A breakdown of the Cowboys’ 53-man roster

While changes can come at any moment, the Cowboys 53-man roster is mostly set. Dallas has set itself up in a way where they are no longer beholden to players whose bloated contracts have exceeded their production. They have limited their spending to solid players whose contributions match their salary and surrounded those guys with players on rookie deals.

Before the talk of the town involves breaking down the New York Giants, here’s a look at some hard numbers that give a better perspective of the 53-man roster.


(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The Cowboys have done a phenomenal job when it comes to the draft. Stephen Jones, Will McClay and the rest of the front office deserve credit for identifying prospects who can succeed in the NFL.

Dallas leading the league in current NFL players who originated with the Cowboys drafted who are still contributing is a testament to their due diligence.

The NFL only allows for 1,696 active roster spots which means those 82 former and present Cowboys represent nearly 5% of the player landscape throughout the league. Dallas has more players playing for the other 31 teams (48) than on their actual roster (43) going into the 2023 season.


Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Becoming an important part of a team’s success does not depend on draft status alone. While names like Tony Romo, Drew Pearson and Cliff Harris headline the All-Time list, this roster has 10 names who didn’t hear their name called on draft day.

Rookies Hunter Luepke, guard T.J. Bass and kicker Brandon Aubrey join seven other Cowboy players who made the 53-man roster but were undrafted entering the league.

Those 10 players aren’t alone as 13 of the 16 names currently on the practice squad also fell outside of the first seven rounds. Defenders Malik Jefferson and Sheldrick Redwine along with offensive lineman Sean Harlow are the only scout team guys who were selected.


Free Agents

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Anytime a player hits free agency, one of the most popular destinations discussed usually involves the Cowboys. While the bright lights of Dallas usually cause a stir, players usually sign elsewhere.

Other than priority rookie free agents, Dallas has a mere six players who they signed away from another team.

Although Hooker, Anger and Kearse eventually signed noteworthy deals, every player on this list initially signed for close to the league minimum when they arrived in Dallas.


Trade Surge

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Player trades in the NFL are not common, yet the Cowboys find themselves with five players who were acquired by this method. The newest member of that group is cornerback Noah Igbinoghene who was a first-round pick by Miami in 2020. Quarterback Trey Lance was acquired during training camp while cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wideout Brandin Cooks arrived during this past offseason.

That leaves defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins as the only player on the 53 who got traded to Dallas AND has suited up for a regular season game. While four of the five traded players were former first-round picks, Hankins was selected in Round 2, 49th overall, back in the 2013 NFL draft.

Draft Classes

(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Grading draft classes has always been a fun exercise in almost any capacity so breaking it down even further is just as entertaining.

  • Left tackle Tyron Smith is the lone remaining player from the 2011 draft class making him the longest-tenured Cowboy.

  • The 2012 draft class is now gone but cornerback Stephon Gilmore and punter Bryan Anger were drafted that year by different teams.

  • Pass rusher Dante Fowler carries that same distinction for the 2015 class.

  • Defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins is the only player from the 2013 draft on the roster.

  • Demarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin and Brandin Cooks are the only players drafted in 2014.

  • Quarterback Dak Prescott is the lone draft pick from the 2016 draft for the Cowboys but Jayron Kearse was drafted that year also by Minnesota.

  • The 2017 draft has one player remaining who was drafted (Jourdan Lewis), one player who was a free agent pickup (Malik Hooker) and an undrafted free agent in quarterback Cooper Rush.

  • The 2018 class boasts three players who were drafted by the Cowboys with linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, wideout Michael Gallup and defensive end Dorance Armstrong hanging on. Newcomer Trent Sieg was an undrafted free agent for Baltimore that year and is the only other 2018 member.

  • The 2019 class has Tony Pollard and Donovan Wilson remaining while Chuma Edoga was taken in the third round of that draft by the New York Jets.

  • 33 players on the team’s active roster entered the league between 2020 and 2023 making the Cowboys the sixth youngest team in the league with an average age slightly below 26 years of age (25 years 11 months).


Draft Rounds

Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

The rumors that swirl on social media hint that Dallas loves players who were drafted in the first round. That rumor holds true as the team employs 13 players who were drafted within the first 32 selections. Coming in second is the third round which includes eight players.

What is surprising is that wide receiver Jalen Brooks is the only player the Cowboys drafted in the seventh round who remains on the 53. Safety Jayron Kearse is the only other seventh-rounder on this team.

DaRon Bland, Damone Clark and Asim Richards are the final fifth-round guys on the team making this the second most disappointing round for the franchise.

The team has been scrutinized for their use of second-round picks and rightfully so. While three of their last four Round-2 picks remain on the roster, DeMarcus Lawrence is the only other Cowboys second-rounder drafted by the team that remains.

Final Numbers

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Roster turnover throughout the NFL ranges by team but a conservative collective figure would place that number at around the 50% mark from year to year. 73 Cowboys suited up for Mike McCarthy in his inaugural season in Dallas and only 17 of those players remain.

While kicking the can down the road is a common term used in Dallas, it appears as if solid veteran play along with strong draft classes is a formula for being competitive every year. While many fans want the Cowboys to just go for it like the Rams did a couple of years ago, the numbers say Dallas is content trying to compete now while saving for the future.


Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire

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