Dallas Cowboys: Caesar Rayford

Constructing a 53-man roster is a difficult process, piecing together 10 positions groups and matching up present needs with future production of older and younger players. This week we take a look at constructing the Dallas Cowboys' roster.

Defensive line

On the roster: George Selvie, Terrell McClain, Henry Melton, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Anthony Spencer, Jeremy Mincey, Nick Hayden, Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman, Ben Gardner, Amobi Okoye, Martez Wilson, Dartwan Bush, Chris Whaley, Caesar Rayford, Ben Bass

Locks: Selvie, McClain, Melton, Lawrence, Crawford, Mincey

Inside track: Spencer, Hayden, Bishop, Gardner, Coleman, Bass

Need help: Wilson, Coleman, Bush, Whaley, Rayford,Okoye

How many fit? The Cowboys needed 20 defensive linemen last year because of injuries and a revolving door of newcomers who mostly struggled. The Cowboys opened the year last season with 10 defensive linemen on the 53-man roster and ended the year with that many, but the only constants were Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware, Edgar Jones, Hayden and Selvie.

Ten seems to be the right number again in 2014 as the Cowboys plan to attack with numbers if not known commodities. Spencer and Okoye could be candidates to open the year on the physically unable to perform list because of injuries. Hayden started every game last year, but he is not a lock to make the roster. Selvie had seven sacks last year but he is not a lock to start. Crawford did not play last year because of an Achilles’ injury. Melton is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. McClain had a productive spring but can he carry that over to a full-time role?

The Cowboys gave up their third-round pick to move up for Lawrence, and he will fight with Mincey for a starting spot. He looks the part, but he has a lot to learn. Going against Tyron Smith might be a good thing. The Cowboys are betting that Mincey will be able to find a niche as a quality pass rusher.

Bass is entering his third training camp. He has flashed ability but hasn’t been able to stay healthy in his first two years. Gardner, Bishop and Coleman could be viewed as a part of the future as the line gets the overhaul the offensive line began in 2011. Rayford looks the part but has to have a good preseason to earn a spot. Wilson has some pass rush to him.

Losing Ware and Hatcher and possibly not having Spencer until the seventh game of the season, this group does not have high expectations. Rod Marinelli kind of likes it that way, but he has to somehow coax pass rush out of players who have yet to do it on a consistent basis.

The series:

Running backs
Wide receivers
Tight ends
Offensive line

Workload unlikely to change for Tony Romo

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
IRVING, Texas -- Through the organized team activities, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has been kept out of competitive drills as well as some individual work as he recovers from December back surgery.

With the Cowboys' minicamp starting Tuesday, Romo will continue down the same road. Romo has said recently he expects to be 100 percent within a few weeks, but that time frame comes after the Cowboys' offseason is over.

"We'll take him day-by-day like we do with all the other guys," Garrett said last week, "but I don't see it changing dramatically."

Romo has gone through walkthrough drills with the first-team offense and thrown individual routes with wide receivers, running backs and tight ends. He has not taken a snap in 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 drills. He has also sat out of the quarterback's footwork drills as the team attempts to protect him from jarring motions as much as possible.


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Romo will not be the only Cowboy to likely be limited because of injury during the three-day minicamp. Wide receiver L'Damian Washington (shoulder), wide receiver Devin Street (quadriceps bruise), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring), linebacker DeVonte Holloman, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, defensive end Ben Gardner (groin), defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (illness), defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee), defensive tackle Chris Whaley (knee), wide receiver Dwayne Harris (shoulder), defensive end George Selvie (shoulder), defensive end Caesar Rayford (shoulder) have been either slowed by injury during all or part of the offseason program.

Johnson took part in just one OTA before his hamstring tightened up. Because of his history (he missed his rookie season with recurring hamstring injuries) the Cowboys have wanted to protect Johnson. He missed last season because of foot surgery.

He is hoping to take part in the minicamp in some fashion.

"I've just been making sure it's good to go," Johnson said. "I think we're being over-cautious but I feel good."

Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, one of the Cowboys' five seventh-round picks, will take part in team drills for the first time since the rookie minicamp in May. League rules prevented him from showing up before June 13 because Oregon had not graduated.
IRVING, Texas -- The Sean Lee injury news dominated the first day of the Dallas Cowboys' organized team activities, but here's a look at some other observations from Tuesday's workout:

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  • With Tony Romo limited and Kyle Orton not around, Brandon Weeden was able to get the first-team work and he showed well. He didn't necessarily get more work than he would have if Romo and Orton were available, but he was able to get quality work with the starters. His best throw was a throw to the sideline over cornerback Brandon Carr to Terrance Williams. It was in a spot where only Williams could make the grab, which he did for what would have been a long gain.
  • If there was a spot where Weeden struggled it was on the move. He was not as accurate on his throws on the run, missing mostly high.
  • Romo went through pat-and-go, team takeoff. He threw routes on air to receivers, but he did not go through any individual work. As the other quarterbacks went through footwork drills, Romo was a spectator. He alternated every few throws and made sure most of his passes went to Dez Bryant, Williams or Jason Witten.
  • Zack Martin was the starter at right guard and Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary split the left guard snaps. Will that continue in training camp? In my opinion, it should.
  • The first-team defensive line from left to right: Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain, Nick Hayden, DeMarcus Lawrence. With George Selvie (shoulder) and Henry Melton (knee) recovering from offseason surgeries, Crawford moved outside, which is a sign of his versatility. McClain could be a nose tackle candidate once Melton is able to get back.
  • In addition to Selvie and Melton, Morris Claiborne (shoulder), Dwayne Harris (shoulder),Caesar Rayford (shoulder), Ahmad Dixon (hip), Dashaun Phillips and Jocquel Skinner did not take part in team drills. Justin Durant and Darrion Weems did not practice at all.
  • Interesting to note: Cole Beasley and Tim Benford only ran routes from the slot during the receivers individual period while the rest of the receivers worked outside.

Re-setting Cowboys D-line

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
IRVING, Texas -- With Anthony Spencer re-signing over the weekend, the Dallas Cowboys now have 12 defensive linemen on their current roster.

Is that enough?

Probably not. And as explained on Saturday, the Spencer deal should not preclude the Cowboys from going after more defensive linemen in the draft.

Let’s reset the Cowboys defensive line:

Ben Bass: Signed through 2014 -- A restricted free agent after the season, has to show he can stay healthy.

Tyrone Crawford: Signed through 2015 -- Coming off torn Achilles, but expected to be main contributor this season.

Nick Hayden: Signed through 2014 -- An unrestricted free agent after the season, he was a starter last year and had some moments.

Frank Kearse: Signed through 2015 -- A late-season addition in 2013, more of a depth player.

Terrell McClain: Signed through 2016 -- A free-agent pickup, he could take over the one technique spot this year from Hayden.

Henry Melton: Signed through 2014 -- Team holds a three-year option on his deal that would guarantee him $9 million. The key free-agent signing.

George Selvie: Signed through 2014 -- A revelation last year with seven sacks, he will be counted on more in 2014. He is an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Anthony Spencer: Signed through 2014 -- He is coming back from microfracture surgery but his rehab has gone well recently. The one-year deal allows him to make good this year to cash in next year.

Martez Wilson: Signed through 2014 -- His measurables have the team intrigued at what he could be in a full year with Rod Marinelli. He is an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Tristan Okpalaugo: Signed through 2014 – He was a futures signing after the season and team is hoping they found a diamond in rough.

Caesar Rayford: Signed through 2014 – Acquired in trade from Indianapolis last summer, he is a project but looks the part.

Jeremy Mincey: Signed through 2015 -- A free-agent pickup, he can play either end spot and move inside in passing situations.

Analysis: The only player with a contract past 2015 is McClain, which is one of the reasons why defensive line remains a need. The main reason, however, is they can still use an infusion of talent and a natural pass rusher … Melton’s deal could run through 2017 if the Cowboys pick up his option. For that to happen, however, he will have to perform close to his Pro Bowl level with the Chicago Bears in 2013 … Position flexibility helps. Bass, Crawford, Mincey and Selvie have the ability to play end and tackle depending on the situation.

