Commentary

Cowboys may ride into sunset together

Of those on the Cowboys' final 53-man roster, 20 could be gone by start of next season

Updated: January 13, 2011, 4:55 PM ET
By Matt Mosley | ESPN.com

As Jason Garrett continues to put his stamp on this Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, let's turn our attention to the players. It's clear that Garrett and his consultants at Valley Ranch need to make a massive overhaul of the roster. Of the players on the final 53-man roster, I think 20 of them could be gone by opening day of 2011 -- if that opening day actually occurs.

Garrett and Jerry Jones read this column religiously, so hopefully they can use the following as a guide to the offseason. For the purposes of this important exercise in team-building, players had to be on the field for at least five games -- or be named Stephen McGee. I realize that ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon did something similar to this, but he included a "bubble" category. I will be taking a firm stance on each player, thus leaving nothing to doubt. If you disagree with any of my decisions, please leave a "comment" or send a fax to one of my former employers. Brace yourselves for this once-in-a-liftetime experience:

Quarterbacks

Tony Romo: Hopefully he observed how this team rallied around the aging Jon Kitna. I know Tony has a wedding to plan, but I believe he'll be more focused than ever in the offseason. Stay

Jon Kitna: He played a key role in Garrett winning the job. If Kitna's body is still in one piece at the end of the lockout (it's happening), then he deserves one more season. Stay

Stephen McGee: I thought McGee did some really good things against the Cardinals. His play leveled off against the Eagles' backups. The Cowboys should be looking for an upgrade. Go

Wide receivers

Miles Austin: We'll blame Austin's down season on the quarterback change and move on with our lives. Did the sad breakup with Kim Kardashian influence any of those drops? It's hard to say at this point, but US Magazine sure seems to think so, according to someone in my family who occasionally looks at that publication. Stay

Dez Bryant: Needs to be diligent in his rehab work with Cowboys athletic trainer/drill sergeant Britt Brown. Bryant made some strides during the Kitna administration, but now he needs to spend hours with Romo at Valley Ranch. Stay

Roy Williams: It's time to say goodbye to this misunderstood gentleman. Roy's a likable soul who sort of lost his courage along the way. Garrett can't put up with Williams' barbs to the media and alligator arms on the field. Go

Sam Hurd: Love the man's work on special teams, but he doesn't give you a lot at wide receiver. The Cowboys will be looking to upgrade at this spot. Hurd's been nothing but class, but it's time to move on down the road. Go.

Kevin Ogletree: So much promise, so little production. He and David Buehler have developed a memorable friendship as roommates, but they may be playing elsewhere next season. Ogletree might blossom in another organization, but it's still time to cut your losses. Go

Jesse Holley: Like Hurd, he needs to take that next step as a receiver. Does some nice thing on special teams, but that's not enough to secure him a job. Go

Offensive line

LT Doug Free: It's funny that some folks thought left tackle was the question mark heading into the season. Free was the MVP of the O-line and he has a bright future protecting Romo's blindside. I think he actually had a better season than the perennial Eagles Pro Bowler Jason Peters. Stay

LG Kyle Kosier: Starting to show some age with the injuries. Still a reliable option but not a sure thing to be on the roster. Go

[+] EnlargeLeonard Davis and Marc Colombo
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireOffensive linemen Marc Colombo (75) and Leonard Davis -- half of the heavy metal band Free Reign -- might have free reign to sign with other teams.

RG Leonard Davis: The man from Wortham, Texas, has trouble moving his legs and he's susceptible to the new breed of defensive tackle that uses speed more than power. He no longer has the ability to engulf defenders on a consistent basis. Go

RT Marc Colombo: Bill Parcells rescued this man's career after injuries derailed him in Chicago. But Colombo no longer has the strength or health to make it through a season. It's time to find his replacement. For whatever reason, the Cowboys have done a poor job of developing young offensive linemen. Perhaps Sam "Forever" Young can be of service. Go

C: Andre Gurode: He just doesn't play with as much power anymore. He's still respected around the league, but the Cowboys have to start thinking about his replacement. Stay

G: Montrae Holland: Not an awful backup, but he's not a viable starting candidate. You always want to do right by a Jefferson, Texas, native, but it's probably time to say goodbye. Go

OT: Alex Barron: His time in Dallas will be defined by "The Hold" in Landover. Goodbye, ye gentle giant. We'll miss your hushed tones during interviews and lack of eye contact. Go

Running backs

Felix Jones: I'm guessing you'd like your "feature" back to have more than one rushing TD, but that's just me. And there's no excuse for Jones having only 48 catches. That's an area where he should be more like LeSean McCoy of the Eagles. Garrett has to make the screen game more of a staple. Stay

Tashard Choice: The Cowboys have held Choice back for all the wrong reasons. Jerry tried to say it was because of Choice's poor special teams work, but that was a silly excuse. You wasted all that time with Marion Barber when you had Choice waiting in the wings. Stay

Marion Barber: Still apologizing to Garrett for the infamous helmet removal. The next step is for the Cowboys to remove him from the roster. Go

FB Chris Gronkowski: He blew an assignment and got the starting QB knocked out for the season. Should've been cut on the spot. Go

Tight ends

Jason Witten: He lifted his game to new heights once Kitna took over as quarterback. Headed to Canton someday perhaps. Stay

Martellus Bennett: I thought he actually kept his head in the game and kept competing this season. A lot of folks are ready to get rid of him, but I think the light bulb may have at least flickered. Stay

David Buehler
Brett Davis/US PresswireCowboys fans found themselves in this same exact pose quite a few times this season as kicker David Buehler struggled with his consistency.

