The Dallas Cowboys' first training camp practice is just around the corner, and the team has more than a few players battling for a final roster spot.
Dallas currently has 87 players signed to its roster and will need to trim down to 53 by September. Let's take a look at each Cowboy currently under contract and their chances of making the final cut.
Tony Romo just signed a hefty new contract with the Cowboys this offseason and is the clear No. 1 starter. It's obvious that Romo will make the final 53-man roster. The bigger question for the Dallas starter is if he can bring the Cowboys to the playoffs.
Kyle Orton was brought in last offseason for the sole purpose of being Romo's backup. Given his experience as a full-time starter in both Chicago and Denver, Orton is a fine No. 2 quarterback to have.
In his limited snaps during the regular season last year, he completed nine of his 10 passes and threw one touchdown. Orton is all but a lock to backup Romo.
Nick Stephens was cut by the Tennessee Titans last offseason and didn't sign with a new team until Dallas came calling this offseason. In college, he played in six games with the Tennessee Volunteers before transferring to Tarleton State after losing his starting job.
The Cowboys normally go through the season with three quarterbacks on the roster, so there is hope for Stephens. He did receive some positive words from head coach Jason Garrett back in May, but his spot is not exactly guaranteed.
Stephens' future in Dallas will depend on his play in training camp, but he has a puncher's chance.
Starting running back DeMarco Murray does not have to worry so much about his roster spot as he does his health. Murray is going into his third NFL season and his first two were both abruptly ended by season-ending injuries. He'll look to change that recent trend this year.
The former Oklahoma State Cowboy was drafted in the fifth round this past draft and is the logical choice to back up Murray. In his last two years in college, Randle ran for more than 1,200 yards each season with a combined 38 touchdowns.
There's little reason to believe he will not be Dallas' No. 2 back.
While Lance Dunbar did see some regular-season playing time last year with Dallas, his chances at a 2013 roster spot is far from a lock. He didn't prove too much on the field with just 21 rushes for 75 yards last year.
Two other talented backs are trying to get the third and likely last spot on the roster for this position. He'll have to have a monster camp to walk out with that place on the depth chart.
Phillip Tanner has been in Dallas for two seasons and has rushed for less than 150 yards over that time frame. His two years with the team gives him a bit of an edge over a player like Dunbar considering their production has been similar. Like Dunbar however, Tanner will have to overcome a respectable threat in an undrafted rookie as well as Dunbar.
It's a wide-open competition for the open roster spot.
Perhaps the most interesting name fighting for the No. 3 rusher position is undrafted free agent Kendial Lawrence. The former Missouri Tigers back rushed for 1,025 yards his senior season and 12 touchdowns. His stats prior to his senior year were not extraordinary eye-popping, but he has great speed for a 5'9" back.
Lawrence does not have the familiarity with the Cowboys, but he does have some promise. He's an interesting name and could steal the No. 3 spot right from under Tanner and Dunbar.
Dallas' latest No. 88 had a career season in 2012, boasting 1,382 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Dez Bryant was drafted to become the Cowboys' No. 1 receiver eventually, and he has firmly planted himself in that role.
While he no longer sits atop the Dallas receivers' depth chart, Miles Austin fits better as the team's No. 2 option. Austin did not miss any games last year, and he has to continue that streak. He has gathered a reputation for being an injury-prone player.
If he can stay on the field, he has a solid chance of cracking the 1,000-yard mark in 2013.
The Baylor product had a stellar final year in college, tallying 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns. His senior year likely helped the Cowboys feel confident enough to take him in the third round of this year's draft. It would be difficult to imagine that Terrance Williams' high draft selection didn't secure him the No. 3 receiver job.
Unless he has a dreadful training camp, the No. 3 spot is his.
Dwayne Harris had a decent 2012 season in a limited role with 17 receptions for 222 yards and a touchdown. He also has added value in the return game for Dallas. Out of all the receivers fighting for the fourth spot on the roster, Harris has the best chance.
He has more than a few other names to beat out for the job, but he has very high odds of staying in Dallas.
The 2012 fifth-round pick not only has to prove his skills but prove he is fully recovered from his ACL tear last December. Danny Coale has the advantage of being a recent mid-round pick that Dallas likely wants to give a chance to shine.