Cowboys position breakdown: D-line

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
Cowboys reporters Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer breakdown the Cowboys, position by position, analyzing what the players did in 2013, what they can do in the future and what the team can do to improve the position in 2014.

Under contract: DeMarcus Ware, George Selvie, Nick Hayden, Corvey Irvin, Martez Wilson, Everette Brown, Frank Kearse, Ben Bass, Tyrone Crawford, Edgar Jones, Caesar Rayford

A look back: Jason Hatcher had the best season of his career with 11 sacks and was added to the Pro Bowl, but the defensive line play in 2013 was shoddy and played a big part in why the Cowboys finished last in the NFL in defense.

Monte Kiffin’s defense is predicated on the front four getting pressure, and they did not affect the quarterback enough. From the first day of training camp on, the group was beset by injury. Tyrone Crawford tore his Achilles on the first day. Jay Ratliff never played a down and was cut in October. Anthony Spencer played in one game before needing microfracture surgery on his knee. The Cowboys used 20 different defensive linemen during the season. They hit on George Selvie, who started every game and had seven sacks, and received some moments from Nick Hayden as well, but the group just wasn’t good enough.

DeMarcus Ware missed three games with a quadriceps strain and had a career-low six sacks. He had four sacks in the first three games. Whether it was injury or age, Ware was not the same player in 2013 as he was even in 2012, when he had 11.5 sacks but was limited by shoulder and elbow injuries.

A look ahead: The biggest decision the Cowboys have to make is on Ware. He is to count $16.003 million against the salary cap with a $12.25 million base salary. Do the Cowboys ask him to take a pay cut, or do they restructure his deal in order to create room?

It is a delicate decision that owner and general manager Jerry Jones has been loathed to make in the past. There is no way Ware can count that much against the cap.

It seems almost a given that Hatcher will leave as a free agent. The team does not have the cap space to keep him, and it is difficult to commit big money to a soon-to-be 32-year-old defensive end. The chances of Spencer returning as a free agent are better just because his price will be kept low.

Crawford could be the key to the group, but the Cowboys should not bank on him being an every-down player coming off the injury. He played well as a rookie in 2012, but did not have a sack. His plus, however, is versatility. He could play all along the line. The question for Selvie is whether 2013 was an anomaly or a sign that he finally figured it out.

A look out: Last season's free-agent market was light for defensive linemen, so that could help the Cowboys in possibly keeping Hatcher, but he will take the best offer with this being his last chance to cash in.

Finding free agent help will be difficult, so the best chance to improve is in the draft. They made a mistake in not choosing a defensive lineman last year, and they can’t do that again this year. They need to find a pass-rusher, a run defender and a multi-faceted player. Getting one or two in the early rounds seems imperative.

Position breakdown:

Running backs
Tight ends
Wide receivers

Cowboys snap counts: defense

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
IRVING, Texas -- No team in the NFL needed more players on defense than the Dallas Cowboys in 2013.

They had 41 defenders with cornerback Brandon Carr playing the most (1,116 snaps) and Dez Bryant playing the least (three). The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints had the second most with 32 players on defense.

In training camp, the Cowboys’ projected defensive line was Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Jeremiah Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware. Hatcher played the most snaps (747) but that was only 66 percent of the snaps. Ware missed three games and played 628 snaps (55 percent). Spencer played 34 snaps in one game before his season ended. Ratliff, of course, played none before his release.

Nick Hayden played the most snaps on the defensive line (821). George Selvie did not join the team until training camp began and played 744 snaps.

With Hatcher and Spencer set to be free agents and Ware coming off a career-low six sacks, the Cowboys need to refurbish their defensive line in a way where Hayden and Selvie are not playing as much.

The Cowboys used 20 defensive linemen during the season, although Kyle Wilber moved to linebacker late in the season and played 501 snaps.

