With initial roster cuts now completed around the NFL, teams are focused on waiver claims and filling out their 16-man practice squad. For the Dallas Cowboys, the more pressing of all positions was the role of backup quarterback, and they hope claiming former third-round pick Will Grier will help solve the issue behind Dak Prescott -- after waiving both Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci on Tuesday. In projecting the Cowboys 53-man roster ahead of the NFL deadline, there were several notable players predicted to return to Dallas if they cleared waivers, and some familiar faces have already agreed to terms, and the most prevalent is DiNucci.
The former seventh-round pick in 2020 can't seem to find any sort of groove at the professional level, but the Cowboys aren't giving up on their sidearm just yet. The 24-year-old will continue attempting to develop alongside others like Isaac Alarcon -- who has a roster exemption and won't count against the team's 16-man count -- and JaQuan Hardy, a backup running back who didn't show enough to take on the role of RB3 in the wake of Rico Dowdle being lost for the year with a fractured hip; but did make the case for more time in Dallas with the chance of being called up this coming season (in the event of injury).
A quick reminder of the rules for 2021, though: teams can call up players from the practice squad a total of two times to the gameday roster and move them back the following week without risking them to waivers. The third time they're called up, if they're released, they cannot be moved back to the practice squad and will instead hit the waiver wire -- unless they're a vested veteran not subject to waivers (in which case they'll immediately be a free agent).
That said, here's a look at the Cowboys practice squad thus far, sources confirm to CBS Sports, with more names to come:
- Ben DiNucci, QB
- Isaac Alarcon, OL (IPP)
- Darian Thompson, S
- Nick Ralston, FB
- JaQuan Hardy, RB
- Braylon Jones, OL
- Kyron Brown, DB
- Brandon Smith, WR
- Osirus Mitchell, WR
- Deante Burton, CB
- Jeremy Sprinkle, TE
- Ian Bunting, TE
- Tyler Coyle, S
- Justin Hamilton, DT
- Austin Faoliu, DE
- Breeland Speaks, DE
Alarcon is a roster exemption who can now be activated in 2021, per new IPP rules, and the Cowboys are playing a bit of chess by keeping him around in this manner, because it won't cost them a roster spot (on neither the active roster nor the practice squad) but guarantees he's in tow to play going forward.
They didn't get everyone they wanted though, with defensive lineman Ron'Dell Carter being a prime example of a dice roll coming up snake eyes. The team discussed adding Carter to the practice squad prior to releasing him, sources say, but while the promising young pass rusher cleared waivers on Wednesday, he's agreed to terms with the Arizona Cardinals to join their practice squad instead -- those same sources say. Carter came on strong in camp and this year's preseason after spending time on both the Cowboys practice squad in 2020 (being protected several times before then being poached by the Indianapolis Colts, then returning to the Cowboys to finish out the season).
The situation at backup QB in Dallas is obviously the most intriguing of all, because while CBS Sports projected Gilbert to join DiNucci on the practice squad, it's not yet occurred, making that situation one to watch. Gilbert entered training camp as the frontrunner for QB2, but ultimately lost out to Rush, and not necessarily because of bad play -- more due to familiarity and comfort with Rush by offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and the Cowboys front office. Gilbert can now choose where he wants to play, assuming he gets multiple offers, and it would certainly benefit the Cowboys to have him stick around.
Grier will challenge Rush for QB2 now, if not quickly supersede him for the role, so also stay tuned for any potential move on the latter, because releasing Rush could impact what does or does not happen with Gilbert. As is usually the case, roster management this time of year is a bowl of spaghetti -- seeing as several players are heading to injured reserve with some set to be activated from the COVID/Reserve list this week as well -- so the "final" roster in Dallas won't be set for a few days now.
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