Dallas Cowboys: 5 Veterans Who Could Be Camp Casualties
The Dallas Cowboys have made it a point to get younger across their roster, cutting multiple big-name veterans this offseason and emphasizing youth at nearly every position.
Just how young have the Cowboys gotten? They currently have just three players on the roster over the age of 30—Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and L.P. Ladouceur—but 37 players who are either 22 or 23 years old!
And perhaps the youth movement hasn’t ended just yet. The team still has a few veterans who are hanging on for dear life, knowing that in any sort of tiebreaker situation, the coaches are likely to side with the younger option. For a team in Dallas' position, there isn't a ton of incentive to hold on to low-ceiling veterans over high-upside youngsters.
Let’s take a look at five veterans on the Cowboys roster who could end up being camp casualties.
DT Nick Hayden
If there’s one person who benefited from the injury to rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, it’s defensive tackle Nick Hayden. The reason is that without many legitimate starting options on the outside, the Cowboys could very well kick Tyrone Crawford out to play defensive end. That would increase the likelihood that they keep an additional defensive tackle, which, of course, would benefit Hayden.
Hayden is 28 years old and has some new competition on the inside, however. Henry Melton is the 3-technique starter and it looks like the younger, stronger Terrell McClain will be starting next to Melton as the 1-technique. That means Hayden will probably be a backup player if the Cowboys retain him.
It’s going to be tough to justify keeping Hayden as a backup if it comes at the cost of cutting someone like rookie Davon Coleman.
OT Jermey Parnell
Offensive tackle Jermey Parnell has always been considered a player with a high ceiling since he’s so athletic, but he’s also already 28 years old. That’s hardly a death blow to an offensive lineman, but if Parnell was going to turn into a starting-caliber player, you’d think we would have seen signs of it by now.
The biggest reason Parnell might be a camp casualty, though, is the presence of Darrion Weems. Weems is three years younger than Parnell, and it’s unlikely (although not impossible) that the Cowboys will keep both players. Again, if we're rating the players near one another in terms of on-field play, it nearly always makes sense to side with the younger player.
LB Justin Durant
Do I think linebacker Justin Durant is going to get cut? No. But I also think it’s a mistake to just assume he’s going to make the final roster due to the (inexperienced) depth that the Cowboys have at linebacker.
Even after the Sean Lee injury, you’re looking at Bruce Carter, DeVonte Holloman, Kyle Wilber and Anthony Hitchens as locks to make the final roster, with Rolando McClain, Will Smith and Cameron Lawrence also in the mix.
That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Let’s not forget that we all pretty much considered Durant a probable cut before the Lee injury. If that was the case, how is he now a “guarantee” to make the roster?
Durant has such a wide range of possible outcomes this year, all the way from starting at middle linebacker to getting cut. I believe his fortunes will be tied to the development of other players—most notably McClain, Holloman and Hitchens. If any of those three players proves they are ready to play on the inside, I think it makes it easier to get rid of Durant in favor of a younger player with more upside.
Again, I don’t think Durant’s release is probable, but I do think it’s within the range of potential outcomes.
OG Uche Nwaneri
Offensive guard Uche Nwaneri isn’t a veteran to the Cowboys, but he’s certainly a veteran to the NFL at age 30. I still think there’s a chance that Nwaneri makes the team, but there’s a lot of competition on the inside.
Rookie Zack Martin will start on the right side, and even though one of Ronald Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau will be a backup, you still have to think that Dallas will keep both players. If the team retains four guards, Nwaneri will probably be in competition with rookie Brian Clarke out of Bloomsburg for that spot.
What Nwaneri has going for him is that Clarke was undrafted, so it isn’t like the Cowboys were ever counting on him to make the roster. The bad news for Nwaneri is that, although the Cowboys liked him enough to sign him as a free agent, it was to a one-year, $920,000 deal with just $65,000 guaranteed, according to Spotrac.
That $65,000 isn’t a bad payday to participate in a few practices, but it’s not a prohibitive amount that will keep Dallas from letting Nwaneri walk.
FB Tyler Clutts
Although fullback Tyler Clutts has been in the NFL for just four years, he’s already 29 years old. That’s not a problem for a player who will do nothing but block for Dallas, but the veteran fullback has some younger, more talented competition in rookie J.C. Copeland.
Clutts is in the midst of a two-year, $1.2 million deal, according to Spotrac, but he received no guaranteed money. This will be a straight who-is-better pick for Dallas, and the 23-year-old Copeland figures to get the nod if he plays anywhere near as well as Clutts in camp.