It might not have seemed this way, but Jeff Heath played only 79 more snaps than J.J. Wilcox.

Defensive snaps:

1,116 – Brandon Carr
1,088 – Orlando Scandrick
1,015 – Barry Church
874 – Bruce Carter
821 - Nick Hayden
747 – Jason Hatcher
744 – George Selvie
702 – Sean Lee
628 - DeMarcus Ware
594 - Jeff Heath
515 - J.J. Wilcox
506 – Morris Claiborne
501 – Kyle Wilber
380 – Ernie Sims
275 – Jarius Wynn
254 - Drake Nevis
207 – DeVonte Holloman
197 – Justin Durant
178 – B.W. Webb
163 – Will Allen
153 – Everette Brown
144 – Caesar Rayford
117 – Corvey Irvin
81 – Sterling Moore
72 - Edgar Jones
63 – Cameron Lawrence
49 – David Carter
46 – Jason Vega
45 – Jerome Long
38 – Landon Cohen
34 – Anthony Spencer
34 – Frank Kearse
24 – Kyle Bosworth
22 – Micah Pellerin
20 – Everett Dawkins
20 – Martez Wilson
16 – Jakar Hamilton
15 – Marvin Austin
8 – Danny McCray
6 – Orie Lemon
3 – Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys penalty breakdown

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys had 102 accepted penalties in 2013, which were the fewest they have had in the Jason Garrett Era, but the 867 yards were the most.

In 2011 the Cowboys were flagged 112 times for 802 yards. In 2012, they had 118 penalties for 853 yards.

In Sunday’s NFC East title game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, they were penalized once for 5 yards and it never should have been a penalty. The officials did not restart the playclock and the Cowboys were called for a delay of game.

Here’s the breakdown (includes declined, offsetting penalties):

Offensive holding - 24
False start – 17
Defensive holding – 12
Offside – 9
Defensive pass interference – 8
Neutral zone infraction – 7
Unnecessary roughness – 6
Offensive pass interference – 6
Illegal use of hands – 5
Face mask – 4
Illegal block above the waist – 4
Delay of game – 4
Roughing the passer – 3
Unsportsmanlike conduct – 3
Intentional grounding – 1
12-men on the field – 1
Encroachment – 1
Horse-collar tackle – 1
Illegal contact – 1
Offside, free kick – 1
Illegal formation – 1
Illegal shift – 1
Personal foul – 1

Player by player:

8 – Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Ronald Leary, Doug Free

7 – Tyron Smith

6 – Morris Claiborne, George Selvie

5 – Dez Bryant, Barry Church

4 – Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Kyle Wilber

3 – Cameron Lawrence, Travis Frederick, Jarius Wynn, Bruce Carter, DeMarcus Ware

2 – Ernie Sims, Jason Hatcher, J.J. Wilcox, James Hanna, Dwayne Harris, Jason Vega, DeMarco Murray, Nick Hayden

1 – Sean Lee, Miles Austin, Will Allen, Mackenzy Bernadeau, L.P. Ladouceur, Jermey Parnell, Brian Waters, Terrance Williams, Kyle Bosworth, B.W. Webb, Cole Beasley, Lance Dunbar, Kyle Orton, Caesar Rayford

Hypothetical reverse Herschel Walker deal

December, 6, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- It's highly improbable, if not virtually impossible, for the Dallas Cowboys to pull off a trade for proud native Texan tailback Adrian Peterson.

So go ahead and debate if whether be worth it for Jerry Jones to give up the Joey Galloway package (two first-round picks) or the Roy Williams package (a first-rounder, third-rounder and swapping late-round picks) to acquire a 28-year-old who is one of the elite backs in NFL history. Breath has been wasted on sillier discussions.

Such as ... coming up with the terms for the reverse Herschel Walker trade.

Dallas shipping the 27-year-old Pro Bowl back to Minnesota in 1989 for five players and a bundle of draft picks might be the most lopsided trade in NFL history. It definitely built a big part of the foundation for Dallas' 1990s dynasty.

