The regular season is just around the corner. The only thing standing in the way of real, actual football is the Bucs Week 4 matchup against Dallas. The Buccaneers travel to Dallas, where contract disputes and position battles abound.
Two offensive starters are very publicly unhappy with their current contracts – Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. The players have taken polar opposite approaches to voice their displeasure. Whereas Elliott has yet to appear at any Cowboys functions, including preseason games, Prescott has shown up and participated despite being grossly underpaid this season (Prescott is set to make a measly $2 million this year).
Both players expect to be paid at the top of their position. Elliott wants a deal in excess of Todd Gurley’s $60 million, $45 million guaranteed contract. Cowboys, however, are reportedly squeamish about the guaranteed portion of that equation. Prescott has reportedly turned down an offer for $30 million a year, with his target being $40 million a year. For perspective, Russell Wilson just signed a $35 million a year deal. The team could franchise tag Prescott in 2020, but would still have to pay him $34 million for that year.
Lucky for the Cowboys, the contract disputes remain on the offensive side of the ball. Cowboys fans are witnessing a position battle on the other side of the ball this offseason, and they’ve got a problem every NFL team wants: too many good players. The defensive line is stacked with talent, so much so that they’re going to end up letting good players go simply because they don’t have room for them. The Bucs benefitted from the Browns’ abundance of talent when they acquired Carl Nassib on waivers prior to the 2018 season.
According to Jess Haynie of Inside the Star, locks to make the roster include: DE DeMarcus Lawrence, who just signed a huge contact this offseason; DT Maliek Collins and DT Antwaun Woods, who both played well last year and based on their utilization this preseason are safe; and DE Trysten Hill, the Cowboys first pick in the 2019 draft (2nd round).
The next tier are probably making the roster, but this is the NFL and you never really know. DE Kerry Hyder was a free agent acquisition this offseason and has been the best performer since his arrival. DE Dorance Armstrong was the Cowboys’ 2018 4th round pick who specializes in pass rush and has been a standout this preseason. He may be the stand-in for Robert Quinn while Quinn serves his two-game suspension for testing positive for a masking agent. DT Christian Covington was another free agent acquisition who offers the team versatility.
After these guys, it gets dicey. DT Tyrone Crawford might be safe but for his $7 million cap hit that becomes guaranteed at Week 1. He’s on the last year of his contact with the team. The plethora of depth at the position does not work in his favor. DE Taco Charlton was the team’s 2017 1st round pick who has underperformed and wasn’t expected to survive final cuts until his improved performance this preseason. DE Joe Jackson, 5th round pick, offers a motor and power.
Defensive ends Daniel Ross, Daniel Wise and Ricky Walker and defensive tackle Jalen Jelks will likely not survive roster cuts.
We don’t expect to see the roster locks in Thursday’s matchup. Our backup offensive line will get a taste for how deep this Cowboys defensive line depth runs.