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A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys 2011 53-Man Roster: Draft Picks and Free Agents

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Jonathan Bales

A few holes on the Cowboys’ roster went unfilled during the draft because the team decided to select the best player available in each spot.  That’s fine, as long as those weaknesses are upgraded via free agency.  I don’t think you’ll see Dallas be overly active in free agency, but I do envision one top player and one solid player coming to Big D.  Free safety and defensive end are the obvious areas of need.

***Note: Those listed in green are free agents signings.  Those in red are rookies.

Dallas Cowboys 2011 53-Man Roster

QB
Tony Romo
Jon Kitna
Stephen McGee

Analysis: Nothing much to dissect here.  There were rumors the Cowboys would have drafted TCU quarterback Andy Dalton if he fell to No. 40 in the draft, but it looks like McGee is safe.  And no, Kitna will not be the starting quarterback in 2011.

RB
Felix Jones
DeMarco Murray
Tashard Choice
Shaun Chapas

Analysis: Marion Barber will be cut within a couple months due to an upcoming bonus.  The Cowboys might look at trading choice (or cutting him outright).  Jason Garrett is not a fan of his because he doesn’t play special teams well.  He does produce at running back, but Murray will be the clear No. 2 option (and perhaps No. 1 within a year or two).

It’s also possible the Cowboys keep two fullbacks.  Chapas is a better lead blocker than Chris Gronkowski, so he is definitely making the team.  The Cowboys don’t need their fullback to be a monster in the receiving game.  I really think Garrett will want to keep two fullbacks, and it could be a reality if the ‘Boys use just one kicker this season.  I think the idea of two fullbacks is horrible, as it would steal a roster spot from a player who could help in the area of offense where football games are won. . .the passing game.  Plus, tight end John Phillips can be used as a fullback in emergencies.

WR
Dez Bryant
Miles Austin
Roy Williams
Kevin Ogletree
Dwayne Harris

Analysis: The ‘Boys could very well carry six receivers, in which case Jesse Holley and Sam Hurd are both options.  I think Hurd will be gone because, despite his special teams value, his upside as a piece in the offense is limited.  Rookie Dwayne Harris is a good special teams player, and if Dallas retains six pass-catchers, Holley would likely make the team ahead of Hurd because of greater upside.  Ogletree is also on the roster bubble because he doesn’t quite fit with the image Garrett is clearly trying to implement on his football team.

TE
Jason Witten
Martellus Bennett
John Phillips

Analysis: The only question here is whether Phillips will surpass Bennett for the No. 2 tight end job.  I think there are ways to get Phillips on the field without severely limiting Bennett’s snaps.  Despite concerns about Bennett’s maturity, he isn’t really a bad guy and he is so much more valuable as a blocker than people realize.

OL
Doug Free
Tyron Smith
Sam Young
Leonard Davis
Kyle Kosier
Robert Brewster
Phil Costa
Andre Gurode
David Arkin
Bill Nagy

Analysis: Projecting the offensive line is difficult.  Davis, Kosier, Brewster and Nagy are all far from certain to make the team.  I think you’ll see the Cowboys re-sign Kosier and retain Davis (even if they cut and re-sign him) because it is doubtful they’re ready to let Costa or Arkin start at guard.  It’s possible they could sign a free agent, and I detailed those players in my 2011 Dallas Cowboys Free Agency Guide.  Davin Joseph, Justin Blalock and Robert Gallery are among the options there.

DL
Jay Ratliff
Stephen Bowen
Cullen Jenkins
Josh Brent
Jason Hatcher
Sean Lissemore

Analysis: My first free agent signing comes with the addition of Cullen Jenkins.  Jenkins is a five-technique player who is far superior to Igor Olshansky.  Olshansky may very well make the team because he doesn’t cost a lot, but why?  He was horrible last season and is extremely limited in what he can do.  Bowen and Hatcher are both free agents, so the ‘Boys could let one of them (probably Hatcher) walk.  If they keep both, I think the Cowboys will retain the upside of Lissemore over the age of Olshansky.

OLB
DeMarcus Ware
Anthony Spencer
Victor Butler
Brandon Williams

Analysis: I don’t think there’s much debate here.  Spencer needs to step up in 2011, and I think Butler will push him for snaps.  Williams’ improvement hasn’t been what the Cowboys wanted, but who is going to challenge him for a roster spot?

