Dallas Cowboys: Brandon Magee

CB gets Cowboys' top undrafted bonus

May, 15, 2014
May 15
9:30
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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have not been shy in giving larger than normal signing bonuses or guaranteed money to undrafted free agents, but their 24 signings totaled $66,500 and no guaranteed money in base salaries.

Tarleton State cornerback Dashaun Phillips, a Duncanville, Texas, native, received the largest signing bonus at $7,500. Missouri wide receiver L’Damian Washington received $7,000 to sign. Running back Glasco Martin did not receive a signing bonus.

In 2012, the Cowboys guaranteed guard Ronald Leary $214,000. Last year, the Cowboys guaranteed linebacker Brandon Magee $70,000 and paid out a $10,000 signing bonus to Jakar Hamilton.

Here is the remaining breakdown of signing bonuses:

$5,000
QB Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M
DT Chris Whaley, Texas
OL Jarrod Pughsley, Akron
OL Josh Aladenoye, Illinois State

$3,500
WR Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt

$3,000
OL Andre Cureton, Cincinnati

$2,500
TE Evan Wilson, Illinois

$2,000
FB J.C. Copeland, LSU
RB Ben Malena, Texas A&M
S Marvin Robinson, Ferris State
P Cody Mandell, Alabama
LB Keith Smith, San Jose State

$1,500
S Ryan Smith, Auburn
OG Ronald Patrick, South Carolina
OG Brian Clarke, Bloomsburg
TE Jordan Najvar, Baylor
LS Casey Kreiter, Iowa
CB Jocquel Skinner, Bethel
DE Joe Windsor, Northern Illinois
DT Davin Coleman, Arizona State

$1,000
LB Dontavis Sapp, Tennessee

Compensatory picks could mean a lot

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
10:30
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IRVING, Texas -- As easy as it has been to rail on the Dallas Cowboys' drafting over the years, the one area where the Cowboys have consistently excelled is in finding undrafted free agents.

That is why this week’s news that the Cowboys received three seventh-round compensatory picks should not be overlooked.

With the free-agent losses of Mike Jenkins, Victor Butler, Kenyon Coleman and John Phillips, the Cowboys gained picks Nos. 248, 251 and 254 in the seventh round. Those picks cannot be traded, so in effect the Cowboys can guarantee landing their top targets in college free agency.

Last year, the Cowboys targeted Brandon Magee and Jakar Hamilton as undrafted free agents. Magee was guaranteed $70,000. Hamilton received a $10,000 signing bonus. Magee didn’t make the final roster, but Hamilton spent time on the active roster after opening on the practice squad.

The Cowboys also had Jeff Heath and Cameron Lawrence contribute as undrafted free agents. In 2012, they signed Ronald Leary and Cole Beasley. Leary started at left guard, and Beasley has developed into a valuable slot player. In 2011, they signed Dan Bailey and they signed him to a seven-year, $22.5 million extension this offseason. In 2010 they signed safeties Barry Church and Danny McCray. Church led the Cowboys in tackles last season.

Oh, by the way, Tony Romo was an undrafted free agent in 2003.

W2W4: Five things for Texans-Cowboys

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
12:30
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys meet the Houston Texans in the preseason for the first time since 2010 at AT&T Stadium. Intrastate pride might be on the line for the fans of both teams, but little else.

With 75 players on the roster, some jobs remain but most are filled. Here’s what we’ll be looking at tonight:

Job fair: With 18 roster moves to make by Saturday’s cut-down date, most of the decisions have likely been made. There are perhaps two open spots with as many as eight guys looking to fit the square peg. Would the Cowboys carry five tight ends? How about six receivers? Nine defensive linemen?

Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore, tight end Andre Smith, wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, cornerback Micah Pellerin, tackle DeMetress Bell, guard David Arkin and guard Kevin Kowalski can make their cases tonight. Linebacker Brandon Magee (concussion), safeties Eric Frampton (calf), Danny McCray (hamstring) and Matt Johnson (foot) will have to watch and sweat out the final decisions.

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Tanney time: Maybe Kyle Orton opens the game, but the Cowboys will give Alex Tanney most of the work.

With needs at other positions and injury questions going into the opener, Tanney is looking more like a practice-squad fit than a 53-man roster fit. If he plays lights out, he could change the equation or at the very least get another team to keep him on the 53-man roster the way Matt Moore did a few years ago.

Check out the Texans: Last year the Cowboys closed the preseason against Miami and traded for veteran offensive lineman Ryan Cook a few days later based on what they saw in that game.

With the Cowboys moving to a pure zone blocking scheme this year, check out the Texans’ offensive linemen. Assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack spent five years with the Texans (2007-11) and will have a good idea of what would be a good fit with the Cowboys.

