How the Dallas Cowboys Were Built

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]The “How Were They Built” series is a 32-part set of pieces showcasing how each team’s roster in the National Football League was constructed. I’ll dive into how the players were acquired, either by trade, the draft, or free agency, how much money is spent on each position, and give a brief summary of the the team. I will also give a bit of a 2018 outlook.

To start off, here are the Dallas Cowboys.

All information is organized as follows:

Name, Position (PS if on Practice Squad), College, (How Player was Acquired), 2017 Salary, When Player is a Free Agent

Defensive Backs         

Orlando Scandrick, CB, Boise State, (2008-5th Rd),  $3,000,000, 2020

Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan, (2017-3rd Rd), $1,218,428, 2021

Byron Jones, S, Connecticut, (2015-1st Rd),  $1,216,995, 2020

Jeff Heath, S, Saginaw Valley State, (2013 UDFA),  $1,471,000, 2020

Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado, (2017-2nd Rd),  $778,834, 2021

Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose State, (2017 Trade with Bengals),  $690,000, 2018      

Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech, (2017-6th Rd),  $624,888, 2021

Anthony Brown, CB, Purdue, (2016-6th Rd),  $540,000, 2020

Kavon Frazier, S, Central Michigan, (2016-6th Rd),  $540,000, 2020

Duke Thomas, CB (Injured/Reserve), Texas, (2017 FA), $348,000, 2019

Marquez White, CB (PS), Florida State, (2017-6th Rd), $122,400, 2020

Jameill Showers, S (PS), Texas-El Paso, (2015 UDFA), $100,800, 2020

2017 Cash Spending on DBs:         $10,651,345

Defensive Linemen    

Tyrone Crawford, DL, Boise State, (2012-3rd Rd),  $7,250,000, 2021

Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan, (2017-1st Rd),  $5,898,373, 2022

Benson Mayowa, DE, Idaho, (2016 RFA),  $1,500,000, 2019

Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State, (2014-2nd Rd), $1,170,907, 2018

Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska, (2016-3rd Rd),  $612,500, 2020

David Irving, DL, Iowa State, (2015 Signed from Chiefs practice squad),  $470,294, 2018

Brian Price, DT, Texas-San Antonio, (9-17 Claimed off Packers waivers),  $456,708, 2018

Richard Ash, DT, Western Michigan, (2016 Signed from Jaguars practice squad), $349,415, 2019

Charles Tapper, DE (IR), Oklahoma, (2016-4th Rd),  $404,648, 2020

Randy Gregory, DE (Reserve/Suspension), Nebraska, (2015-2nd Rd),  $781,813, 2019

Lewis Neal, DE (PS), Louisiana State, (2017 UDFA),  $218,823, 2019

2017 Cash Spending on DL: $19,113,481


Sean Lee, Penn State, (2010-2nd Rd),  $9,000,000, 2020

Anthony Hitchens, Iowa, (2014-4th Rd),  $1,797,000, 2018

Kyle Wilber, Wake Forest, (2012-4th Rd),  $1,250,000, 2018

Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame, (2016-2nd Rd),  $745,226, 2020

Damien Wilson, Minnesota, (2015-4 Rd),  $615,000, 2019

Justin March-Lillard, Akron, (2017 FA),  $381,176, 2018

Tre’Von Johnson, Weber State, (2017 FA), $27,353, 2019

2017 Cash Spending LBs: $13,815,755

Offensive Linemen

Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin, (2013-1st Rd), $14,221,000, 2024

Tyron Smith, OT, USC, (2011-1st Rd), $10,000,000, 2024

La’el Collins, OT, LSU, (2015 UDFA), $5,000,000, 2020

Zack Martin, OG, Notre Dame, (2014-1st Rd), $1,642,882, 2019

Bryon Bell, OT, New Mexico, (2017 UFA),  $1,943,750, 2018

Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina, (2017 FA),  $800,000, 2018

Joe Looney, OG, Wake Forest, (2016 UFA),  $850,000, 2018

Chaz Green, OT, Florida, (15-3rd Rd),  $630,375, 2019

Jarron Jones, OT (PS), Notre Dame, (2017 FA to PS),  $108,000, 2020

Kadeem Edwards, OG (PS), Tennessee State, (2016 FA), $27,353, 2019

2017 Cash Spending on OL: $35,223,360


Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State, (2016-4th Rd),  $540,000, 2020

Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan, (2017 UDFA),  $470,000, 2020

Kellen Moore, QB (PS), Boise State, (2017 FA),  $72,000, 2018

2017 Cash Spending on QBs: $1,082,000

Running Backs/Fullbacks

Alfred Morris, RB, Florida Atlantic, (2016 UFA),  $1,700,000, 2018

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State, (2016-1st Rd),  $1,025,186, 2021

Keith Smith, FB, San Jose State, (2014 UDFA), $690,000, 2018

Rod Smith, RB ,Ohio State, (2015 Claimed off Seattle waivers), $615,000, 2019

Trey Williams, RB (PS), Texas A&M, (12/17 FA), $95,294, 2019

2017 Cash Spending on RBs: $4,125,480

Tight Ends

Jason Witten, Tennessee, (2003-3rd Rd),  $7,400,000, 2022

James Hanna, Oklahoma, (2012-6th Rd),  $2,250,000, 2019

Geoff Swaim, Texas, (2015-7th Rd),  $615,000, 2019

Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma State, (2017 UDFA),  $273,530, 2020

Rico Gathers, (IR), Baylor, (2016-6th Rd),  $348,000, 2020

2017 Cash Spending on TEs: $10,886,530

Wide Receivers

Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State, (2010-1st Rd),  $13,000,000, 2020

Terrance Williams, Baylor, (2013-3rd Rd),  $6,000,000, 2021

Cole Beasley, Southern Methodist, (2012 UDFA),  $3,500,000, 2019

Brice Butler, San Diego State, (2015 Trade with Raiders),  $1,100,000, 2018

Ryan Switzer, North Carolina, (2017-4th Rd),  $1,030,987, 2021

Noah Brown, Ohio State, (2017-7th Rd),  $536,938, 2021

Brian Brown, WR (PS), Richmond, (2017 UDFA),  $115,200, 2020

Lance Lenoir, WR (PS), Western Illinois, (2017 UDFA) $27,353, 2019

K.D. Cannon, WR (PS), Baylor, (12/17 signed to PA), $7,200,  2020

2017 Cash Spending on WRs: $25,317,678

Special Teams

Chris Jones, P, Carson-Newman, (2011 UDFA),  $3,300,000, 2022

Dan Bailey, K, Oklahoma State, (2011 UDFA), $3,200,000, 2021

L.P. LaDouceur, LS, California, (2005 FA),  $1,100,000, 2018

2017 Cash Spending on special teams: $7,600,000


The 2017 NFL Draft was defensive heavy for the Cowboys with the selections of Taco Charlton and four defensive backs with their nine picks currently on the roster. The Cowboys spent three first round picks within four seasons on the Offensive line (2011, ‘13-’14) to help with protection on then-quarterback Tony Romo. Built to the run the ball, the Cowboys selected Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in 2016. The quarterback position wasn’t a big need, spending a 4th round pick on Dak Prescott in 2016, the highest since selecting Stephen McGee (Texas A&M) in the fourth round in 2009. The Cowboys defense ranked 27th and 28th in quarterback sacks in years 2013 and 2014, leading to the draft selections of Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, and the signings of Benson Mayowa and David Irving. Since then, they ranked 13th in sacks last year and finished 2017 ranked 17th in the league.

For 2018

Jason Witten and Dez Bryant have regressed in the receiving end which is a reason that Dallas could look for a top receiving threat for Dak Prescott in the offseason or through the draft. With Tyron Smith’s injuries suffered in the last month, the Cowboys would need to add depth at the left tackle position due to the lack of contribution from the backups. There is not a lot of dead money for Randy Gregory going into 2018 if he were to be released, meaning a decision will need to be made about his future with the team. Alfred Morris filled in well running the ball while Ezekiel Elliott was serving his suspension and he’ll be a free agent in March. There are some solid running backs coming out in the draft if Dallas decides to let Morris walk. Demarcus Lawrence and David Irving will also be free agents and should be the main priority to keep the defense together.

Follow Derek on Twitter @derekdonald91. Check out Derek’s other work here, including a breakdown of the NFC West, a look at each of Casey Hayward’s 2016 interceptions and his analysis of how the Lions use Golden Tate out of the backfield.

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