16 roster decisions Cowboys must make for 2023, and advice on each


The Cowboys 2022 season wasn't bad from a macro perspective. It felt like a downgrade with the offseason losses of starters Amari Cooper, Connor Williams, and Randy Gregory. Mix in their abysmal performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, plus the injury to quarterback Dak Prescott, and most believed the season was over before October.

But it wasn't, and Dallas won 12 games in back-to-back campaigns for the first time since the 1990s, won their first road playoff game since 1992, and even finally toppled the great Tom Brady.

Unfortunately, the Cowboys went out with a whimper in the divisional round of the playoffs. The offense didn't back up a terrific defensive performance and now the offseason begins anew with many questions for the front office to answer.

While the coaching staff is still in major flux, roster decisions are always at the top of the to-do list. What players need resigning, which should be allowed to walk, and do any need to be cut?

QB - Cooper Rush


(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Rush might not have run a top offense in the league, but he helped the Cowboys go 4-1 in the absence of Dak Prescott and earned himself a high-paying backup role, if not an opportunity to start elsewhere. Dallas can walk away with a compensatory pick in the draft and look for a new backup QB going forward.

RB - Tony Pollard


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The last image of 2022 Pollard is in an air cast, carted off the sideline, ending most fans hope of getting run-game help against a great San Francisco 49er defense. This should not deter the Cowboys one bit with using the franchise tag on him. It is projected at approximately $10 million for the position and that is easily worth the cost to get a badly-needed playmaker for this offense.

RB - Ezekiel Elliott


Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Elliott went from a top-five pick to the top-paid, bell-cow running back, to a short-yardage back for Dallas. If it wasn't clear before, the injury to Pollard exposed how far the run game falls back when it goes from Pollard or Elliott. The Cowboys' offensive line was opening holes against the 49er front seven, but the gains that could've gone for six to eight yards for Pollard were two-to-three-yard gains for Elliott.

A post June-1cut saves Dallas nearly $11 million on the cap, which just so happens to be around the exact price to tag Pollard.

WR - T.Y. Hilton


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Hilton played well in his small role in Dallas and could be a veteran worth bringing back. The front office will likely want to see other, young receivers in camp, but Hilton could be a veteran signing if nobody steps up.

WR - Noah Brown


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Brown was one of the better value picks from Will McClay. The 21st pick of the seventh round in 2017 outperformed his draft status.  He was an excellent special teams standout who worked his way up the depth chart with perseverance and an ability to block.

Brown accumulated more than half of his career receptions (82) and yards (980) this season, adding all three of his touchdowns. It would not be a surprise if Brown followed quarterback Rush to his next home.

TE - Dalton Schultz


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Schultz is one of the tougher players to make a decision on because while his overall statistics look good and he has a great rapport with the starting QB, does he do anything that isn't replaceable?

He is solid, but not dynamic enough to pay big money to. The Cowboys can let him walk and align themselves for a potential compensatory pick.

OT - Tyron Smith


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A quality offensive tackle for a cap hit of $17 million isn't a bad move, especially since he showed he can play either tackle spot well and Terence Steele has an injury concern to start the 2023 season. On the other hand, the Cowboys have plenty of free agents and also multiple roster improvements necessary and could use the cap relief.

If the Cowboys move on from Smith, they can save at least $9.5 million in space and up to $13.6 million. With Tyron Smith in the fold, he can start at LT, with Steele at RT, and Tyler Smith at LG. If Steele isn't ready to go in training camp, then Tyron Smith can move back to RT, while Tyler Smith moves to LT, and Dallas can figure out LG.

With continual injury problems, the belief that their offensive tackles are secure once Steele is ready, and the team needing cap space, they likely bite the bullet to move on from the future hall of fame tackle. Smith can retire and Dallas will need to worry about LG and swing tackle going forward.

OT - Terence Steele


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Steele is a restricted free agent. This means they can tender him and make it very hard for others to sign him because it'll cost the team not only money, but they have to send a draft pick back to the Cowboys. Not only that, but the Cowboys have right to first refusal on any deal, allowing them to match it and keep Steele. He will be on the Dallas roster next season.

OG - Connor McGovern


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Dallas likely tries to bring McGovern back at the right price. If he is your starting left guard next season you can definitely survive, but ideally, they'd like him as a utility blocker that can play either guard spot, center in a pinch, and of course fullback. If some team blows him away with a deal, the Cowboys likely look to replace him in house or in the draft.

DE - Dante Fowler


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The Cowboys shouldn't need Fowler with Dorance Armstrong and Sam Williams as back up pass rushers already in house. With Quinn staying on would he want Fowler back for another year? It's unlikely he returns.

DT - Carlos Watkins


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How the Cowboys got this guy to the practice squad is beyond understanding. He eventually made his way to the active roster and did not disappoint. He was one of the main reasons the team improved so much this season stopping the run. The team has to want him back.

DT - Johnathan Hankins


The Cowboys rush defense was starting to struggle in the middle of the season and to the credit of the front office they went and did something about it, trading for Hankins. After a few weeks to get acclimated, the run defense went on a tear. Hankins was worth his weight in gold and could be a veteran resigning that could pay huge dividends to the Dallas defense next season.

LB - Leighton Vander Esch


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Vander Esch had an incredible start to his career but injuries dampened his next few years and kept Dallas from picking up his fifth-year option. With many teams weary of his injury history, the Cowboys were able to get great value for Vander Esch on a one-year deal.

90 tackles, four of which came for a loss, and a sack later and Dallas is hoping they can bring back the locker room leader for at least another season. His injury history might spook enough other teams into passing on him, so that Dallas can turn in a reasonable contract for the next season or two.

CB - Anthony Brown


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He has far exceeded the expectations of his sixth-round draft status and has carved out an excellent career so far in Dallas. He will find himself on a new team most likely in 2023.

The Cowboys have slot cornerback Jourdan Lewis returning from injury. He will pair with DaRon Bland and Trevon Diggs to make a good cornerback group going into the 2023 season. Add the emergence of Israel Mukuamu in the playoffs, and a possible top-100 pick in the draft and it just isn't necessary to bring back Anthony Brown.

S - Donovan Wilson


(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Quinn singled out Wilson as the guy he was the most excited about seeing play in his system. He was so versatile and so physical he became a weapon this season for the defensive coordinator.

The hard-hitting safety amassed over 100 tackles, which led the team, seven were for a loss, with five sacks, and a nine QB hits. An incredible breakout season that likely vaults Wilson out of the Cowboys price range.

The Cowboys would be smart to send their returning defensive coordinator to make an attempt at getting Wilson to return.


Brett Maher


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Going into the postseason resigning Maher was a no-doubt move. Not only did Maher routinely boot kickoffs out of the back of the end zone for touchbacks, but his field goal percentage was over 90%, including 9 out of 11 on kicks over 50 yards.

Then the postseason began, and Maher missed his first four extra point attempts in Tampa Bay and had another would-be miss blocked by the 49ers. Now if Dallas brings Maher back it will likely be with some competition just to be safe, but he still is probably going to be resigned for 2023.

You can find Mike Crum on Twitter @cdpiglet or at Youtube on the Across the Cowboys Podcast.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire


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