As unsettled as the Cowboys are with their starting offensive line they’re more unsettled with the backups. A case could be made they don’t have a ninth or 10th guy (if they choose to reach double digits) on their current roster to fill out the line.

Earning practice squad jobs: Tanney has been talked about, but there will be seven other spots to fill. The Cowboys like to keep receivers and defensive backs on the practice squad because of the amount of running in practice, so guys like Danny Coale, Tim Benford and Pellerin bear watching.

And the line play will have candidates to, like defensive end Jerome Long and offensive tackle Darrion Weems. Linebacker could be another spot of interest with Cameron Lawrence and Taylor Reed.

The digital board: Chris Jones hit it last week with a punt against Cincinnati and the Bengals returned the re-kick 75 yards for a touchdown, continuing a preseason-long issue of special teams’ miscues. Jones is unlikely to hit it again, but watching it to see the clock tick down will be more important because it brings us closer to the start of the regular season.

Brandon Magee suffers concussion

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
9:19
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IRVING, Texas – Cowboys rookie linebacker Brandon Magee will not play Saturday against Cincinnati after suffering a concussion in Monday’s practice.

It is possible Magee will not be able to play in the preseason final against Houston on Aug. 29. Wide receiver Terrance Williams suffered a concussion on Aug. 2 and missed the first two preseason games. Magee led the Cowboys with six tackles last week against Arizona.

Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore returned to the practice field Tuesday after a 10-day absence because of a groin injury suffered during training camp in Oxnard, Calif. Lissemore played in the first two preseason games.

Lance Dunbar (foot), Cole Beasley (foot), Ryan Cook (back), Ronald Leary (knee), Nate Livings (knee), Morris Claiborne (knee), J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson (foot), Eric Frampton (calf), Ernie Sims (groin), Jay Ratliff (hamstring, hernia) and Anthony Spencer (knee) are not practicing.

5 Wonders: Cowboys' final few roster spots

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
9:00
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IRVING, Texas – Week 4 of Five Wonders will focus on the makeup of the Cowboys’ 53-man roster, and I’m holding off on Alex Tanney for a post later, so he will not be in the following paragraphs.

The first set of cuts comes Aug. 27 when they have to pare down from 87 to 75 players. The final cut to 53 comes Aug. 31.

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  • As Jason Garrett has said two or 200 times, injury provides opportunity. The season-ending back surgery for Alex Albright, who will go under the knife on Wednesday, opens up a roster spot for a linebacker. I wonder the Cowboys can still go with seven linebackers for the opening week. Undrafted rookie Brandon Magee finally showed up and made some plays last week at Arizona. He can also play some weakside linebacker. Caleb McSurdy played some at strongside linebacker and has inside linebacker experience. Taylor Reed also has position flexibility. But here’s one name that hasn’t been talked about much: Cameron Lawrence. He got some work on the early special teams units against the Cardinals. When you’re down to the final spots at linebacker, special teams can be the great separator.

  • Garrett won’t offer up opinions on players unless he is asked specifically about a guy, so I took notice when he brought up “92,” Landon Cohen, when asked about some surprises on the defensive line. I wonder if Cohen, a training-camp pickup like George Selvie, can play his way onto the roster. The first thing Rod Marinelli wants for his defensive linemen is to get off the ball. Cohen can do that, and in fact he did it too fast with a couple of offside penalties in the first two preseason games. He has the look of the traditional one-technique in this scheme: short and squat, but he also has some quickness. Garrett went on to say Cohen has “some snap” to his game.” It's another name to keep an eye on.

  • I wonder if the foot injury suffered by Lance Dunbar took the sixth wide receiver off the table. Dunbar is looking at a 3-4 week rehab, which puts him in doubt for the Sept. 8 season opener against the New York Giants. It was not a good injury for Anthony Armstrong, who I’ve had as the No. 6 guy on my roster projections. He has done nothing to get cut. He has showed up on offense. He has done a nice job on special teams. He has speed to burn. I just wonder if he is caught in a numbers game because now the Cowboys almost assuredly have to keep four running backs for at least the opening week. Could Armstrong jump Cole Beasley, who has been slowed by a foot injury of his own? I don’t see it right now, but Armstrong will be a tough call.

  • I wondered last week about the possibility of an undrafted rookie not making the roster this summer, and I threw a dark horse in there with Jeff Heath. He has taken some first-team special teams snaps and was a second-teamer on defense last week because of injuries. He did not look out of place, but I wonder if he can beat out Matt Johnson. And, yes, I wonder if Johnson can not only get healthy but stay healthy as he battles a foot injury suffered in the Hall of Fame Game. He’s not going to play this week, so all of his eggs will be in the Houston game, provided he can get on the field. I wonder if the Cowboys would give up on a fourth-round pick from last year despite what the apparent chronic injuries. After putting in all the time with Johnson last year, I’d be a little surprised if they would cut him loose now.

