Early Projections for Dallas Cowboys' Final 53-Man Roster
Minicamps and training camp are still a little while away, but that doesn't mean it's too early to predict the Dallas Cowboys' 53 man roster for 2013.
There are certain positions like quarterback that aren't likely to alter much between now and September, but others are certainly subject to change. Here is an early projection for the Cowboys' opening season roster.
The Cowboys have a few other arms signed at the moment, but Aaron Corp should get the No. 3 job. Kyle Orton is a reliable backup to have for starter Tony Romo, who has shown an ability to stay on the field despite injuries.
It's all but set in stone that Orton and Romo will be the backup and starting quarterbacks, respectively, for the Cowboys with Corp battling for the last spot. He'll have to be out the likes of Dalton Williams, but Corp fits the Dallas system better than his competition.
Undrafted out of USC in 2012, Corp ran a more traditional pro-style offense than Williams did in college. While at Akron, Williams ran a lot of shotgun and read-option style plays. The Cowboys like their shotgun but have not tried their hand at the read-option phenomenon yet.
Ultimately, neither quarterback will likely see playing time in the regular season regardless of either making the team, though.
The Cowboys are going to have some tough choices to make at running back as far as who will fill the No. 2 and No. 3 jobs. Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner did not separate from one another much in terms of 2012 stats.
Dunbar finished with 21 carries for 75 yards. Tanner finished with 21 carries and 61 yards. One of these players cannot make the team with Dallas drafting Oklahoma State product Joseph Randle in this year's NFL draft.
Dunbar gets the early edge to make the final roster cut, but this will largely be determined through training camp.
There's no reason to carry more than one fullback on the 53-man roster. Lawrence Vickers is a solid veteran option. He will have no problem keeping his starting role going into the 2013 season.
The Cowboys might have drafted Gavin Escobar in the second round of this year's draft, but he's still a work in progress. He doesn't have a strong blocking ability and can get flustered when defenders give him contact when running routes.
Second-year tight end James Hanna should retain his role as backup to future Hall of Famer Jason Witten. Escobar needs time to get used to the NFL game on the practice field. Keeping Hanna allows the Cowboys time to coach up their newest tight end.
Hanna only had eight catches last season on 11 targets, but if Dallas is looking to move to a two-tight end offense, it could experiment with Hanna and Witten this season. This would lead to a bigger role in the offense for Hanna and give the Cowboys a look to see if the system would work for them.
The Cowboys saw production from Cole Beasley last season and drafted Terrance Williams this season. It would seem unlikely they'd cut either one before the 2013 season. With Dwayne Harris coming off a career season in 2012, it's hard to imagine Dallas not have five wide receivers on the roster.
Harris should be able claim the No. 3 receiver position and obviously Dez Bryant and Miles Austin will man the top two spots. This team has a plethora of receiving options and won't be looking to cut any of the above players.
L.P. Ladoucer (long snapper)
It seems obvious that the Cowboys don't want to pay Doug Free after asking him to take a pay cut. The team is also pursuing former Chief Eric Winston.
Dallas has been interested in Winston since before locking up Tony Romo's new contract and Free doesn't want to take the pay.. Winston should sign with the Cowboys sometime before training camp and Free will in all likelihood be let go before June 1.
Travis Frederick was Dallas' first-round pick so he will start at center, leaving Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau at guard. Tyron Smith and Winston will man the tackle positions with the rest filling in as backups.
It's still weird typing Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware on the list of defensive line personnel, but that's where they'll play this coming season. Everyone on this list played with the Cowboys last season and has little jeopardy of not making the final roster.
Kyle Wilber and Tyrone Crawford are 2012 NFL draft picks. Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher are defensive line staples. Sean Lissemore played well in the 10 games he was a part of in 2012. He didn't light up the stat sheet, but stats don't always tell the story of a defensive lineman's season.
Cowboys fans will rejoice in seeing a healthy Sean Lee and Bruce Carter take the field in 2013 after both missed time last season. Ernie Sims was awarded a new contract this offseason for his work filling in at starting linebacker after both went down.
Those three will easily make the final roster, as will Alex Albright, Justin Durant and draft pick DeVonte Holloman. Durant and Holloman were both brought in this offseason to play for this team, so neither will be going anywhere before September. Like Sims, Albright also played well at times after Carter and Lee went down. He's a safe bet to make the team as well.
The one wild card here is undrafted free agent Brandon Magee. The Arizona State product recently signed with Dallas and was high on the team's linebacker board.
In fact, as Jonathan Bales of NBC 5 in Dallas-Forth Worth explained in a recent article, Magee's $70,000 guaranteed upon signing is more than any 2012 seventh-round pick received.
The fact Magee was thought so highly of by the Cowboys' brass and awarded the money he was, there's reason to believe he makes the final cut.
The Cowboys have spent the last few offseasons perfecting the secondary, so most names here are obvious ones. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr will start with Orlando Scandrick likely coming in as the No. 3 cornerback. 2013 NFL draft pick B.W. Webb and rookie free agent Dustin Harris will be the newest corners to don the Dallas star.
Webb was drafted for a reason, so there's no reason he won't make the team. Harris will make the team simply for return purposes. Dwayne Harris likely won't get the chance to return anymore assuming he'll be the team's No. 3 wide receiver.
As for Sterling Moore, he was a serviceable free-agent pickup last regular season. He should be able to make the team as a backup.
The safety positions should prove to be fun training camp battles to watch, but Dallas will need more than a few on the roster. Matt Johnson and Barry Church both missed significant time in 2012 due to injury so it'll be interesting if they keep their projected starting jobs.
Regardless of who wins the position battles though, Church and Johnson will make the team, as will Danny McCray. Due to his play in place of Church last year, McCray earned himself a new contract with the Cowboys this offseason.
Will Allen was also signed this offseason and it would seem unlikely he gets cut considering the safety situation. J.J. Wilcox was selected this past draft, so he's a shoe-in as well.
Brian Moorman is gone and Chris Jones is healthy once again. Jones will be the Cowboys' full-time and only punter on the roster this season barring any injuries.
No surprises here. Dan Bailey had an excellent 2012, making 29 of 31 field-goal attempts and 10 from 40 or more yards away. It seems all those years of the Cowboys struggling to find a reliable kicker are over.