Trying to predict the Cowboys’ initial 53-man roster is an arbitrary exercise. The team has acquired several young prospects who likely have earned roster spots, yet finding room for them may not be possible. While spots appear locks for several players, the team has to get creative with the use of their practice squad to retain talent for future development.
An oft-regurgitated phrase around Dallas, player evaluation is a 365-day process. The team will be strategic about who makes the initial roster, who will be sent to returnable injured reserve, who they think they can sneak onto the practice squad, and who they must protect from the vultures known as the 31 other teams looking to upgrade their rosters. It all leads to the fact that initial rosters are just that, initial.
The Cowboys are keeping one QB on the 53-man roster for the time being: Dak Prescott. Cooper Rush and Will Grier have been released, according to sources. Rush does not go through waivers; Grier does. Likely both will be back in some form – PS or active – to serve as backup.
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) August 30, 2022
A plan, along with contingencies, is formulated as training camp closes. Any player who has less than four years of accrued time in the league must first pass through waivers. That means the other 31 teams, in draft order, can claim the contact of said player and add him to their 53-man roster. Vested veterans immediately become free agents. For those who are injured in the short term, a single day on the active roster allows teams to retain their rights by placing them on injured reserve.
1,184 players will be released no later than Aug. 29. That mass wave of casualties may provide teams with just enough of a smokescreen to get the players they really want to return.
For top teams such as Dallas, the players requiring creativity will include more than just prospects, but also bonafide NFL contributors.
So how do the Cowboys retain their talent?
The team has employed various tactics in years past, but concentrating on the offensive line may hold a key. The initial 2022 Cowboys roster left the team with nine offensive linemen. Two days later, they were down to eight, with hopes of signing a veteran which eventually became Tackle Jason Peters. Things can change in an instant.
Cutdown day this season may unveil similar tactics. With overstocked cupboards in the defensive line, safety and wide receiver rooms, the underwhelming depth on the offensive line may provide just enough roster spots to get the likes of safety Juanyeh Thomas, tight end John Stevens Jr. and wideout Jalen Brooks to stay in Dallas.
Things will inevitably change before final cuts, but it's still fun to get your Cowboys 53-man roster predictions in before the first preseason action begins. pic.twitter.com/OGAohI9V7N
— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) August 12, 2023
Assuming the presumed starting five offensive linemen are virtual locks to make the team. Asim Richards, T.J. Bass and Matt Weletzko have shown promise, making this group eight strong.
Keeping players on the active roster, only to expose them to waivers at a later time, comes with additional risks. The thought process behind waiting is to force poaching teams who have just set their roster, to have to choose between your guy and one they wanted to protect.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 19, 2022
Fallback plans to replace a lost asset may come at the expense of a team attempting too many moves. Retaining players sometimes involves a little luck and perfect timing.
The consequences of churning the bottom of the roster may seem arbitrary, but how different are the conversation on draft day if John Ridgeway made it back onto this Cowboys roster last season?
While guessing the correct names later this month is entertaining, roster adjustments usually continue well past the final cutdown day.