That being said, the team has enough injury-prone players to worry about. The injuries from last year are certainly in the back of the Dallas coaching staff's mind.
For an undrafted free agent who didn't see a ton of playing time, Cole Beasley did just fine in 2012. Tony Romo targeted the SMU product 24 times, and he caught 15 of those for 128 yards.
Beasley has some promise and has shown some reliable hands in his few chances on the field. He'll have to battle Coale and others for the fifth receiver job, but he has a solid chance to grab that job.
Anthony Armstrong is 30 years old and has just 51 catches in his career in the NFL. He did burst onto the pro scene in his rookie year with a 871-yard season with Washington. Since then, however, Armstrong has not been able to get back to that level.
Unlike some other names looking to grab a final roster spot, Armstrong has had success in this league, but it didn't last long. His age is working against him in this roster spot battle, and his chances are bleak.
One of this year's undrafted free-agent signings, Eric Rogers was nothing short of historic at his college. The California Lutheran product finished as the college's all-time leader in touchdowns with 45. In his senior year, he posted 61 catches, 868 yards and 15 trips to the end zone.
He'll have a tough time making the Dallas roster, however, with Armstrong, Beasley and Coale also looking to impress.
Son of Washington Redskins Hall of Famer Darrell Green, Jared does not have a high chance of making the Dallas roster. Before transferring to Southern University in 2011, Green had under 400 yards through three seasons at Virginia.
Even if the Cowboys carried six receivers on the roster, it would take a heck of a performance for him to make the team.
Tim Benford was with the Cowboys last offseason but couldn't make the squad even with Coale missing time due to injury and Kevin Ogletree's poor play. The wide receiver camp battle is much fiercer this year than last.
Benford will not be able to best Beasley or Coale or even Armstrong.
Last year, Jason Witten broke the NFL single-season tight end record for most catches in a season with 110. He also had his third 1,000-plus yard season in five years. Over that time span, he has never recorded less than 900 receiving yards.
Witten will continue to be one of Romo's go-to targets in the passing game.
A surprising second-round selection by Dallas this year, Gavin Escobar will likely see plenty of playing time this regular season. The rookie from San Diego State has sparked the Cowboys' interest to start using more two-tight end formations.
Dallas will give him plenty of chances to make his presence felt in the regular season.
While he wasn't an early-round pick, James Hanna was drafted by Dallas just last year. In his rookie season, he posted eight receptions on 11 targets for 86 yards.
He shouldn't see a ton of playing time this regular season, but he'll likely earn the No. 3 tight end job.
The Cowboys decided to bring in a veteran for training camp, signing former Charger Dante Rosario this offseason. Rosario hasn't played a full 16 games in a regular season since his last year in Carolina back in 2010. Last year with San Diego, he recorded just 10 receptions on 18 targets.
He could give Hanna a run for the No. 3 job, but he's already on the outside looking in of that camp battle.
Colin Cochart played in Cincinnati back in 2011 and was signed for a quick second by Dallas last September. The 'Boys have brought the South Dakota State product back for a training camp run. Don't worry about memorizing how to pronounce Cochart's name, he won't be around past August.
Andre Smith's size at 6'5", 270 pounds is solid for a tight end, but his college production isn't impressive. Over four years at Virginia Tech, Smith caught just 39 passes.
He simply will not make the final roster.
The 2010 first-round selection has been the only reliable member of the Cowboys' offensive line the past few seasons. That being said, it would be nice to see him take the next step toward a Pro Bowl-caliber season. Even if Tyron Smith doesn't, however, he is still the best player on the Cowboys' offensive line.
This is a make-or-break year for Doug Free.
The Cowboys made him take a paycut this offseason to stay with the team. Free needs to get back to the level of play he showed back in 2011 that earned him his four-year $32 million contract. If he doesn't, the Cowboys won't ask him to take a paycut next offsesaon—they will simply cut him.
In just one season in the NFL, Darrion Weems bounced around four team rosters before joining the Cowboys. He was signed and cut by the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings last year. That doesn't mean Dallas won't give him a shot.