  • What to make if Demetress Bell? The Cowboys signed him even though he was in extremely poor condition at the start of camp. They were patient with him, and he finally got on the field last week in Oxnard, Calif., and played against Arizona. When he signed, I viewed it as a move to just help the backup quarterbacks get through some preseason games. But when the Cowboys stuck with him, I wondered if they look at him as future development guy. It’s hard to find big guys who can move and have some experience. He was bad last year at Philadelphia, but he wasn’t bad in Buffalo.
  • Sources: Alex Albright to have back surgery

    August, 17, 2013
    8/17/13
    8:32
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    GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cowboys linebacker Alex Albright will undergo lower back surgery early next week and will miss the season, according to multiple sources.

    Albright did not play in the Cowboys’ first three preseason games, including Saturday’s 12-7 loss at Arizona. He had been suffering some back issues since May, but the hope was that rest would make it better. When he did not see improvement, surgery became the logical move.

    Albright was a core special teamer and can play strongside and middle linebacker. His injury opens up the battle for the backup linebacker spots for rookie Brandon Magee, Caleb McSurdy and Taylor Reed. The Cowboys moved Magee to weakside linebacker last week in practice, but he saw time Saturday at middle linebacker. McSurdy saw work on the strong side versus the Cardinals.

    Albright had sports hernia surgery after last season and was limited some in the offseason.

    Brandon Magee moves LB spots

    August, 14, 2013
    8/14/13
    11:48
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    OXNARD, Calif. – Perhaps Monte Kiffin’s search for a backup middle linebacker for Sean Lee is now centered on Justin Durant?

    Over the last two days, Durant, the starting strongside linebacker has lined up in the middle for some walkthrough snaps with the second-team defense with rookie Brandon Magee moving over to the weakside on the No. 2 unit.

    Coach Jason Garrett has made note of Kiffin’s desire to figure out what the Cowboys would do if something happened to Lee during the season. Magee, undrafted out of Arizona State, and Caleb McSurdy have seen the most live action at the spot.

    The move of Magee to the weakside, however, is not viewed as a demotion by Garrett.

    “He’s a little bit of an undersized guy,” Garrett said. “He doesn’t have great timed speed. But when you watch him play in college, he makes a lot of plays. He’s instinctive; he sees the ball; he has a good nose for the ball and is around it a lot.

    "His natural position is Mike but our Will linebacker is also one of those guys who plays in the core of the defense, and if you’re not going to be a starting player you need to be able to play a couple of different spots. You need to be a special teams guy and also a guy who can fill in at a couple of different spots in your regular linebacker positions. It’s important for him to understand that and we’re just trying to give him the exposure to do that.”

    Depth along the Cowboys roster is good

    August, 6, 2013
    8/06/13
    10:00
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    OXNARD, Calif. -- After one preseason game it was easy to tell the Cowboys have better depth on their roster than last season.

    You never want to know what type of depth you have with your team unless something happens and in 2012, the depth was bad given the injuries to the roster.

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    Todd Archer joins Galloway and Company live from Oxnard, Calif., to discuss the latest Cowboys news and which players they will keep on their roster.

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    We take a look at the depth at each position:

    Quarterback: There were some concerns about Kyle Orton in training camp, especially after a few bad passes and interceptions, but he led the Cowboys on a productive first drive against the Miami Dolphins and made a nice throw to tight end Dante Rosario.

    Running back: Any concerns about finding a replacement for DeMarco Murray were eased after watching Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle. Each handled the ball well and read their holes to get yards. Tanner left the game briefly with a forearm injury, but returned. Dunbar, as he's done in practices, has ran hard and fast and Tanner and Randle displayed good vision while hitting the holes.

    Wide receiver: With the Cowboys running so much, 32 run plays in the preseason opener we really didn't get a good look at the wideouts. Terrance Williams missed the game with a concussion and he's status for Friday night in Oakland is in question. Eric Rogers and Jared Green are long shots to make the 53-man roster, but have practiced well. Tim Benford did make a nice catch on a slant.

    Tight end: There was some solid blocking from the backups and Andre Smith impressed the coaches with his skills. Not sure if that's enough to make the roster. Gavin Escobar needs more work on his blocking skills but that will come in time.

    Offensive line: Here's what you need to know about the line, the Cowboys ran three of their first four run plays to the left side with Ronald Leary and Tyron Smith paving the way for some nice yardage totals. Leary is off to a solid start in his quest to become the starter at left guard. Center Travis Frederick played well at center and right guard.