ILB
Bradie James
Sean Lee
Keith Brooking
Bruce Carter

Analysis: I think Brooking’s spot on the roster is fine if he isn’t a progress-stopper for Lee and Carter.  Lee should start and Brooking should only play in certain situations.  I really like the idea of Lee and Carter as the nickel linebackers.  It is difficult to keep a No. 3/4 linebacker who doesn’t play special teams, but Brooking’s leadership is worth it.  Leon Williams is gone.

CB
Mike Jenkins
Terence Newman
Orlando Scandrick
Bryan McCann
Alan Ball
Josh Thomas

Analysis: The biggest surprise here is Ball still on the team.  The Cowboys obviously liked Ball’s progress at cornerback in 2009, however, and he can also be thought of as an emergency option at free safety.  My confidence that Ball will make the roster is shaky because six cornerbacks is excessive and the other five are locks, in my opinion.

The only way the Cowboys can release Newman is if they sign a free agent.  With a top free agent free safety a must, I don’t think the ‘Boys will have the funds for a top cornerback like Nnamdi Asomugha or Jonathan Joseph.

S
Michael Huff
Gerald Sensabaugh
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah
Barry Church

Analysis: The Cowboys’ starting free safety is not on the team right now.  There’s obviously a reason Jerry Jones passed on a safety throughout the entire draft, and I think Huff is that reason.  Donte Whitner and Dawan Landry are lower-end options.

Sensabaugh is a free agent, although I think the Cowboys would like to re-sign him.  He may test the free agent market, but the abundance of free agent safeties makes it unlikely he’ll find the deal he is seeking.  He could be in Dallas for one more season.

I think Barry Church and Danny McCray will fight for the final safety spot.  Neither is ready to start, but Church possesses more upside and better coverage skills, in my view.

Don’t count out undrafted players DeAndre McDaniel (Clemson) and Deunta Williams (UNC).  I think they’d actually take Ball’s roster spot as opposed to that of a fellow safety.

Specialists
David Buehler
Kris Brown
Mat McBriar
L.P. Ladouceur

Analysis: Will Garrett “save” a roster spot by either cutting Buehler or retaining him as the sole kicker?  I don’t think Garrett will want to experience the Buehler field goal circus again, but I do think he realizes the value of Buehler’s touchbacks.  Even with the new kickoff rule, Buehler’s ability to kick the ball through the end zone will be worth a ton.  Give him a year to work on his field goals behind a player like Brown (who is already on the offseason roster).  David Akers is also reportedly an option.

Notable Cuts/Left Unsigned
OT Marc Colombo
RB Marion Barber
DE Igor Olshansky
FB Chris Gronkowski
G Montrae Holland
S Danny McCray
WR Jesse Holley
WR Teddy Williams
DE Marcus Spears
LB Leon Williams
WR Sam Hurd
OT Alex Barron

Analysis: Yes. Yes. Yes.  Colombo and Barber gone.  The Cowboys may miss Barber’s pass protection in 2011, but they missed Colombo’s pass protection in 2010.  I honestly believe the Cowboys score three or four more points per game with Smith at right tackle over Colombo.

The players on this list with the best opportunity to make the roster are Olshansky, Gronkowski, McCray and Holley.  Spears is a free agent and probably won’t be back, so Dallas will need to replace his run-stopping ability.  Right now, I’m not sure who will do that.

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23 Responses to Dallas Cowboys 2011 53-Man Roster: Draft Picks and Free Agents

  1. Victor says:

    How about UCLA kicker Kai Forbath as a rookie free agent?

  2. bW says:

    I’m guessing they do actually trade Choice and have Lonyae take his place on the roster as the 3rd back.
    Jerry, at one of the pressers concerning Murray, said they had no running backs playing special teams. But Choice did play special teams…just not as well as they wanted.
    I know I’m reading a lot into one little sentence, but I think Jerry (and JG) have their mind made up about Choice.

  3. Ian says:

    I hope we can replace Davis at guard with the likes of devin joseph or Logan mankins depending on how the new cba shapes up !

  4. Vince_Grey says:

    Man, I hate the idea of carrying two kickers. Just rubs my football senses the wrong way.

    Gronk (Love that nickname) just might surprise. There’s no law that says he couldn’t have spent the off season working out on getting stronger and finishing his blocks. Not totally against two FB’s (Say, 90%) but agree that’s overkill.

    Can’t see both Choice and Barber gone unless another true RB is signed. Going into the season with only oft-injured Felix and a rookie would bother me a lot. Good news is, decent RB’s are plentiful.

