The Dallas Cowboys made plenty of decisions in trimming their roster to 53 players on Saturday. More are on the horizon, too, as the team scours other teams’ cut casualties in an effort to field the best roster when the season opens Sept. 7 against San Francisco.
First is what they’ve already done. The Cowboys’ final cuts included a couple surprising names, beginning with running back Ryan Williams and cornerback Terrance Mitchell.
Both received positive reviews at times during training camp, but ultimately lost out on jobs. The Cowboys opted to go with a fullback, Tyler Clutts, instead of a fourth running back in Williams. And they went with Tyler Patmon over Mitchell for the final cornerback spot.
They have also kept third quarterback Dustin Vaughan, as well as nine offensive linemen, including rookie John Wetzel, for the time being. That could change in the coming days, though, as the team is expected to be active on the waiver wires Sunday and Monday.
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Defensive line is one area where the team continues to look for depth. They are carrying several players who might not be ready by Week 1, including defensive end Anthony Spencer. Other question marks remain with tackles Henry Melton and Terrell McClain, each of whom did not play in the preseason.
And there’s rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who fractured a bone in his right foot early in training camp. He is expected to be moved to short-term injured reserve, which means he will miss at least the first eight games of the season.
Finding depth is a priority for the Cowboys, and they added some before Saturday’s 3 p.m. deadline when rosters were due. They completed a trade with the Tennessee Titans for defensive end Lavar Edwards, sending a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015 in return.
A source said it is “unlikely” the Cowboys will make a play for defensive end Michael Sam, who was cut by the St. Louis Rams. Sam is trying to become the first openly gay player in the NFL.
The Cowboys’ roster, though, is far from complete with the waiver process coming up. And it’s also worth noting that those cut by the Cowboys still have a chance to remain with the team as part of the 10-man practice squad.
But it’s hard to see some players clearing waivers, particularly Williams.
He had an impressive training camp and is likely to be an attractive acquisition for another team. The Cowboys’ top three running backs are the same as they were entering camp, starting with DeMarco Murray ahead of Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle.
One of the biggest hurdles for Williams, a second-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2011, was his inexperience playing special teams. He got some reps in those situations, but not enough to leapfrog Randle.
Mitchell was another notable name on the cut list. The seventh-round pick out of Oregon seemed to flash some upside during training camp, but his style of play drew too many penalties. Equally important, he didn’t make the necessary adjustments to avoid those calls.
Other recognizable players cut include wide receiver LaRon Byrd, who had seven catches for 103 yards and a TD in the preseason, and defensive tackle Zach Minter, who had a standout game against Baltimore before fading.
And the list goes on from there.
The cuts included: wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe and guard Uche Nwaneri being released; waived/ injured were Minter and linebacker Orie Lemon; and waived were Mitchell; running backs Williams, D.J. Adams and Phillip Tanner; wide receiver Jamar Newsome; safeties Ryan Smith and Keith Smith; linebackers Dontavis Sapp and Will Smith; defensive ends Caesar Rayford and Kenneth Boatright; defensive tackle Dartwan Bush; offensive linemen Josh Aladenoye, Stephen Goodin and Ronald Patrick; and tight end Asa Watson.
Additionally, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick and safety Jakar Hamilton will begin the season on the reserve-suspended list and do not count against the 53-man roster.