    Defensive line: Nick Hayden with a fumble recovery from the defensive tackle spot, defensive end George Selvie had two sacks and defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton with a pass breakup and a tackle for loss were the highlights. Yes, the Cowboys would love to get Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer back, but considering the health at this position, it's good to have some quality. While Kyle Wilber didn't get in the stats sheet with big numbers, he was very active at pushing the pocket.

    Linebackers: DeVonte Holloman wasn't on the bubble to make the roster, yet his 75-yard interception return for a score bolstered his cause. Middle linebacker Brandon Magee picked up four tackles and made a case to become the backup to Sean Lee.

    Defensive backs: You always need cornerbacks and Brandon Understood and Sterling Moore have performed pretty good in camp, though, Moore has the edge as the No. 4 corner. J.J. Wilcox did some nice things at times, but needs to improve in pass coverage. The third-team safety play was inconsistent but that was mainly to the soft zone the defense played in the last 12 minutes of the game.

    Specialist: The three spots on this unit are secure. We didn't like Cole Beasley returning a kick seven-yards deep but that might be more about him trying to make a play.

    5 Wonders: More on Tony Romo sitting

    August, 6, 2013
    8/06/13
    9:00
    AM ET
    OXNARD, Calif. – One preseason game is in the books and four remain, but there are plenty of things to wonder about.

    So on it is to our third training camp installment of Five Wonders:

    ** On the grand schemes of things Tony Romo not playing a series against Miami is not that big of a deal. With issues on the offensive line and Romo’s lack of offseason work because of the back surgery, the team thought it was wiser to sit the quarterback against the Dolphins. Well, I wonder what they were thinking about in 2010 and ’11 when they didn’t sit Romo with offensive line issues when he had to play more. In 2010 at San Diego, Robert Brewster had to play right tackle with Marc Colombo and Alex Barron hurt, but Romo played four series. In 2011, the Cowboys made the decision to part ways with center Andre Gurode before they played at Minnesota and had undrafted rookie Kevin Kowalski start with Phil Costa out. It was the first time Romo took a snap from Kowalski all summer. And Kowalski was the third rookie to start that night with Bill Nagy and Tyron Smith. There was no worry that night either. Again, it’s not a huge deal that Romo didn’t play against Miami, but it’s just notable given what happened in recent history.

    ** Now that Larry Allen has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Charles Haley figures to be the next Cowboy to make it. Haley has been a finalist the last few years and the feeling among voters is that the question is “when” not “if” Haley will make it. But I wonder who will be the next Cowboy to take up a lifetime residence in Canton, Ohio. Perhaps Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan, Cliff Harris and Drew Pearson get a look from the Veterans Committee. But what of the more-recent era Cowboys? Darren Woodson should gain consideration but the safety position has never been a popular pick among the voters. Woodson was covering slot receivers before it was fashionable for safeties to do so. He was truly ahead of his time in some ways. I’m not sure there is another 90s Era player that will get a look, but Jerry Jones will be in there one day. Maybe soon too.

    ** Forever, it seems, the Cowboys have found success stories in undrafted free agents: Romo, Miles Austin, Stephen Bowen and Dan Bailey are among the more recent vintage. But I wonder if there will be one undrafted free agent to make the team this year. Really. The leader would appear to be linebacker Brandon Magee, who could become a big part of the special teams’ units. Even those who haven’t seen Eric Rogers play a snap seem to think he can be Keyshawn Johnson, but the Cal Lutheran product has a lot of work to do in earning a spot. Safety Jeff Heath has been an under-the-radar guy and Jakar Hamilton, who received $10,000 to sign, has yet to make a mark in camp. There is a lot of time to make a push but right now there isn’t a lock yet.

    ** It’s hard to gauge just how interested the Cowboys are in Brian Waters. They know he is available, but they haven’t really put the full-court press on him just yet. Maybe they wanted to see Ronald Leary in a game before going ahead with it. But if they are going to sign Waters, I wonder if it’s too late. He did not take part in an offseason program last year and did not sign with a team. He was not with a team this offseason either. What kind of shape is he in? If the Cowboys bring Waters in, it’s not for a workout. It’s to sign him. He signed with New England in 2011 a week before the season started and ended up in the Pro Bowl. But in players’ years, that could be a lifetime ago.

    ** Let’s close with a game involving a 53-man roster projection. I wonder if the final spot or two comes down to a seventh linebacker, fourth running back, a 10th offensive linemen, a sixth wide receiver or a ninth defensive lineman? If that’s the case, then Magee, Phillip Tanner, Darrion Weems, Anthony Armstrong, Tim Benford, Eric Rogers or a George Selvie are fighting for one or two spots right now. Right now, I’m not sure the ninth or 10th offensive lineman is on the roster. Armstrong has had a really good camp and his speed separates him from some others. Selvie could be insurance for Anthony Spencer being banged up and helped himself with Sunday’s two-sack effort. Tanner also helped his cause. Based on what Tanner, Selvie and Armstrong did against Miami, it looks like the Cowboys will have a decision to make as opposed to trying to find players to keep.