What would a similar deal to send Peterson in the opposite direction look like?

First, let's focus on the players, coming up with a comparable current Cowboy for each Viking who was sent to Dallas in 1989.

Bruce Carter/Jesse Solomon: Sure, hopes remain high for Carter at Valley Ranch despite his regression this season. But Solomon had 124 tackles, four interceptions, 2.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries as a 25-year-old the previous season. The Cowboys are still waiting for Carter, a three-year veteran, to come up with a turnover.

Justin Durant/David Howard: Howard was a 27-year-old starting outside linebacker who had just lost his starting job in Minnesota. Durant is a 28-year-old who has likely lost his starting job to Kyle Wilber.

Miles Austin/Darrin Nelson: There really isn't a running back on the Cowboys' roster who compares to Nelson, who refused to report to Dallas and was dealt to San Diego. Like Austin now, Nelson's days as a premier playmaker were behind him by the time of the Herschel deal.

Morris Claiborne/Issiac Holt: Holt wasn't a sixth overall pick who was hyped by the owner and general manager as the best cornerback prospect in a couple of decades. But he was a corner who had lost his starting job before the trade. As much as it might pain Jones to admit it, Claiborne is the millionaire corner on the Cowboys' roster they can most afford to lose by far.

Caesar Rayford/Alex Stewart: Stewart was a rookie defensive end drafted in the eighth round who was immediately waived by the Cowboys. Rayford is on the Cowboys' practice squad right now, but he's a pretty good equivalent.

Then there's the package of picks, which is complicated a bit later, related deals that turned guaranteed the Cowboys would get picks that were conditional. Without bogging this down with too many details, here are the picks that would be swapped in the reverse Herschel deal.

The Cowboys would get a third-rounder, a fifth-rounder and seventh-rounder (since there isn't a 10th round anymore) in 2014 and a 2015 third-rounder.

The Vikings' hypothetical haul: a first-rounder, second-rounder and sixth-rounder in 2014, first-rounder and second-rounder in 2015, second-rounder and third rounder in 2016 and a first-rounder in 2017.

In this case, maybe it's a good thing for the Cowboys that there's a salary cap. Trader Jerry just might be tempted to pull the trigger.

Witten's boys help serve holiday meal

November, 19, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- When Jason Witten and his wife Michelle showed up at the Salvation Army’s Carr P. Collins Social Service Center in Dallas on Tuesday, they had two special guests.

The Wittens brought their sons, C.J. and Cooper, to join their father’s Dallas Cowboys teammates to serve pre-Thanksgiving Meals.

“It provides a perspective off how important the world is, what it means to give back,” said Witten, who won the NFL’s Walter Payton Award last year. “I want them to remember this. I want them to be a part of it. Fortunately for them they have a different life than I grew up in and that’s a good thing, but at the same time you want them to have the right perspective. Today is a great opportunity to teach them that.”

Witten was joined by teammates Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Orlando Scandrick, Caesar Rayford, and George Selvie as well as their wives and girlfriends in Dallas, while the team’s rookies served meals at the Salvation Army’s Mabee Social Service Center in Fort Worth.

“When you have the opportunity to be in the position you’re in right now, it sort of puts things in perspective about people that are around you that are in need,” Ware said. “So having an opportunity on your off day to come out here and spread some smiles but also feel thankful that you can spread some blessings, why not?”

Rayford returns, added to practice squad

November, 14, 2013
The Cowboys brought back defensive end Caesar Rayford on Thursday, two days after releasing him from the active roster to sign a bigger defensive lineman.

Rayford, who was signed to the practice squad, played in seven games and was credited with five tackles and one quarterback pressure. After the Cowboys released Rayford on Tuesday, they signed defensive tackle Corvey Irvin to the active roster to bolster that position.

The Rayford signing means the Cowboys have filled their eight practice squad spots.

Caesar Rayford signed to practice squad

November, 14, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Caesar Rayford was re-signed to the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad after he cleared waivers on Wednesday.