What it does mean, though, is history shows teams have not been impressed by Weems enough to keep him around.
Jermey Parnell has been with Dallas since 2010 and has seen playing time in each of the past two seasons. In 2011, he played six games for the Cowboys as a backup tackle and special teams member. Just last year, he filled in for Smith after the latter suffered a high ankle sprain.
Parnell will easily make the Cowboys' roster as a backup to either Free or Smith.
What Edawn Coughman has going for him is both his 6'4", 313-pound frame and his versatility. The lineman can play both guard and tackle. DallasCowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus was impressed by Coughman back in minicamp in May. He said that the Shaw product showed "perfect" blocking position on some plays and moved light on his feet.
He could snag a spot as a backup or No. 3 guard or tackle for Dallas with a good training camp run.
Back in January, Jonathan Bales of The Dallas Morning News did a great job of breaking down Nate Livings' first year in Dallas.
He notes that the former Cincinnati Bengal did give up five sacks last year. On the bright side for Livings, he did well in the running game. With Livings blocking on point, the Cowboys ran for 3.92 yards per carry, according to Bales.
Guard play was a struggle across the board for Dallas last year, but Livings doesn't exactly have competition for his job.
Another 2012 offseason pickup, Mackenzy Bernadeau is sure to start at guard for Dallas this year. Don't mistake his starting job as being one Bernadeau earned from stellar play last year, though. He allowed Romo to be sacked six times.
Bernadeau needs to vastly improve from his play last year. The six-year veteran should count himself lucky Dallas has no other proven talent to turn to over himself.
Despite being a 2011 fourth-round pick, David Arkin has never played a down for Dallas in a regular-season game. He is firmly on the bubble as far as making the final 53-man roster goes.
If Arkin can have a stellar camp, he could earn a backup job. If he fails to impress, he'll be shown the door.
Ray Dominguez comes over from Green Bay where he played on both the practice squad and regular roster. At 6'4", 328 pounds, Dominguez does have the ideal size for a guard.
With only the starting two spots really set, Dominguez's chances of making the team will depend on his play.
Out of all the guards who have a chance to take a starting job from Livings or Berndeau, Ronald Leary has the best shot to do so. He does have a history of knee issues, but it's not like the Dallas coaching staff is attached to last year's starters. His 6'3", 331-pound frame puts him in the same realm as the other guards.
Jason Garrett has already praised Leary's previous play in minicamps this offseason, so he is currently on the right track.
Travis Frederick was not taken in the first round of the 2013 draft to sit on the sidelines. He's the unquestioned starter for Dallas at center if the team wants him there. DallasCowboys.com writer Brian Broaddus was recently on 105.3 The Fan (via The Dallas Morning News) saying the team could play Frederick at center.
Whichever position Frederick plays, he'll be on the starting offensive line.
Phil Costa could not have been happy when the Cowboys drafted Frederick this year. That being said, if the team moves the first-rounder to guard, Costa will get to keep his starting job. The potential position change for his competition is Costa's only chance at starting.
He'll likely make the final roster one way or the other.
Ryan Cook received some time as a starter with the Cowboys in 2012 and might again depending on his play in camp. His amount of playing time in the regular season will also depend on where Frederick is placed on the line. Cook could give Costa a run for the starting center job if it's just between the two of them.
Kevin Kowalski has seen reps at fullback since Lawrence Vickers was cut, adding versatility to his list of reasons to make the team. Kowalski likely doesn't have a chance at a starting job, but he could very well make his way onto the final roster as a backup. Keep an eye on him this training camp.
Last season was certainly one to forget for the four-time Pro Bowler, but Jay Ratliff is still one of the best defensive players Dallas has. The former seventh-rounder should get back to his past form after an injury-ridden season last year.
Sean Lissemore has been with Dallas since being taken in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. He's proved to be a decent backup on the defensive line over his first few years.
It would be surprising if Lissemore didn't make the final roster.
Jason Hatcher has been one of the best under-the-radar defensive players for the Cowboys in recent years. He posted four sacks and 27 tackles last year and 4.5 sacks in 2011.
Hatcher should continue to contribute in big ways this year.
