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Cuts Could Upgrade Cowboys Defense

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NFL teams must trim their rosters to 53 players by 3 p.m. Aug. 30, and a few players who could strengthen the Cowboys roster will likely become available.

    It's unlikely to find a star player from roster cuts, but several teams have found gems including:

    • Wes Welker: Cut by San Diego in 2004.
    • James Harrison: Cut twice by Pittsburgh and once by Baltimore 2002-2003.
    • Kurt Warner: Cut by Green Bay in 1994.
    • Johnny Unitas: Cut by Pittsburgh in 1955.

    Dallas' defensive front needs so much help, though, that three players in particular could upgrade the roster.

    Alan Branch, DT, free agent – Buffalo cut the mammoth run stuffer after he was charged with driving under the influence recently. The Cowboys won’t care about that, will they? Branch’s skills might be on the decline, but he would still upgrade the position for the Cowboys in a divisions that runs the ball well.

    Shayne Skov, LB, San Francisco 49ers –Skov appears to be the odd man out in the Niners’ LB corps. The former Stanford LB went undrafted because of injury concerns, but he looked like a Day-2 prospect based on his 2013 film. He seemed healthy in the pre-season and he’s great at defending zone runs, so he’s a no-brainer pick-up for the Cowboys who are thin at LB and play four games against Philadelphia and Washington.

    Ethan Westbrooks/Michael Sam, DE, St. Louis Rams* – There’s not much room on what might be the most talented defensive line in the NFL. The Rams will likely have to cut one of these, and the Cowboys should consider picking him up.

    Sam might be the most famous 7th-round pick in recent memory, but he’s still a solid option as a pass-rushing specialist. The Rams signed Westbrooks as an undrafted free agent in 2014, but his pre-season play might earn him a roster spot over Sam.

    * Players like Sam and Westbrooks are often pigeonholed as 3-4 outside linebackers, but suggesting that they don't fit a 4-3 defense is myopic and the subject of a future Blue Star piece. The difference between a one-gapping 3-4 front and a 4-3 under front (which Dallas ran frequently last season) is negligible.