Last week Sport DFW released their latest 53-man roster projection and made a startling prediction: The Dallas Cowboys most high profile signing of the offseason wasn’t going to make the cut.
While all roster predictions at this point in the year are aggressively premature, they do have a way of identifying bubble-players, redundancies, and hierarchies. All of these issues point to Dante Fowler being a possible casualty.
Dante Fowler is a redundant player who’s tapped his potential and is financially expendable, making him a possible cut for the Dallas Cowboys
When Randy Gregory rebuked the Dallas Cowboys in embarrassing fashion, Stephen Jones had to do something to stave off the criticism. Re-signing Dorance Armstrong wasn’t going to be enough, he needed an outside addition with some name recognition. Queue Dante Fowler.
Fowler, a former top-5 draft pick with ties to Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, was looking for an opportunity. In his seven seasons in the NFL, he’d only exceeded eight sacks once. He wasn’t a bust of Ryan Leaf proportions, but he was certainly a bust by typical top-5 standards nonetheless.
The Cowboys were able to sign him for a team-friendly deal that could be worth up to $4 million per season, but technically only guaranteed $1M.
They say money talks and if you want to know how the Dallas Cowboys value players, look no further than the money they’re handing out to their defensive ends this season. Dorance Armstrong, signed earlier in the offseason, garnered a two-year contract worth $12 million ($6M of which is guaranteed).
It’s safe to say the Cowboys are much higher on their 25-year-old home grown project Armstrong, than the nomadic Fowler. Even rotational EDGE, Tarell Basham, is guaranteed more in his contract than Fowler, yet we still see Fowler repeatedly placed over the other two players on depth charts and offseason analysis.
It seems Fowler’s name recognition is earning him some goodwill in the media, even if that doesn’t manifest in compensation. And it seems Stephen Jones’ distraction signing did exactly as he planned and satisfied the masses more than a signing of this size probably should have.
The crunch at defensive end
According to the latest 53-man roster projection, the Dallas Cowboys are more than a little redundant on the edge. DeMarcus Lawrence is a lock to pull most of the snaps at LDE. That’s set. Depending how things shake out, either Basham or Chauncey Golston will work behind him (likely the former). The other one will duke it out for snaps on the right side.
Based on contracts, we can safely project Armstrong to get the bulk of the snaps at RDE. Micah Parsons will play off-ball but still promises to get a big chunk of EDGE snaps in obvious passing situations and NASCAR looks.
That means we have three players who are younger and more controllable than Fowler who are almost assured to get snaps at RDE. Keep in mind, we haven’t even gotten to the second round rookie and Dan Quinn’s pet project, Sam Williams.
Williams, a likely pass-rushing specialist early, is going to get a lot of the pass-rushing snaps at RDE that Parsons doesn’t. Quinn wants to look good on this pick so expect him to use Williams as much as possible.
As you can see, if all EDGE players are healthy, there isn’t much room for a guy like Fowler. There are three players who are higher priority players on passing downs (Lawrence, Parsons, Williams) there is the other likely starter opposite Lawrence in Armstrong, and there is the cheap and controllable Golston fighting for snaps after that.
Basham has inside/outside capability (so does Carlos Watkins for that matter) and is guaranteed more money so he’s more likely to make the final cut, even if his ceiling isn’t as high as Fowler’s.
To recap, there are six, maybe seven, EDGE players ahead of Fowler. There are inside/outside players, complete players, and pass-rushing specialists all populating the ranks. The things that Fowler offers are largely redundant making him extremely expendable.
If someone is lost to injury, it opens up a place for Fowler, but the way things stand now, he’s on the wrong side of things heading into training camp.