t known for making big deals right before the season, but rather they’ve made a handful of smaller ones that seem to be more about depth than helping at the top of the depth chart. A famous one in the last decade was when they had perceived remarkable depth at the cornerback position and traded young unknown Charvarius Ward to the Kansas City Chiefs for offensive lineman Parker Ehringer.
Ehringer busted up his knee almost upon arrival and was out of the NFL soon after. Ward is still a starting corner in the league, and regarded as one of the more solid defenders.
So while the names which follow are generally ones with reputations, there’s a far bigger chance Dallas flips potential for potential.
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Where is Dorance Armstrong? After a fizzled out second half of 2022 to bookend a sizzling first half, Armstrong hasn’t been seen in the preseason. He was apparently dinged up a bit, but there’s been nary a mention of him having a significant injury, almost like the club is hiding something. Armstrong has been our top candidate to be traded ever since the offseason started, and he once again tops this list.
8.5 sacks is nothing to sneeze at and he’s affordable without long-term investment as this is the second season of a two-year extension. Dallas is simply rich at the position and he could bring a premium return, more than any other Cowboy.
And then Sam Williams got arrested again.
(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
When Lewis went out with his foot injury, it was pretty clear he was the second-best cornerback on a league-leading defense. All that’s happened since is that he’s missed games with a serious foot injury. There’s no reason to believe his skillset has atrophied and he should be expected to be good once he can hit the field.
The bigger difference is Dallas saw DaRon Bland ascend in his absence and lead the team in interceptions in two-thirds of a season. Then they went out and upgraded the boundary corner with a future Hall of Famer in Stephon Gilmore. Combined with Trevon Diggs’ new deal, paying Lewis $5 million to be a fourth corner seems excessive. If and when Lewis clears a physical, he could easily be trade bait in the final year of his deal.
DE Dante Fowler
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Fowler proved more than capable of still being an impact player when he gets one-on-one blocking. That’s almost a guarantee when playing with both Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence. He had six sacks and 36 total pressures in just 227 pass-rush snaps in 2022.
Fowler can help any team, but if the club isn’t worried about Williams’ arrests and wants Armstrong as a part of their future, flipping Fowler could be an option.
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The former third-round pick has had a good camp but hasn’t shown much during his career. In fact, he was a healthy scratch in the team’s divisional-round loss to the 49ers, speaking loudly. The former Sooner has talent, but Dan Quinn has yet to unlock it to a strong degree, so he could be out as the club has a ton of depth but no stars on the defensive interior at the moment.
(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Bohanna wasn’t a premium pick like Gallimore and when selected, Cowboys Nation was so starved for interior presence he was anointed. But he’s played like most sixth-round picks; just okay. His lack of development led the club to acquire Johnathan Hankins midseason and he immediately did what Bohanna couldn’t and shore up the run defense. Now with the drafting of Mazi Smith in the first round, Bohanna will likely be squeezed from the 53-man roster.
Teams don’t keep three nose tackles very often.
(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
Golston was moved from full-time DE to the guy that moves up and down the line, but the 2021 third rounder hasn’t produced the type of stats that make him untouchable. His pass-rush productivity score was an abysmal 3.7 in 2022, but as a third-round pick perhaps someone who had him on their radar that draft class wants to see what they could do with him.
The problem is Dallas has very little depth at the three-technique position and rookie Junior Fehoko hasn’t jumped off the film.
Cornerback Nahshon Wright
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Wright was having an impressive camp, but suffered a leg injury and may be done for the exhibition season. Still, the depth mentioned above in the Lewis section applies even more to Wright. Fellow third-year CB Kelvin Joseph seems to be a better player in games than practice and despite having a rough camp has played well in the two preseason games. The two are battling for the back end of the depth chart despite their Day 2 draft pedigree.
If Wright loses that battle, or even if he wins but it’s close, because he has the cleaner off-field reputation he could be the better trade candidate.
If not now, when?
While there’s less than a week remaining before the regular season, the club is not limited to this window to make deals. They can happen at any time during the first half of the regular season, all the way up until 3 pm Central on October 31.
Take Lewis for instance. The Cowboys could place him on PUP next week, gear up for the six-week window and then activate him. Once healthy, if they evaluate their CB depth as being fine without him, they could offload him at that point, save a few million and recoup a considerable asset for one of the game’s better slot defenders.
As the season ebbs and flows, there could be depth developed elsewhere on the roster or new needs that crop up.