Although the Dallas Cowboys trimmed their roster down to 53 players yesterday, it’s unlikely to stay that way for very long. Dallas has been clear about their intentions to appraise the current crop of recently released/waived players. And, as many of you have expressed, it is crucial that the Cowboys address the lingering needs they have, mainly in the defensive backfield.
After hours of painstaking research, I believe I have narrowed down the list of potential candidates. I have listed the more well known players available at the positions of safety, corner back, and wideout.
Wide receiver Donnie Avery – The former 2008 2nd round pick and Houston native wanted out of St. Louis. Yesterday, his wish was granted. Avery is looking for a fresh start after missing the entire 2010 season due to a knee injury. Avery appeared to have returned to his previous form this preseason being described as quick and nimble. Despite missing the first game due to knee soreness, he recorded 6 catches for 91 yard and a touchdown this preseason. In 2008, Avery had 53 receptions for 674 yards and 3tds. In 2009, he had 47 receptions for 589 yards, and 5tds. And this was all before Sam Bradford arrived. The injury bug is his biggest concern.
Corner back Will Allen – The veteran Allen is a first round draft from 2001. He has been battling a knee injury through training camp with the Miami Dolphins this year. He was scheduled to make 5.5 million, but agreed to a pay cut of less than half of that for the chance to stay on the squad. It is believed that Allen’s salary other than his play was the main reason why he was released.
Corner back Nathan Vasher – The former Bear did make the pro bowl back in 2005, but it’s been downhill ever since. Vasher has struggled with injuries ever since and was finally released by the Bears in 2010. He was then signed by the Chargers and subsequently released without playing a game with them. He spent last year in Detroit, but became expendable when CB Alphonso Smith returned from injury.
Safety Chris Horton – Horton was a three year veteran of the Washington Redskins. He was named Defensive Rookie of the month in Oct. ’08. In 2008, he had 76 tackles and 3 interceptions. His numbers have gone down each year since. Horton was placed on IR mid-season last year. In 7 games last year, he had on 9 tackles total. Those facts combined with the acquisitions of LaRon Landry and O.J. Atogwe left little room for him in Washington.
Safety Matt Ware - The 8th year veteran was in the hunt for the starting safety spot in Arizona due to the torn bicep injury suffered by Adrian Wilson this preseason. But it appears the Cardinals believe Wilson will be able to play soon with the release of Ware. Although he played in 14 games last season, he only recorded 6 tackles.
Wide receiver Brandon Tate - Tate became a victim of the new kickoff rules. With more touchbacks than ever, Tate failed to prove to Coach Bill Belichick that he could anything more than just return kicks. It didn’t help that he was hurt most of the preseason. And when Tate finally did play, he didn’t make much of an impact. Last season, the third year player showed glimpses of potential. He finished the year with 24 receptions and 3 tds. Tate also had 2 tds and over 1000 yards as the kick-off returner. (UPDATE: The Cincinnati Bengals have claimed Tate off waivers)
Wide receiver Sinorice Moss -The former 2nd round draft pick and younger brother to Washington’s Santana Moss has been plagued by injuries his entire career. The former Giant is coming off a sports hernia injury that cost him the entire 2010-11 season. Despite this, Moss actually played well during the preseason for the Eagles. He showed himself to be a decent slot receiver and punt returner. But the Eagles were stacked at wideout and the addition of Steve Smith made Moss expendable.
Safety Pierson Prioleau – Prioleau is a 12 year veteran who was part of the 2009 New Orleans Saints Superbowl team. He spent last year as the Saints Special Team’s Captain. He is purely a back-up player with a knack at special teams. Last year, he had 18 tackles and one sack.
Wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu - Tutu was competing to become the Charger’s fifth receiver before he was released. Although he had a couple decent games last year, he was unable to “show up” any this preseason. Tutu is best known for his 4 rec for 111 yards and 2td performance against the Texans last year. But he finished the year with just 13 receptions. Tutu is a good special teams player and that’s how he would make a club. (UPDATE: The Carolina Panthers have claimed Tutu off waivers)
Cornerback Lito Sheppard – The former first round draft pick from 2002 has bounced around the league a bit since leaving Philadelphia in 2009. He spent a year with the Jets, before spending last year in Minnesota. The former pro bowler was without a job when the preseason started. But last week, he signed with the Raiders. Now, they’ve cut him. Sheppard’s stats have been mediocre since his last year as an Eagle.
Wide Receiver Justin Gage – Gage is a 9th year veteran whose numbers have been in a steady decline for the last four seasons. Last year, he played just 11 games finishing with 20 receptions for 266 yards and 1td. Despite having a good training camp, Gage’s 3.5 million salary was the main reason for his release.
Safety Quintin Demps - Demps could have already played his final game in the NFL. Demps signed on in Houston late last year after being released by the Eagles prior to the start of the season. He has only been active 11 times since early 2009. He recorded just one tackle last year, and only 11 tackles the year before.
Safety Don Carey – The third year player started 10 games last season for the Jaguars. He finished the year with 55 tackles and one interception. Recently, the Jags acquired Dwight Lowery in a trade with the Jets. This move was seen as an upgrade from Carey and they subsequently released him.
Safety Vincent Fuller -Fuller is a six year veteran who has only played with the Titans as a back up. He recently took a pay cut to try and stay with the team. He was released do to being outplayed by two other back-up safeties in the preseason. Last year he made 32 tackles in12 games. That is about his average output every year.
Wide Receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins – The former speedster from the Oakland Raiders found himself in a crowded receiver core in Philadelphia this preseason. Higgins, who had three punt returns for touchdowns in 2008, is mainly a special teamer. Hence, he became another victim of the NFL’s new kickoff rules. As a receiver, Higgins had just 10 catches for 103 yards last year.
Safety Marlin Jackson – Saying that Jackson has struggled with the injury bug is a gigantic understatement. Prior to being release by the Eagles, the former first round pick spent last year on the IR. His two previous years as a Colt were also spent on the IR. The last time Jackson actually played was in week 4 of the 2009-10 season. He did record 6 tackles in that game though. Jackson can play well when he’s healthy. His best season was in 2007-08 when he recorded 88 tackles and an interception.
Cornerback Perrish Cox – As a part time starter for the Broncos last season, Cox recorded 58 tackles and an interception in his rookie year. But he spent most of this preseason shuffling between the 2nd and 3rd string teams. Cox’s play improved in the final two games and it seemed he was close to securing a roster spot. Surely hurting his chances was the fact Cox is currently facing a sexual assault charge. His trial will commence later this year. If convicted of this crime, he could face life imprisonment. Cox believes he can make a team despite his pending legal issues.