    5 Wonders: Rookie class looks good

    July, 30, 2013
    7/30/13
    8:00
    AM ET
    OXNARD, Calif. -- After eight practices, Five Wonders is back for its second training camp installment.

    Away we go:

    PODCAST
    Cowboys rookie Travis Frederick joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest from training camp in Oxnard, Calif.

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  • I wonder whether we’re seeing a rookie class that could be a lot more productive than last season's. The 2012 class was hurt by injuries (Kyle Wilber, Matt Johnson, Danny Coale, Caleb McSurdy) with only Morris Claiborne and Tyrone Crawford playing big roles for a full season. Two weeks into camp, Travis Frederick is a starter, Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams have big offensive roles, and J.J. Wilcox could be a starter and a main special-teams guy. B.W. Webb and Joseph Randle could develop into role players as well. The Cowboys needed an infusion of young talent, and so far so good with the draft picks. Before you (or I) get carried away, let’s see them in games, but this is a good start.

  • I wonder whether I underestimated linebacker Ernie Sims. On my final 53-man roster projection leading up to training camp, I did not have Sims on the final list. I thought he would lose out to Brandon Magee. Sims has gotten off to a really good start. He did a nice job filling in last season after Sean Lee got hurt, all the while playing a foreign 3-4 defense. He started six of his 10 games, and finished with 42 tackles and a sack. Now back to his more comfortable 4-3, Sims has been hitting everything that moves. He’s done a nice job in pass coverage and he can play special teams. More important, he will not cost a lot against the cap. Sims is moving better than he did last year, which is probably a product of having a complete offseason of training.

  • I wonder why the Cowboys didn’t go to the wristband play sheet for their quarterbacks sooner. Getting the play called and to the offense seemed like a struggle at times, and led to things being hurried. With Tony Romo wearing a wristband now, the process should be streamlined, even with Bill Callahan in the coaches booth. The coaches are not relaying plays to Romo, but rather numbers for him to read the play call. It will help with the time and it will help Romo getting the plays out. Jason Garrett’s system is quarterback-friendly in that regard. It’s not that verbose. I remember Brad Johnson telling me that one Jon Gruden play was 30-plus words long. How do you memorize something like that and spit it out with a 40-second play clock?

  • Undrafted rookie wide receiver Eric Rogers has been one of the early stories of training camp. He played at Cal-Lutheran and was something of an afterthought when the Cowboys picked him up. But then he caught everything that was thrown his way in the offseason, which piqued the curiosity more. In Oxnard, Rogers has continued to catch everything. But I wonder whether he can win a spot on the 53-man roster. He does not run well. He doesn’t offer up wide receiver flexibility in terms of finding a role, either. Cole Beasley has a role as a slot receiver. Dwayne Harris has a role as a backup at both receiver spots and can return punts. Rogers will have a chance to continue to make his way, but right now I’d say he is more of a practice squad candidate than a player on the final roster.

  • Let’s continue to wonder about the makeup of the 53-man roster. I believe it’s a near certainty that the Cowboys will keep four tight ends, but I wonder whether they could keep a fifth. Seriously. Andre Smith could put himself into the mix. He is a true blocking tight end at 270 pounds, but he has caught the ball surprisingly well. Now it should come down to him playing some special teams, and his lack of speed could catch up to him there. I believe one of the final spots will come down to a running back (Phillip Tanner), a tight end, a wide receiver (Anthony Armstrong) or possibly a 10th offensive lineman.
  • Allen, Magee enter camp same way

    July, 19, 2013
    7/19/13
    1:23
    PM ET
    OXNARD, Calif. -- Will Allen is entering his 10th season and the Cowboys are his third team. Brandon Magee is an undrafted rookie.

    They will arrive today in Oxnard not via the Cowboys’ charter flight, but by car because they have been in Southern California working out prior to the start of training camp. Despite their different resumes, they have the same feeling of anticipation.

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    Mark Schlereth joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Ted Emrich to discuss the Cowboys and their place in the NFC East.

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    “You want to have that feeling and that’s what football is all about,” Allen said. “It’s about to be real. It’s about to happen. You get that little bit of anxiety and it’s exciting.”

    Allen’s first camp was in 2004 with Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers trained in Orlando.

    “It was hot as crap,” Allen said. “I was a young rookie trying to figure it all out and it was fun and I learned a lot, but it’s all a blur right now. I remember being really hot.”

