FRISCO, Texas – There are surprise roster cuts every year, and in 2020 it's the Cowboys' linebackers who earn that distinction.
The Cowboys made 16 roster moves on Saturday afternoon to help themselves meet the 53-man roster limit.
Somewhat shockingly, two of those moves happened to be linebackers, as the Cowboys released Justin March and undrafted rookie Francis Bernard.
This is curious purely from a numbers standpoint. The Cowboys entered training camp with just seven linebackers, and two of them – Sean Lee and Luke Gifford – are currently dealing with injuries. So, as it stands right now, the team currently has just three healthy linebackers in Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith and Joe Thomas.
There's likely a good explanation for this. NFL rules stipulate that players must be on the initial 53-man roster in order to be brought back from injured reserve. If they are moved to injured reserve prior to the roster deadline, they are done for the year.
It has already been reported that Lee might be moving to injured reserve for a stint. It stands to reason that the same could be done for Gifford. After all, the window for bringing a player back this season is just three weeks – and there is also no limit to the number of players who can be brought back.
March is a vested veteran with four years of NFL experience, so he could theoretically re-sign to the team later this week without clearing waivers. As a rookie, Bernard would have to clear the league's waiver wire in order to return to the roster or the practice squad.
As for the rest of the cuts, the Cowboys also parted ways with offensive tackle Isaac Alarcon, cornerback Deante Burton, defensive end Ron'Dell Carter, cornerback C.J. Goodwin, defensive linemen Justin and Ladarius Hamilton, center Marcus Henry, wide receiver Jon'Vea Johnson, wide receiver Tevin Jones, safety Luther Kirk, fullback Sewo Olonilua, wide receiver Aaron Parker, cornerback Saivion Smith and cornerback Chris Westry.
Some notable names you won't find on that list are quarterback Ben DiNucci, running back Rico Dowdle, tight end Sean McKeon, offensive tackle Terence Steele and defensive end Bradlee Anae.
Anae isn't too surprising, given that the fifth-round draft pick had such an impressive camp. The Cowboys officially opted to keep their entire draft class, including DiNucci – who was their final pick in the seventh round.
Dowdle, Steele and McKeon all joined the team as undrafted free agents – and all three made the initial 53-man roster after solid showings at camp.
Beyond the drama of Saturday, a lot of these moves had already been decided. The Cowboys got to work on their roster cuts earlier in the week, which is not something they've typically done in the past.
Most notably, they made waves on Thursday afternoon when they opted to release veteran safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The former Pro Bowler signed this spring with an eye on claiming one of the Cowboys' starting safety jobs, but the start of training camp saw him fall behind both Xavier Woods and Darian Thompson in the pecking order.
On Wednesday afternoon, the team released wide receiver Devin Smith, offensive lineman Adam Redmond, quarterback Clayton Thorson, tight end Charlie Taumoepeau and offensive tackle Pace Murphy. They also waived/injured Mitch Hyatt and Wyatt Miller, both of whom sustained injuries during training camp.
Then on Friday, they released four more players – defensive end Joe Jackson, running back Darius Anderson, tight end Cole Hikutini and offensive tackle Cody Wichmann. Jackson was a fifth-round pick by the team in 2019.
The reasoning was fairly straightforward. In a typical year, teams can't afford to make too many cuts ahead of time, as there is still a fourth preseason game to play before the final roster cuts. With no preseason games this summer, NFL clubs could focus a little less on the final exhibitions and a little more on the start of the regular season.
|Alarcon, Isaac||T||Monterrey Tech|
|Burton, Deante||CB||Kansas State|
|Carter, Ron'Dell||DE||James Madison|
|Goodwin, C.J.||CB||California, PA|
|Hamilton, Ladarius||DE||North Texas|
|Henry, Marcus||C||Boise State|
|Kirk, Luther||S||Illinois State|
|Parker, Aaron||WR||Rhode Island|