Specialists

Mat McBriar: One of the few bright spots for the Cowboys. This was the best season of McBriar's career and he's been rewarded with a trip to Hawaii. Stay

L.P. Ladouceur: It doesn't get much better than Ladouceur. I've had the stopwatch on this operation a few times this season, and L.P.'s pretty solid on both snaps to the punter and holder. He's also a threat to race down the field and hit someone. One of the better French-Candadian deep snappers in the league. Stay

David Buehler: He has the booming leg, but his lack of consistency will likely get him released or relegated to kickoff duties. Go

Cornerbacks

Orlando Scandrick: One of the few players on defense who took a step in the right direction this season. He still blames others too often, but I thought he really improved from a technique standpoint and I like how he tackles. Stay

Terence Newman: Everybody hooted at me when I warned the Cowboys about paying big money to a 30-year-old. Newman's still a decent CB in this league, but he's nowhere near elite. It might be time to draft someone to replace him. Go

Mike Jenkins: Not sure what happened to him this season outside of losing all his confidence. Just a dreadful season. And the fact that he's regarded as a soft player doesn't help either. Stay

Bryan McCann: The rookie from SMU made some enormous plays for the Cowboys and he obviously has potential. This will be a huge offseason for him, and that's why the lockout could really hurt. Stay

Safeties

Gerald Sensabaugh: Darren Woodson told me before the season that he was worried the Cowboys weren't going to be able to tackle in the secondary. And the safeties struggled as much as any position on the field. Sensabaugh takes the wrong angles and it leads to big gains. Go

[+] EnlargeAlan Ball
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesMost of the ballhawking seen by safety Alan Ball this season was done after it was in the receivers' hands. And even that was sketchy.

Alan Ball: This man was rumored to be a ballhawk, but we rarely saw that side of him. He doesn't tackle and he has trouble with his assignments. Time to move on. Go

Danny McCray: He did some nice work on special teams this season. He's the type of player you have to keep on the roster. But don't try to force him into more playing time at safety. He's best as a special teams ace. Stay

Barry Church: When he finally got some playing time late in the season, he didn't appear to have good instincts at safety. He did some good things in training camp and preseason, but you need to upgrade. Go

Akwasi Owusu-Ansah: We knew the guy was going to be a project. I still see plenty of upside for him. But he's not ready to start or anything like that. Stay

Defensive line

Jay Ratliff: It may be time to let him play a lot more at defensive end. He just takes too much of a beating at nose tackle. Still an elite player, he disappeared at times this season. The Cowboys need to be thinking D-line in the draft. Stay

Josh Brent: Looks like a steal. He still has a lot to learn, but he's aggressive and has the tools to contribute heavily in the future. Stay

Igor Olshansky: He's the most imposing man in the locker room. If he could take that to the field on a consistent basis, the Cowboys would be onto something. But you can't release everyone. Stay

Jason Hatcher: The man knows how to celebrate a sack, but he'll be taking his act elsewhere in 2011. Go

Stephen Bowen: He had a pretty solid season and it looks like he has a chance to nail down a starting position. He stopped talking to me because his wife didn't appreciate something I wrote, but we'll work through those issues. Stay

Marcus Spears: I think he's a good player, but Jerry has never been a huge fan. We'll see what Garrett thinks about him now. Go

Linebackers

DeMarcus Ware: The best pass-rusher in the NFL. He wasn't as consistent this season, but he's still the best player on the team. Stay

Keith Brooking
Icon SMIVeteran linebacker Keith Brooking wants to play one more year, preferably with the Cowboys. "I can tell you this," he said, "I have one more year left in me -- at least that."

Keith Brooking: In terms of leadership, he's the best thing going in the Cowboys' locker room. But he's near the end of his career and he was banged up down the stretch. I'd love to see him come back, but it would surprise me if it happened. Go

Sean Lee: He's expected to replace Brooking. The second-round pick had his moments (Indy), but he needs to have a great offseason. He's another guy who could really be affected by this potential lockout. Stay

Bradie James: He looks like a Pro Bowler at times, but he gives up too many big plays. I think he'll start in 2011, but he needs to be much more consistent. Stay

Victor Butler: He was supposed to provide some help in the pass-rush this season, but it's not like he's all that consistent. You have to think about identifying another OLB in the draft. Go

Anthony Spencer: He probably had the most disappointing season of any player on the roster based on expectations. He just wasn't a consistent factor in the pass-rush. Really surprising. Stay

Leon Williams: Really? He's still here? Go

Matt Mosley covers the NFC East for ESPN.com and the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.

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