    Allen and Magee don’t have to worry about that in Oxnard, where the high temperature for the next week is 70 degrees. Magee had been working out at Arizona State, where he said temperatures topped out at 115 degrees.

    “That’s a walk in the park, weather-wise,” Magee said of the Oxnard weather. “But I know practice is going to be a lot harder.”

    Allen and Magee share the same agent, Blake Baratz, and the veteran has passed on some sage words to the rookie the way the veterans in Tampa Bay, like Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and Ryan Nece did for him in Orlando.

    “Will has been a big influence one me,” Magee said. “He told me a little bit about what training camp is like, but I didn’t want to know too much. During the OTAs and the mandatory minicamp he was on me about practice, how you’re supposed to practice, how you’re not supposed to hit people, how to study the game and keep your body healthy. He’s been a big help to me.”

    Allen, who signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys in the offseason as a free agent, will likely be with the first-team defense for the first practice next to Barry Church. Magee, who was guaranteed $70,000 as an undrafted free agent, will be fighting for a chance to make the team.

    “It’s a great opportunity and it makes you a little bit more motivated and a little more determined,” Allen said. “I don’t let it distract me. I just want to stay focused day to day.”

    Magee said he constantly carries with him the pain of not being drafted, but knows he will have to make his mark every day. Part of the reason he signed with the Cowboys was their track record with undrafted free agents, such as Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Church and Alex Albright.

    “Everybody knows it’s harder for undrafted guys to make the team than drafted guys, but the Cowboys make it pretty equal for both to make the team,” Magee said. “I’m just happy for the opportunity, and when I get out there I can show maybe I can be the next Tony Romo in that group.”

    Bubble watch: Ernie Sims

    July, 17, 2013
    7/17/13
    11:30
    PM ET
    With the Cowboys set to open practice on Sunday, ESPN Dallas takes a look at players fighting to make the 53-man roster and how they may potentially fit on the roster in 2013.

    Name: Ernie Sims

    Position: Linebacker

    Contract status: Signed through 2013

    Why he should make it: Sims did a nice job after signing with the team following an injury to Sean Lee. In 10 games last year, including six starts, Sims finished with 42 tackles, a sack, two quarterback pressures and three pass deflections. That came in a new scheme. With the Cowboys moving to the 4-3, Sims is back in the right scheme. He can play the Will or Mike in this scheme, which is a plus. His experience is also a bonus with a backup group that does not have any real game experience in this scheme at this level.

    Why he should not make it: The Cowboys drafted DeVonte Holloman and guaranteed undrafted rookie Brandon Magee $70,000. Sims, who is entering his eighth season, does not have any guaranteed money. He will have to show he is willing to be a special-teams mainstay. He does not turn 29 until December and he still moves well enough to make plays, but the Cowboys have harped on going younger across the roster. Sims might get caught up in the numbers, especially if the team only keeps six linebackers.

    Main competition: Brandon Magee, Tank Reed, Caleb McSurdy

    Chance to make roster: 45 percent

    Pre-camp 53-man roster projection

    July, 15, 2013
    7/15/13
    10:30
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys will fly to California on Friday for the beginning of training camp, so here is the final offseason projection of the 53-man roster.

    Without knowing the injuries that could happen, there looks to be roughly seven roster spots up for grabs.

    When we get to Oxnard, Calif., Tim MacMahon will take over the projections.

    PODCAST
    ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss Sean Lee, Gavin Escobar, Dez Bryant and more as Cowboys training camp nears.

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    Quarterbacks (2)

    Tony Romo
    Kyle Orton

    The Cowboys have sniffed around better No. 3 quarterbacks in the offseason, which could mean they will look to keep one on the 53-man roster. It just won’t be Nick Stephens or Dalton Williams.

    Running backs (4)

    DeMarco Murray
    Joseph Randle
    Lance Dunbar
    Phillip Tanner

    Tanner had a good offseason and enters with the final job, but Kendial Lawrence could push him with a strong camp. The past two camps have seen undrafted runners make it, with Tanner and Dunbar as surprises. Could Lawrence be the third in a row?

    Tight ends (4)

    Jason Witten
    James Hanna
    Gavin Escobar
    Dante Rosario

    No change here from the projection after the minicamp, but Colin Cochart could play himself into contention.

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    Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the stress and pressure that NFL players experience heading into training camp.

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    Wide receivers (5)

    Dez Bryant
    Miles Austin
    Terrance Williams
    Dwayne Harris
    Cole Beasley

    No change from the minicamp projection.


