Analysis: Cowboys 2021 Initial 53-man roster set but with IR and outside help expectations

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They are clearly not finished. The Dallas Cowboys have completed the requisite number of releases to get down to the 53-man roster limit by the league’s 3:00 p.m. Central deadline. That’s only part of the battle though. Dallas dropped 24 players from their roster with little surprises among the names. There were one or two, but with creativity in planning, Dallas is doing their best job to keep people long term even if they are saying goodbye in the short term.

Like last season, Dallas has undoubtedly cut veteran players, those with at least 4 seasons of accrued service, with an agreement they will be right back on the roster. There are several players who are injured and won’t be able to help the team out in the first few weeks of the season, but they have to make the 53-man roster before being placed on IR for at least three weeks. So guys like long snapper Jake McQuaide are cut, knowing they’ll be resigned on Wednesday.

This also doesn’t take into account players like WR CeeDee Lamb, who are currently on the Covid-19 list and don’t count towards the roster limit. As soon as he and the other four players are available, more room will be necessary. Perhaps that room is just vacated by players who will be going on short-term IR. It’s all a juggling act.

Here are some ideas of what will happen next, followed by a position-by-position breakdown of who is here and who is out. For now.

Guesses on What's Next

The Cowboys have five players with key roles currently on the Reserved/Covid list: Lamb, WR Noah Brown, LG Connor Williams, safety Damontae Kazee and DT Carlos Watkins. None of them currently count towards the roster but will, likely in plenty of time to play in Week 1. Lamb is a starter while Brown has a huge special teams role as well as being WR4/WR5. Williams is the starter at left guard and Watkins had been playing with the starters at DT. Right now Dallas is rolling with five wideouts, and two of the biggest 53-man questions for them were Malik Turner and rookie Simi Fehoko. Perhaps the club tries to carry Fehoko, but he could be a waive with a prayer he lands on their practice squad. Turner's foot injury could send him to returnable IR and he's one of several players who appear destined for that designation. Rookie DE Chauncey Golston was activated from PUP and he'll likely go on IR so he's back quicker than the 6 weeks PUP demands. Also likely (but not confirmed) to go to IR are TE Sean McKeon, OT Josh Ball, DT Neville Gallimore, CB Kelvin Joseph and LB Francis Bernard. Each of these players, if moved to IR, would be eligible to practice following Week 3. As many as seven players are under consideration. Left behind on PUP/NFI were DT Trysten Hill (knee) and UDFA WR TJ Vasher (knee). Those players will miss up to six weeks before being eligible to return.

Who could return? What positions might be brought in? Who could still go?

Dallas is likely working with 7 slots to fill if all of those players move to IR. The group of five Covid players will eat up those spots, leaving 2 more positions to consider. Long snapper Jake McQuaide is definitely coming back, leaving just one more space. TE Jeremy Sprinkle and DT Justin Hamilton appear to be the most likely candidates from the jettisoned veterans. The two safeties Steven Parker and Darian Thompson have played key roles in special teams and could be back as well. That doesn't mean any of the waived players aren't going to be considered, nor does it mean that the roster moves are limited to just that one spot. Perhaps Dallas is looking to swing a trade for Brandon Knight, who started a lot of games at left tackle last year. That could create another space on the roster. Dallas is in need of a third running back and could perhaps choose to add another, or a different, QB. Meanwhile other spots could be shuffled just based on the front office surveying the lists of players released from other teams. Waiver claims could be getting submitted as reader's read this article. It's all fluid. Still, here's how the roster looks right now.

Quarterback (2)

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Who's In?

Dak Prescott Cooper Rush

Who's Out?

Garrett Gilbert (released) Ben DiNucci (waived)

Running Back (2)

(AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

Who's In?

Ezekiel Elliott Tony Pollard

Who's Out?

Sewo Olonilua (season-ending IR) Rico Dowdle (season-ending IR) JaQuan Hardy (waived) Brenden Knox (waived) Nick Ralston (waived)

Wide Receiver (5)

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Who's In?

Amari Cooper Michael Gallup Cedrick Wilson Malik Turner Simi Fehoko (R)

Who's Out?

CeeDee Lamb (Reserve/Covid) Noah Brown (Reserve/Covid) Aaron Parker (waived) Brandon Smith (waived) Johnnie Dixon (released) Osirus Mitchell (waived) TJ Vasher (Reserved/NFI - like PUP) Brennan Eagles (waived earlier)

Tight End (3)

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Who's In?

Blake Jarwin Dalton Schultz Sean McKeon

Who's Out?

Jeremy Sprinkle (released) Artayvious Lynn (waived) Nick Eubanks (waived)

Offensive Tackle (5)

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Who's In?

Tyron Smith La'el Collins Ty Nsekhe Josh Ball (R) Terence Steele

Who's Out?

Eric Smith (released) Mitch Hyatt (season-ending IR)

Interior Offensive Line (5)

(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Who's In?

Zack Martin Connor McGovern Tyler Biadasz Matt Farniok (R) Brandon Knight

Who's Out?

Connor Williams (Reserved/Covid) Isaac Alarcon (International Pathway) Braylon Jones (R) (waived)

Defensive End (7)

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Who's In?

DeMarcus Lawrence Randy Gregory Tarrell Basham Chauncey Golston (R) Dorance Armstrong Bradlee Anae Azur Kamara

Who's Out?

Ron'Dell Carter (waived)

Defensive Tackle (4)

Neville Gallimore Cowboys
Neville Gallimore Cowboys

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Who's In?

Neville Gallimore Osa Odighizuwa (R) Brent Urban Quinton Bohanna (R)

Who's Out?

Carlos Watkins (reserved/Covid) Justin Hamilton (released) Austin Faoliu (R) (waivevd) Trysten Hill (PUP)

Off-Ball Linebacker (7)

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

Who's In?

Micah Parsons (R) Leighton Vander Esch Keanu Neal Jaylon Smith Jabril Cox (R) Francis Bernard Luke Gifford

Who's Out?

Anthony Hines (waived injured earlier)

Cornerback (7)

(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Who's In?

Trevon Diggs Anthony Brown Kelvin Joseph (R) Nahshon Wright (R) Jourdan Lewis Maurice Canady C.J. Goodwin

Who's Out?

Kyron Brown (released earlier) Deante Burton (released) Reggie Robinson (season-ending IR)

Safety (4)

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Who's In?

Donovan Wilson Malik Hooker Jayron Kearse Israel Mukuamu

Who's Out?

Damontae Kazee (reserved-Covid) Steven Parker (released) Darian Thompson (released) Tyler Coyle (R) (waived)

Special Teams (2)

(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Who's In?

Kicker Greg Zuerlein Punter Bryan Anger

Who's Out?

Long Snapper Jake McQuaide Kicker Liam Hajrullahu (waived earlier) Hunter Niswander (waived earlier)

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