By Matthew Postins
Wednesday marks the traditional start to the NFL work week. Here are the five stories you should follow the next seven days (starting Aug. 28):
Ratliff to PUP: The Dallas Cowboys moved defensive tackle Jay Ratliff to the regular-season PUP list as they pared their roster down to 75 players. It would be useful for Ratliff to get at least six more weeks of recovery time and conditioning work at this point. He hasn’t practiced at all since the conditioning test in July. It also serves to open up a roster spot for a player the Cowboys like and might not be able to keep otherwise. I don’t see this as a precursor to cutting Ratliff. He has more than $10 million in dead money on his contract, meaning that if he was cut that money would accelerate into this year’s salary cap. The Cowboys only have $7 million in space remaining. Ratliff will be on the Cowboys’ roster in 2013. It’s just a matter of in what form.
The guard/tackle situation: Head coach Jason Garrett seemed intrigued by Doug Free’s play at right guard on Saturday night, enough to say that Free could start there in a pinch in Week 1. But the scenario the Cowboys want is for Ron Leary to be ready to play that position Week 1 and leave Free at right tackle. But it’s fluid and the Cowboys have options at guard, including moving Travis Frederick to guard and sliding in Phil Costa to start at center. The Cowboys’ pursuit of a veteran guard has cooled, but it should heat up as roster cuts are made. Same goes for tackle, where the Cowboys really only have three options – Free, Jermey Parnell and Tyron Smith. It’s just as likely that they’ll try and get a veteran tackle off the cut heap. Plus, as I wrote in my Final 53 article this week, I believe there’s a possibility the Cowboys could cut Nate Livings. The last preseason game should be pretty intriguing from an offensive line standpoint.
Alex Tanney: The young quarterback has proven to be more than just a stunt-throwing prospect. He has some chops. I’m not sure if they’re starter chops. But Tanney will get plenty of playing time in the final preseason game to prove to the Cowboys that he’s worth their time as a third quarterback and developmental prospect. Jones doesn’t seem to want to start the process of finding Tony Romo’s replacement. Perhaps he can do so on the sly. If Tanney doesn’t make the final 53, he could make it through waivers and get to the Cowboys’ practice squad, which would give him the reps he needs to improve.
Roster Cuts: The Dallas Cowboys are down to 75 players on their preseason roster, and none of their cuts on Tuesday were of the earth-shattering variety.
The Cowboys released kicker Brett Maher, quarterback Nick Stephens, wide receiver Anthony Amos, wide receiver Eric Rogers, wide receiver Jared Green, tight end Colin Cochart, guard Dennis Godfrey, cornerback Brandon Underwood and linebacker Deon Lacey. The Cowboys released defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton on Monday.
The Dallas Cowboys also moved two players to the injured reserve list, ending their seasons – defensive end Tyrone Crawford and guard Ryan Cook.
The Cowboys host the Texans in their final preseason game on Thursday. They must cut their roster down to 53 players by Saturday. I don’t see significant veterans being cut. But some significant young players could get the axe, depending on how the final preseason game goes.
Practice squad: Once the Dallas Cowboys made their cuts, they had to wait 48 hours to try and sign their eight practice squad players. Any other NFL team is free to sign one of their cuts, but there’s a catch. If another NFL team signs one of the Cowboys’ cuts he must be signed to the active roster, not to the practice squad. Same goes if the Cowboys decide to sign another NFL team’s final cuts. It would have to be a player the Cowboys believe can play a significant role right off the bat. It’s likely none of the Cowboys’ cuts will be signed and they’ll assemble their eight-man practice squad sometime on Monday.