3 roster mistakes the Dallas Cowboys must avoid
By Richard Ball
On Saturday, the Dallas Cowboys will need to trim their 90 man roster to 53 players. Here are three mistakes the front office needs to avoid.
The Dallas Cowboys have a recent history of making trades to acquire veteran depth for conditional draft picks. If this season is the only one that mattered, these moves make sense. When you consider the bigger picture, this is not a great strategy.
In 2017, the Cowboys shipped a conditional sixth round draft pick to Cincinnati for cornerback Bene Benwikere. In 2015, Dallas traded a conditional seventh round draft pick to Seattle for running back Christine Michael. In both cases, the trades cost the Cowboys draft picks for players who were at best role players.
In 2018, the Cowboys traded cornerback Charvarius Ward to Kansas City for offensive lineman Parker Ehinger to address depth issues with center Travis Frederick’s Guillain-Barre syndrome diagnosis bringing uncertainty to the offensive line depth. Ehinger didn’t work out landing on injured reserve and then getting cut before training camp started this season but no future draft capital was lost.
In 2015, the Cowboys traded a fifth round draft pick to Buffalo for quarterback Matt Cassel and a seventh round draft pick. While Cassel didn’t work out as a quarterback for Dallas in a lost season, the cost was only dropping two rounds in draft.
In the Ehinger and Cassel trade, the Cowboys did not lose any future draft picks. This matters because the 2020 roster will be much more challenging to put together.
Assuming contracts for Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper get worked out, the Cowboys will have seven players with contracts greater than five percent of the salary cap next season. This will create a top heavy roster that will need a disproportionate number of players making minimum salaries to stay under the salary cap.
The easy answer will be to renegotiate some contracts and push 2020 money into future years. That only builds a much bigger future problem – see former quarterback Tony Romo’s last contract as evidence.
The more viable solution will be to build your roster with players on their first contract. In 2020, Joe Thomas and Joe Looney will be luxuries that the team can’t afford. In their place, they will need to find players like Luke Gifford and Brandon Knight who are playing on a minimum wage salary.
So the first mistake the Cowboys must avoid is trading future draft picks for bottom of the roster players. The next one is …