    Offensive line (10)

    Tyron Smith
    Nate Livings
    Travis Frederick
    Mackenzy Bernadeau
    Doug Free
    Jermey Parnell
    Phil Costa
    Ronald Leary
    Darrion Weems
    Kevin Kowalski

    After the minicamp, I dropped Kowalski from the list with hesitation. With some time to think about it, I put him back on the roster. He can play all three interior line spots.

    Defensive line (9)

    DeMarcus Ware
    Jay Ratliff
    Jason Hatcher
    Anthony Spencer
    Tyrone Crawford
    Sean Lissemore
    Kyle Wilber
    Ben Bass
    Nick Hayden

    Nick Hayden gets the final spot for now. I wonder if the Cowboys could find a trade partner late in camp if they really like their depth.

    Linebackers (6)

    Bruce Carter
    Sean Lee
    Justin Durant
    Alex Albright
    DeVonte Holloman
    Brandon Magee

    No change from the minicamp projection, but I wonder if carrying six linebackers is smart, especially as ones as inexperienced as the backups are.

    Cornerbacks (5)

    Brandon Carr
    Morris Claiborne
    Orlando Scandrick
    B.W. Webb
    Sterling Moore

    No change from the minicamp projection, but I think the Cowboys will be looking at that final cornerback spot in camp.

    Safeties (5)

    Barry Church
    Will Allen
    Matt Johnson
    J.J. Wilcox
    Danny McCray

    I have McCray on the bubble because of his price tag, but he is a terrific special teamer and new coach Rich Bisaccia would want to keep a guy like that. If Jakar Hamilton shows some skills, then he could fight his way into the picture.

    Specialists (3)

    Dan Bailey
    Chris Jones
    L.P. Ladouceur

    No change from the minicamp projection.

    Cowboys position series: Linebackers

    July, 3, 2013
    7/03/13
    9:00
    AM ET
    The eighth in ESPNDallas.com’s 10-part position series:

    Roster locks: Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Justin Durant

    On the bubble: Alex Albright, DeVonte Holloman, Brandon Magee, Ernie Sims, Caleb McSurdy

    Long shots: Deon Lacey, Cameron Lawrence, Taylor Reed

    PODCAST
    ESPN senior NFL analyst Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to discuss the Cowboys and latest news from around the NFL.

    Listen Listen
    What’s new?: Bruce Carter could be the biggest beneficiary of the switch to Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 scheme. Carter is the prototype to play the Will linebacker.

    It’s premature to compare Carter to former Tampa Bay great Derrick Brooks, the standard for the position, but that’s what happens when Brooks’ old coordinator coaches a Will linebacker with Carter’s ability. There might not be a faster linebacker in the league, and this scheme will allow Carter to fly to the football without having to take on nearly as many blocks as he did as a 3-4 inside linebacker.

    The same is true to a lesser extent for Sean Lee as the middle linebacker. The former high school safety’s playmaking ability in pass coverage will be spotlighted in a scheme that often requires him to drop deep down the middle of the field.

    The Cowboys made addressing the depth of the linebacker corps an offseason priority, although they didn’t spend a lot of money to do it. Justin Durant is a proven starting Sam linebacker who signed a two-year, $2.4 million deal. They drafted DeVonte Holloman in the sixth round despite having a higher grade on Brandon Magee, who they gave $70,000 in guaranteed money to sign as an undrafted free agent.

    PODCAST
    Drew Pearson and ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon join Fitzsimmons and Durrett to look ahead to Cowboys training camp. Pearson makes a bold prediction that the Cowboys will be in the Super Bowl.

    Listen Listen
    Camp competition: The battles for the backup jobs will be intense.

    How many linebackers will the Cowboys keep? Six? Seven?

    Ernie Sims is a veteran insurance policy. Alex Albright is the most versatile of the bunch, capable of playing two linebacker spots and defensive end in a pinch and serving as one of the Cowboys’ best special-teams players. Holloman and Magee are intriguing rookies. Of the bubble guys, 2012 seventh-rounder McSurdy probably has the longest odds after coming back from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in last year’s camp.

    2013 hope: Lee and Carter can be one of the league’s elite linebacker combos -- if they can stay healthy. And that’s a big if for a couple of guys who dropped into the second round because of college knee injuries and who have had bad medical luck in their brief NFL careers.

    But the hope is that the Cowboys have a couple of linebackers who will be sideline-to-sideline, every-down forces for years to come.

    If those two stay healthy and the play at Sam is solid, the linebacker corps should be a major strength for the Cowboys in 2013.

    Future forecast: Look for Lee to get a long-term contract extension before the beginning of the season. The Cowboys are looking for him to be a leader of this defense for a long time.

    Can the Cowboys afford to pay Carter, too? It might be his turn for a rich extension next offseason, when he’ll be entering the final year of his rookie deal. Just remember that Jerry Jones tends to find ways to keep successful draft picks around Valley Ranch.