One of last year's early round draft picks, Tyrone Crawford is one prospect the Cowboys will continue to groom this training camp. The Ratliffs and DeMarcus Wares of the defensive line are not getting any younger.
Crawford will spend this year in a backup role with the team hoping he becomes a starter down the road.
Nick Hayden has gone from the Carolina Panthers to the Cincinnati Bengals and now the Cowboys since entering the league in 2008. He could make the roster if he shows off his top trait, which is stopping the run.
Hayden will have a chance to make his case but will have to really fight for a roster spot.
Pendleton could make the roster but could just as easily be cut before the end of August depending on his play.
Ben Bass is a player who really has a chance to make a case for playing time during the regular season this year. He's already started the offseason on a good note impressing during minicamps.
Expect Bass to succeed in his mission to get his cleats on the field, albeit in a limited role.
Jerome Long is another recent signing that spent time with the Jaguars last year. A seventh-round pick by the Chiefs last year, Jacksonville signed him off the Kansas City practice squad last December.
Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News admits Long is a long shot to make the final roster.
DeMarcus Ware falls under the same category as Jason Witten. Ware is a future Hall of Famer and the unquestioned leader of the defense. He'll be moving from outside linebacker to defensive end this year. The transition should go just fine for Ware since he played defensive end in college at Troy.
Anthony Spencer might still be working on getting his big contract from the Cowboys, but he'll get to make his case at defensive end this year. The 2012 Pro Bowler also played defensive end at Purdue.
His best way to earn the contract he wants is to improve on his 11 sacks from last year.
Kyle Wilber has received help transitioning from linebacker to defensive end by some of the best on the team in Spencer and Ware. Wilber is a name the Cowboys hope to bring along into a starter down the road. He was a 2012 fourth-round draft pick.
With Spencer and Ware's help, Wilber could do just that down the road.
While not an easy name to spell, Ikponmwosa Igbinosun does have an impressive 6'2", 288-pound frame and ran a 4.94 heading into last year's draft. Time will tell if this is a name Dallas broadcasters will have to learn.
Ware might be the most accomplished defensive player and the leader on defense, but Sean Lee is not far behind in either category. In just six games last year, Lee totaled 36 tackles along with one fumble and interception before season-ending injuries.
He's made strides the past two seasons and should continue to do so.
Another promising young name in the linebacker corps is Bruce Carter. While he also suffered a season-ending injury, the North Carolina product posted 51 tackles in 11 games. That's not a bad start to his career as a starter.
Ernie Sims did an admirable job of filling in for both Carter and Lee when both went down with injuries. In fact, he played so well the Cowboys awarded him with a new contract to bring him back.
Sims should see playing time in the regular season and will be the first line of defense if injury strikes the starters.
A 2007 second-round pick by the Jaguars, Justin Durant has spent the last two seasons in Detroit. Over the two years, he totaled over 100 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Durant performed well during organized team activities back in June and could very well make the team.
He'll have to beat out Alex Albright and DeVonte Holloman for that spot, however.
Albright has a history of injury issues dating back to his days at Boston College but has played in all but two games in his NFL career. Like Sims, he played admirably when players were injured last year; including Sims himself.
Albright was able to show a bit of promise and has a good chance of making the roster this year.
Brought in during the last rounds of the NFL draft this year, Holloman has a tough road to break into the league. Albright and veteran Durant are also gunning for spots. Holloman has the disadvantage of being a rookie who likely will need to beat out veterans to make the team.
Undrafted this year out of the University of West Alabama, Deon Lacey will have a tough time making the final roster. He's from a small school not known for producing NFL talent. The competition ahead of him in training camp is also daunting to say the least when looking at the names listed above.
Cameron Lawrence is another undrafted free agent being brought to training camp who has a tough go of things. He, in all likelihood, won't make the final cut.
Caleb McSurdy has been taking snaps at fullback during offseason workouts and is fully behind making the change if he'll make the team. That kind of attitude is what coaches want to see. He could make the team in a special teams role or maybe even fullback depending on what the coaches see from him.
Brandon Magee went undrafted but surprisingly received a $700,000 signing bonus from the team. The bonus makes one think the Cowboys must have a good feeling about the former Arizona State player.