    On the free agent thing, I am totally against spending big $$$ for free agents as a rule, but there’s lots of talk of this being another uncapped year. With no cap concerns, would Jerry step up a bit more for maybe two free agent DL and a safety? Plus a RB? I see the market saturated with D-linemen because of all the ones drafted. Don’t you?

    Could you elaborate about Ogletree?

  5. starred4life says:

    I like most of this, however. We passed on cutting Roy Williams in the last uncapped year. I hope we don’t do have to keep him next year as well just because it’d cost more to cut him. T. Newman should be traded in for Johnathan Joseph. We could pretty much erase Newman’s name on his contract and add Joseph’s. Our salary cap would look the same, but we’d be six years younger at that CB spot. And since I’d like to see Donte Whitner added as well, it makes better sense than trying to sign uber-expensive (29yrs old) Asamougha.
    If we cut Roy and Newman, it’d free up cash for both of these guys. Everyone seems to think Huff is the obvious choice, but I’ve been reading what Raiders fans think of him and they are glad to see him go (much like we were when the original Roy Williams went to Cinci.). Notice Whitner is ranked 7 on ESPN’s safety rankings as well (Huff’s name isn’t in the top ten).

  6. starred4life says:

    Also, don’t you think the Cowboys must be high on Brewster or Parnell if they didn’t jump on Ijalana in the second? (at least high on something).

    As I processed the Carter pick (through gritted teeth), it seems absolutely implausible that they’d make that move if they’re planning on Kosier and Davis manning the guard spots again this year. They’ve got to have someone they really like, don’t they?

    And what’s with Parnell? Isn’t he kind of an oddball of a roster decision. He was a basketballer in college who played one year at DE for Ole Miss. Then went as an undrafted free agent to Miami. Was a conversion project for O line. Was cut and picked up by the Saints and then swiped from their practice squad by us. Why? He must have shown something somewhere, but when? to whom?

  7. john coleman says:

    I like it all except possibly losing Choice. I agree with VG, concerning entering the season with injury prone Felix and Murray. To me Choice is # 2, until Murray does it on the field. I do see Murray as being a KR/PR guy.

    I’m not sure about Teddy Williams as well. We moved him to the roster to make sure he stayed around. Then just cut him loose? I personally thought he looked pretty good at CB for a guy who hadn’t played since high school.

    I also like the potential of McDaniel or D.Willliams as UDFA’s. There are some other guys I think have a shot as well. I hope we contacted some people before the lockout came back.

  8. moses says:

    I hope it pans our well.

    AOA came in with such high hopes and potential. He was injured for the year and we haven’t seen it. I hope he contributes this year
    Brewster got hurt as well and the jury is still out
    Church was adequate as a backup
    Ted Williams looked like he was making progress. He has some upside and I hope he blossoms
    I hope Carter comes out strong. We spent a 2nd rounder on him and we had a lot of more pressing needs and the appropriate talent on the board
    I want to see how he transitions to the NFL. There are a lot of great athletes that don’t transition into football players.

  9. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft Picks: Their Impact This Season and Beyond | Dallas Cowboys Times

  10. Victor..I know nothing about Forbath, but I would really like to see Kris Brown or another veteran win the kicking job (or Buehler really, but I can’t see him improving that much in one season).

    Vince–As far as Ogletree…he seemed to become complacent last season after a rookie year in which he “overachieved.” He doesn’t seem to play particularly hard on special teams and, as a No. 4 or 5 WR, he MUST play ST well. I think Garrett’s first full season as HC will be about accountability, and I’m not sure Ogletree fits in well with what JG is trying to do. Ask yourself this….would Garrett have drafted Ogletree this season if he was a rookie? I really don’t think so.

  11. Starred—The Cowboys won’t save any $ by cutting Williams this year, which is why I think he will stay. Newman is a different story, but I still think he stays due to a lack of competition (unless they sign a vet CB).

  12. Vince_Grey says:

    JB – On Ogletree, I thought you were inferring that there were off the field issues that Garrett was unhappy about. Understood now.

    Starred4life – Jeremy Parnell is one of those hulky basketball guys who’s so big that if you can find the right position for him, you’ll have a real player there. Purely a project at this point, but he didn’t really cost us anything.

    Funny thing is, he was 6′ 8″ 240 at OM and now he’s 6′ 6″ and 290 with Dallas.