    If the Cowboys keep Lee and Carter for the long haul, they can fill the Sam spot with low-cost players, whether they’re journeymen like Durant or draft picks.

    Post minicamp look at 53-man roster

    June, 17, 2013
    6/17/13
    10:10
    AM ET
    IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys are in the “off” part of the offseason now that the mandatory minicamp is over.

    As a result, we offer up another look at the 53-man roster before the team heads to Oxnard, Calif., next month for training camp.

    PODCAST
    Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss this week's minicamp and Dez Bryant. Claiborne will join the show to discuss the latest Cowboys news all season.

    Listen Listen
    QUARTERBACKS (2)

    Tony Romo
    Kyle Orton

    There’s no change here, but I can see the Cowboys adding a quarterback for training camp with a better resume than Nick Stephens and Dalton Williams.

    RUNNING BACKS (4)

    DeMarco Murray
    Joseph Randle
    Lance Dunbar
    Phillip Tanner

    [+] EnlargeJoseph Randle
    Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsRookie Joseph Randle could serve as a true backup to DeMarco Murray with Lance Dunbar as the third-down back.
    No change here either. I will be interested to see how Randle works into the mix. If the Cowboys go with a true third-down back, then I think Dunbar gets that role and Randle will work mostly as Murray’s true backup.

    TIGHT ENDS (4)

    Jason Witten
    James Hanna
    Gavin Escobar
    Dante Rosario

    No change here either, although Colin Cochart bears some watching in the battle with Rosario. He did some good things in the offseason and can play some special teams, too. I reiterate my point on the need for a more blocking-oriented tight end behind Witten.

    WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

    Dez Bryant
    Miles Austin
    Terrance Williams
    Dwayne Harris
    Cole Beasley

    I debated going with a sixth wide receiver again, but I just don’t see the need with how I expect the offense to be structured this year. That’s not good news for Anthony Armstrong, Danny Coale and whoever else gets in the mix here.

    [+] EnlargeKevin Kowalski
    AP Photo/Brandon WadeKevin Kowalski could be the odd man out on the offensive line.
    OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

    Tyron Smith
    Nate Livings
    Travis Frederick
    Mackenzy Bernadeau
    Doug Free
    Jermey Parnell
    Phil Costa
    Ronald Leary
    Darrion Weems

    Finally a change on offense. I knocked Kevin Kowalski from the list and did so with hesitation, but he brings a lot of duplication with Costa. And Bernadeau can play center in a pinch. The Cowboys usually go heavy on the offensive line, so I would expect this to go back to 10 during training camp. You’ll see later as to why I dropped down to nine guys.

    DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

    DeMarcus Ware
    Jay Ratliff
    Jason Hatcher
    Anthony Spencer
    Tyrone Crawford
    Sean Lissemore
    Kyle Wilber
    Ben Bass
    Nick Hayden

    I took Anthony Hargrove off the list and added Ben Bass, who had an excellent minicamp, and Hayden, who has done a nice job on the interior. It’s a little heavy, but Rod Marinelli will have a lot of say on the roster. Bass has the ability to be that “quick-twitch” guy on the interior, but I still think he will have to fight for a job. Hayden’s experience helps him.

    [+] EnlargeErnie Sims
    Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys called on Ernie Sims after losing Sean Lee last season, but his spot is up in the air this year.
    LINEBACKERS (6)

    Bruce Carter
    Sean Lee
    Justin Durant
    Alex Albright
    DeVonte Holloman
    Brandon Magee

    Ernie Sims loses the final spot here, but carrying six linebackers isn’t the smartest of moves. Think of it this way: With the way teams use their nickel defense, the Cowboys will have three linebackers on the field for 45 percent of the snaps, so do they need to have a seventh linebacker who will likely be inactive on game day? I think they can cover themselves from injury by carrying two or three linebackers on the practice squad.

    CORNERBACKS (5)

    Brandon Carr
    Morris Claiborne
    Orlando Scandrick
    B.W. Webb
    Sterling Moore

    No change here and if there aren’t any surprise additions, I don’t think this will change during camp, although Brandon Underwood made some plays the final couple of days of minicamp.

    SAFETIES (6)

    Barry Church
    Will Allen
    Matt Johnson
    J.J. Wilcox
    Danny McCray
    Jakar Hamilton

    McCray is on the bubble for me only because of his price tag. Could they go with four safeties? Seems risky. By going light at linebacker, they’ll need some special teams’ bodies. Hamilton’s chances weren’t helped by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of the OTAs and minicamp, but he got the benefit of the doubt.

    SPECIALISTS (3)

    Dan Bailey
    Chris Jones
    L.P. Ladouceur

    No change here.

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