In early roster discussions for Cowboys fans and the local media, there's a consensus impression that either Marcus Spears or Kenyon Coleman will be without a job because of pressure from younger players at defensive end.
By now most fans are familiar with the team's optimism for third-year man Sean Lissemore, who pushed one veteran end off the roster last year, Igor Olshansky, and may be poised to do the same thing again during this year's preseason. The team also added an end with an early pick in the draft, Tyrone Crawford, supplementing a position that was five-deep on last year's 53-man roster.
There's at least one other young end who could figure into the discussion: 24-year-old Clifton Geathers.
Picked up late in 2010, Geathers won a roster spot in camp last year and stuck around throughout the season, despite only dressing for five games. Clearly the Cowboys held onto him around for a reason. They've typically kept only four ends since converting to the 3-4.
Currently, Jason Hatcher is locked in as the starting right end, while Coleman and Spears are in a competition to start - or just to stick around - on the left side. Both players are known commodities.
But what if, during training camp, the more athletic Lissemore or the high-motored Crawford outshine both of the vets, and wins the starting job? If neither Spears or Coleman are starting, the Cowboys don't have an incredibly compelling reason to keep either one.
Both are essentially two-down players, not offering much pass rush. If Geathers continues to develop, he would be a younger, cheaper alternative as a bit player in the run-stopping rotation.
At 6-7, 316 pounds, he certainly has the frame to hold up against the run, and though he's still pretty green, he says his work with D-line coaches Brian Baker and Leon Lett is improving his technique.
"They're helping me to slow the game down and play it faster, and use my tools to the best of my ability, to give me an advantage," Geathers said. "All I do is try to get better every day. I don't care what anybody else does. It's just all about how I can get better. I just have to take it one step at a time. Wherever I can fit in, and in whatever way I can help, I'll do that."
Of course, the numbers game at defensive end could go another way. Maybe Spears and Coleman both make the team, and Geathers doesn't. They're all in position to have to earn it.
But in a league where teams are always looking to get younger, and cheaper, it probably can't be assumed that either veteran will be a part of the 53-man roster.
From a financial standpoint, the Cowboys would save some money by releasing Coleman, and it would cost them a little bit to let go of Spears. If both were gone, their respective salary cap hit would cancel one another out.