    Getting shorter and wider, like me! LoL…

  13. Vince..not at all. I think Ogletree is smart enough to stay out of trouble, but I don’t see a top-flight work ethic.

  14. JJ says:

    Jonathan-

    I actually went through this exercise right after the draft and did keep all draft picks and found my list eerily similar. Where I disagree is in keeping two kickers. Man up and keep Buehler. If he fails, you can always bring in Brown but I agree with Vince…1 kicker.

    I also, could not find more than 2 FAs (one at safety and DE) to add unless a better than Newman CB emerged THAT WAS YOUNG. Don’t see it happening. Jerry seems compelled to believe that the CBs just faltered last year. I do wonder, however, if there are any FA undrafted gems that could make the squad and supplant someone at WR (i.e. Ogletree).

    Finally, and again I just can’t shake this condition called “we suck at DE” and hope that Cullen Jenkins is available and IS AN ANSWER. The free agent options seem very limited and the Cowboys have no unanswered questions at DE. They know what they have…(Igor is Wade’s guy and is mediocre at best, Hatcher is wildly inconsistent, Bowen is a very good 3rd DE especially on passing downs and Spears just seems destined to be a former Cowboy.)

  15. Vince_Grey says:

    I don’t know why some of you guys want to cut Roy so bad. If you forget his contract, he’s not a bad player at all. Very good around the end zone, especially. Overpaid? Most definitely. Vastly overpaid? Few would argue.

    BUT… the league is full of overpaid players, and it’s not like Roy held out and put a gun to Jerry’s ear and forced him to pay. JJ traded for Roy Williams and offered him that huge extension.

    Go ahead. Show of hands to all who would have told Jerry “Nah, I’m really not worth that kind of money. Pay me less and I’ll sign.”

    Anyone? Anyone?

  16. Vince_Grey says:

    JJ – Agree that DE is a likely sore spot. There are some who say that in a 3-4, the DE position is basically two guys who are not much more than space/blocker eaters.

    Well, if they’re average/below average players, that’s true, but a real stud like a Bruce Smith or even a Richard Seymour during his prime years with the Pats can be so much more than that.

    It’s not the position that’s a waste of talent/money, it’s the players at those positions.

  17. JJ–If the Cowboys keep one kicker, I can’t see it being Buehler. He certainly has potential and I love the fact that he’s an athlete and is valuable on kickoffs, but I can’t see him making the type of progress in one year on place kicks that is needed. I really prefer Buehler AND a vet, or if one K is required, then just the vet. As far as Jenkins…all signs point to him being available.

  18. Knowbody says:

    Here is what I pray the Boys do. Cut Barber, Columbo immediately. Ask Roy, L.Davis and Newman to take a pay cut reduction to help the team or risk getting cut the first week of the season (gives the team leverage cause those players arent guranteed after week 2). With that money saved, Lets hope we can sign FreeCullen Jenkins (him and his brother really were/are good players its in their blood) and I hope we can get a ture NT like A. Franklin of S.F or Haloti Ngata and move Ratty to his true position of DE. Imagine that Defensive Line…WOW..Then I wouldnt be worried about FS too much cause there wont be too much time for QB’s to pass..lol. We probably could have enough to sign a med level free agent FS. I would go nuts if we could pull that off.

  19. Jug says:

    WR
    Dez Bryant
    Miles Austin
    Roy Williams
    Kevin Ogletree
    Dwayne Harris

    love this in fact it would not surprise me if Harris has more catches then RW’s

    OL
    Doug Free
    Tyron Smith
    Sam Young
    Leonard Davis
    Kyle Kosier
    Robert Brewster
    Phil Costa
    Andre Gurode
    David Arkin
    Bill Nagy

    Don’t really like Brewster rather have Bright
    think Costa gets beat out by Nagy

  20. Eagles Suck says:

    No way Holland will leave the team. He’s cheap and he’s at worst the third best guard in the team, considering Kosier is a FA, he’s the 2nd best. And considering Davis is quickly degrading player, he might actually be the best. Anyway, he’s staying.

  21. vinny says:

    I like the choices on roster but on the field goal who will be the kicker for the 2011 season? on the right side of the offensive line u should put tyron smith as starter right tackle… and u should release k. brooking and sign a free agent inside linebacker and put carter and lee as starter next year and keep james

  22. vinny says:

    I like the choices on the roster but on the field goal who will be the kicker for the 2011 season? on the right side of the offensive line you should put tyron smith as starter right tackle…and u should release k. brooking and sign a free agent inside linebacker and put carter and lee as starter next year and keep james.

  23. vinny says:

    at guard it would be a good idea if nagy is starter and costa as a backup.

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