FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys have ended the Taco Charlton era.
It's been a subject of speculation for the better part of a month, but the Cowboys officially moved on Wednesday morning. Needing a roster spot to bring Robert Quinn back from his two-game suspension, they released Charlton – their first-round draft pick from 2017 – at the outset of just his third season with the team.
The story of how things got to this point has become a bit convoluted over the past two weeks.
Charlton's future had been a topic of conversation for months, but he seemed to quiet the noise with a solid performance in the preseason. In the Cowboys' third preseason game against Houston, Charlton recorded three tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery – seeming to cement his spot on the final 53-man roster.
He did earn that roster spot, but it hasn't amounted to much since the start of the regular season. Charlton was a healthy scratch for both of the first two games of the season, prompting plenty more speculation about his future with the team.
Charlton himself furthered the conversation via social media. When he learned he'd be inactive for the season opener against the New York Giants, he took to Twitter to express his regret that he wouldn't be able to play against Eli Manning.
Then, on Monday of this week, Charlton tweeted a response to a quote from Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones about why he had been inactive for the Week 2 game in Washington.
That response simply said "free me."
It was a winding road to get here, but Charlton now has his wish. The Cowboys reportedly considered trading Charlton earlier this year, but with no realistic suitors he has is release and is free to pursue his career elsewhere.
The move brings a close to one of the Cowboys' most disappointing draft stories in recent history. This front office has had tremendous success in the first round of recent NFL drafts, finding All-Pro talents like Zack Martin, Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott and Leighton Vander Esch.
Charlton never lived up to that pedigree. He played sparingly during his rookie season, logging limited snaps and finishing with 19 tackles and three sacks. The 2018 season saw him earn three starts, but he only played in 11 games and was a healthy scratch in the second half of the year – raising concerns about his development.
The Cowboys clearly tried to make the best of the situation, and he looked likely to have one last chance to find his stride in 2019. Now, it can only be chalked up as a bad decision and a missed opportunity.
Looking forward, Quinn figures to work with Tyrone Crawford at the right defensive end position, while DeMarcus Lawrence mans the left side. Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder and Joe Jackson, who were Charlton's primary competition during training camp, will provide depth on the edges.