Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Ranking players Cowboys could add before training camp: These ex-Pro Bowlers would help Dallas in a big way

FRISCO, Texas —  The Dallas Cowboys are set to get a break ahead of training camp after the final day of mandatory minicamp on June 6.

However, they still have work to do on their 90-man roster prior to their training camp in Oxnard, California. which kicks off in late July. Eighty-six of their 90 roster spots are filled, which means the Cowboys can still be players in the post-June 1 cuts market. Thanks to releasing wide receiver Michael Gallup ahead of June 1, Dallas received $9.5 million in cap relief that will kick in on the first of June, increasing their cap space figure to about $13.4 million, according to OverTheCap.com. 

There’s plenty of room to sign a veteran or two or three or four, depending on those players’ willingness to come to terms with a Cowboys front office that is looking to penny-pinch with top-dollar extensions for quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and edge rusher Micah Parsons looming on the horizon. 

“I think it’s just kind of where we are. We’re never done,” McCarthy said of the Cowboys adding to their roster. “I actually just met with (vice president of player personnel) Will (McClay) for quite some time this morning. We got plenty of really good players to practice and get ready. We were at 88 this time last year.”

Since Dallas has four remaining roster spots, here is a look at four players whom it may be interested in adding — based on its needs and potential price tag — ahead of training camp. 

4. EDGE Yannick Ngakoue 

The Cowboys lost eight of their own players in free agency this offseason, tied for the third-most in a single season in team history. One of the contributors who departed in the offseason was rotational defensive end Dorance Armstrong, who followed former Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to the Washington Commanders in March. 

Should the Cowboys to be looking to replace his production, journeyman edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who will be 29 years-old in his ninth NFL season in 2024, could help fill in the gap in the pass rush department. He doesn’t have a reputation for being a huge factor in the run game, but his 69.0 career sacks rank as the ninth-most in the NFL since entering the league in 2016. That total is just above Chargers Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa (67.0) and below Chiefs All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones (75.0) in that span. 

Ngakoue could take some responsibility off of second-round rookie Marshawn Kneeland’s plate and teach him a few moves.

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3. WR Michael Thomas

Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas, now 31 years old, simply hasn’t been the same since earning 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors after setting the NFL single-season record for catches with 149 to go along with a league-leading 1,725 receiving yards as well as nine receiving touchdowns.

Injuries have robbed him of critical prime years in the 2020s, as he has played just 20 games the last four seasons, totaling 1,057 yards and 95 catches with four receiving touchdowns from 2020-23. If the Cowboys believe he has a chance at staying healthy and want to bring in someone to push Jalen Tolbert for their third wide receiver spot, this signing could make sense.

2. DL Calais Campbell

The Cowboys still have a need at defensive tackle even after addressing the position with a first-round pick in 2023 (Michigan’s Mazi Smith) and a seventh-round pick in 2024 (Auburn’s Justin Rogers). Signing six-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Calais Campbell could be exactly what the Cowboys need at the position for a year. While Campbell will turn 38 years old on Sept. 1, just before the 2024 season starts, he still appears to have gas in the tank.

He started all 17 games for the Atlanta Falcons last season while recording 6.5 sacks, 56 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 42 quarterback pressures, one fewer than New York Giants 2022 fifth-overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux and current Cowboys defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa in 2023.

Smith — shown below standing off to the side at Wednesday’s OTAs while rehabbing from offseason surgery and pushing to add more weight to his frame — Odighizuwa and Rogers could all learn a things or two from the 2010’s All-Decade Team member, who still stands at 6-foot-8 while weighing 282 pounds. Given Campbell’s age, Dallas could get him on a discount if he is eager for one last taste of postseason action after missing the playoffs in 2023 with the Falcons. 

1. CB Stephon Gilmore

If the Cowboys only sign one veteran free agent before the start of training camp, it should be cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year who played a key role in the Dallas secondary in 2023. Gilmore registered a 60.3 passer rating as the primary defender in coverage last season, which ranked ninth-best in the NFL among 39 players with 80 or more passes thrown their way. 

He helped keep the Dallas defensive backfield steady when Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs went down with a torn ACL in practice prior to its Week 3 game at the Arizona Cardinals with his play as well as his mentorship of 2023 first-team All-Pro cornerback DaRon Bland. Bland led the NFL with nine interceptions and a single-season league record five returned for touchdowns last season in just his second year in the league after being a fifth-round pick. 

“I’ve always loved for Stephon to come back,” Bland said on May 1. “He’s been a guy that I’ve always been watching growing up. Having him in the room last year was great. I would love to have him back.”

Cowboys wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who became BFFs with Gilmore after being his teammate on the 2017 New England Patriots, conveyed the message Wednesday that Gilmore would like to rejoin the Cowboys for another run in 2024. Yes, Gilmore will turn 34 years old early in the season (Sept.19), but he would be the perfect insurance with Diggs returning from his knee injury. His presence would also allow Dallas to not have to heavily rely on 2024 fifth-round rookie Caelen Carson right away if another injury strikes this year. This is a deal Jerry Jones needs to make happen. 

“I talk to him every day. Of course I want him back, and he would love to be back,” Cooks said. “The thing about Gilly is he’s a pro. If his number gets called, he’s going to be ready. He’s not a Hall of Famer by accident. I would love to have him in here. We see each other every day. We’ll see how that goes.”

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