It'll take a stellar training camp from Magee to stick with the team, but it won't be an easy task.
An SMU product, Taylor Reed knows how to close to the ball-carrier quickly and had 33 tackles for a loss in college. He's another undrafted free agent trying to make a team that is deep at his position.
In his first season in Dallas, Brandon Carr posted his most tackles in a season since 2009 with 48. He also posted three interceptions in 2012, which is the second-highest total for a season in his career. He's the veteran leader among the cornerbacks on this team.
The big-time 2012 draft pick showed why Dallas traded up to get him last year. He recorded a fumble recovery, interception and 43 tackles in his rookie year. The LSU product is one of the young defensive cornerstones on this team.
With Mike Jenkins departed, Orlando Scandrick might've thought he had the No. 3 cornerback job all to himself. Then this year's NFL draft happened and B.W. Webb was selected in the fourth round.
Scandrick will have to compete for the No. 3 job a tad, but it would take a terrible camp from him to lose the spot.
The rookie was beneficial to William and Mary in both the returning game and secondary. He's a lock for a roster and could give Scandrick a little push in training camp. Chances are Webb will be Dallas' No. 4 cornerback.
Sterling Moore has been in the NFL for three season and has now joined his third team. The former Oakland and New England corner has the No. 5 job if can beat out some undrafted free agents. He's not a wily veteran by any means, but Moore has a solid chance to make the team.
Xavier Brewer is an undrafted free agent from Clemson. He finished his college career with 129, three interceptions and 18 passes broken up. The former Tiger will have a chance to make his presence felt, but it'll take a lot for him to make the team.
The former Wisconsin Badger started 30 games in college and will be hoping to simply suit up for Dallas come September. DallasCowboys.com writer Bryan Broaddus explained that there is some concern in the front office about Smith's health, however.
He might have the highest mountain to climb to make the team among the corners trying to make the team.
Brandon Underwood has been in the NFL on and off since being drafted by Green Bay in 2009. He spent last season with the Oakland Raiders, but it'll take a lot for him to spend 2013 in Dallas.
The veteran comes over from Pittsburgh hoping to bring an experienced presence to an otherwise inexperienced group of safeties. He's been in the NFL the longest among all the safeties on the roster and comes from a successful defensive unit.
Will Allen should take one of the two starting jobs completely up for grabs.
Barry Church was injured much of 2012 but did receive a new contract from the team that same calendar year. With his knowledge of the team and the fact the front office has invested in him, Church has an inside track for one of the two starting positions.
One of the names hoping to surprise during this training camp is former special teams player Danny McCray. He played safety during the regular season last year after injuries to Matt Johnson and Church. For his efforts, McCray was also awarded a new contract this offseason.
He'll make the team, but where he's seated on the depth chart is entirely up to camp.
The 2012 draft pick spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. When the team looked as if Church and Matt Johnson were the only plausible starters at safety, Allen was brought in. Johnson has to prove a lot to the coaching staff this training camp, including his health.
He'll make the team as a backup in all likelihood.
J.J. Wilcox in many ways is the Cowboys' security blanket at safety.
He was taken in this year's draft to surpass all the aforementioned names on the depth chart down the road. The Georgia Southern product will be given time to grow with the team. If he doesn't work out, it's possible Church or Johnson reach the talent level Dallas is hoping for and Wilcox is expendable in the years to come.
Eric Frampton is another veteran who was brought onto the safety staff and saw playing time thanks to the many injuries at the position in 2012. If the Cowboys decide they need more than three backups to their starters, Frampton has a shot to make the team.
Just this offseason, Micah Pellerin has been signed and cut by both the Packers and Colts as an undrafted free agent. If two teams have already disposed him, Pellerin doesn't have a great chance of sticking with Dallas.
Jakar Hamilton is a safety that could best be described as reckless. He's not afraid to hit a ball-carrier, but he's also been known to take bad angles on those takes.
Pellerin and Hamilton will be fighting with Frampton for a position.
Jeff Green has weathered the cuts the Cowboys have already made this offseason, but there's no guarantee he'll be able to do so in August. A small-school player out of Saginaw Valley State, Green has more than a few coaches to impress to wear the star next season.