Cowboys lose underrated depth piece and fan favorite to NFC rival

Las Vegas Raiders v Dallas Cowboys
Las Vegas Raiders v Dallas Cowboys / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys were always expected to endure a mass exodus of free agents this offseason. Losing players is a yearly tradition in the NFL, but it will still hurt to see franchise legendTyron Smith lace 'em up for another team.

Tony Pollard is another loss that stings and Cowboys Nation isn't exactly thrilled that Stephon Gilmore is still floating around in free agency. While Smith and Pollard represent Dallas' most high-profile departures, the losses of unheralded players like defensive lineman Dorance Armstrong and nose tackle Johnathan Hankins shouldn't be overlooked.

Oftentimes it's the players who don't receive love in the media that are adored by fans and the locker room. They typically do all the little things right on the field that don't get picked up by a broadcast.

The Cowboys have lost a player that fits that exact description.

Cowboys fan favorite Sean McKeon signs with the Lions

By no means is this the end of the world, but McKeon was a popular figure in the Cowboys' locker room and an important depth piece. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan four years ago, McKeon appeared in 45 regular-season games for Dallas, including three starts.

Even though the Cowboys selected Luke Schoonmaker in the second round last year, McKeon managed to play in nine games. He benefited from an injury to Peyton Hendershot, but most Cowboys fans would have rather seen McKeon on the field anyway.

McKeon is highly regarded in the Cowboys' building. It reportedly pained the coaching staff to leave him off the 53-man roster last summer. He swiftly re-signed to the practice squad and was playing almost 60% of the snaps before he was placed on the reserve/injured list in December.

The 26-year-old was used sparingly on offense over his four years in Dallas, largely as a blocker for the running game. More often than not, he delivered. Look no further than this stonewall block on a Seahawks linebacker.

While the Cowboys value McKeon, they simply have too many mouths to feed at tight end between Jake Ferguson, Schoonmaker, Hendershot and promising second-year pros John Stephens Jr. and Princeton Fant. They also gave undrafted free agent Brevyn Spann-Ford a $225,000 salary with a $20,000 signing bonus, which confirms he'll be right there in terms of making the final roster.

McKeon is a pro's pro and he joins a Lions team that is now a Cowboys rival given their rising status among the NFL's elite and the controversial ending in last season's matchup. He'll compete in a crowded tight end room, but that didn't stop him from making a name for himself in Dallas.

More Cowboys coverage