The Cowboys cut Rayford, a defensive end, on Tuesday to make room for defensive tackle Corey Irvin. In seven games Rayford, who was acquired in a trade from the Indianapolis Colts in September, had six tackles.

Because he was on the roster for more than five weeks, the Cowboys owe the Colts their seventh-round pick in 2015. The Cowboys have two defensive ends on their practice squad with Rayford and Hall Davis.

Corvey Irvin brings different element to DL

November, 14, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Even though the Dallas Cowboys do not play on Sunday, what would a week be without them adding a defensive lineman to the 53-man roster?

By signing Corvey Irvin on Tuesday, the Cowboys have added six defensive linemen to the roster in the past five weeks.

Irvin, 6-foot-2, 302 pounds, gives them something that Caesar Rayford, 6-7, 267 pounds, couldn’t: size.

With Jason Hatcher out, the Cowboys mixed in Rayford, Jarius Wynn (285 pounds) and Everett Dawkins (300 pounds) at defensive tackle against the New Orleans Saints. It was Dawkins' first game ever and Rayford and Wynn are defensive ends.

“I think as much as anything else, we like his athleticism but he has a little bit more size than some of the other guys,” coach Jason Garrett said. “I think that’s an important trait that we need right now. Our guys are doing their best to bring guys in who can help our team. I think they’ve done a really good job of that. I think our coaches have done a great job of coaching them up. This is a guy we think athletically fits into what we’re doing and maybe gives us a little more size in there to help us be a little sturdier there on the defensive line.”

Irvin has seven tackles in 18 games for the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli has been in charge of the mix-and-match defensive line and has never been part of something so drastic.

“I just think you look for the best in every man,” Marinelli said. “That’s the first thing. It’s easy to look for what they can’t do and then guys don’t want to coach them. I have a tendency to find out what he can do. Maybe it’s from an attitude or movement or instincts. You don’t get to take him. I’ve always believed that you build a player from the ground, from your feet all the way up. And that takes a little bit of time to do that. So it’s just got to be speeded up, but I still try to do the same thing. And then you got to go reps and get the guys out. First of all, I think they have to see that you believe in them. And they’ll play hard.”

Cowboys lose pick, gain pick

November, 13, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Even though the Dallas Cowboys cut defensive end Caesar Rayford on Tuesday, they will have to fork over their seventh-round pick in 2015 to the Indianapolis Colts.

The condition of the deal that was made on Sept. 3 was that Rayford had to be on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster for at least five games. He was on it for 10 and had six tackles and a quarterback pressure in the seven games he played.

Fear not about the loss of the pick. The Cowboys will receive the seventh-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2014 because tight end Dante Rosario has been on the game-day roster for eight games. That was the condition of the Sept. 1 trade that sent Rosario to Chicago.

Penalty breakdown: Three in lead with six

November, 13, 2013
IRVING, Texas – When compared to recent years, the Dallas Cowboys have done a fairly good job of staying away from penalties. Still, they remain on pace for 107 on the season. While that is high, it would be their fewest in a season since 2007.

Through 10 games the Cowboys have been penalized 81 times, with 67 penalties accepted. Orlando Scandrick, Ronald Leary and Tyron Smith lead the Cowboys with six penalties apiece.

Scandrick has had three defensive-holding penalties, two pass-interference penalties and a face-mask penalty. Leary has had three holding penalties, two false starts and one flag for illegal use of hands. Smith has had three holding penalties, two false starts and an illegal-formation penalty.

Here’s the breakdown for the rest of the team:

5: Morris Claiborne, Doug Free
4: Dez Bryant, Barry Church, Brandon Carr
3: Kyle Wilber, Jason Witten
2: Ernie Sims, Tony Romo, Travis Frederick, James Hanna, Dwayne Harris, George Selvie, Bruce Carter, Jason Vega, Nick Hayden, team/bench
1: Sean Lee, Jason Hatcher, Cameron Lawrence, Will Allen, Mackenzy Bernadeau, L.P. LaDouceur, Jermey Parnell, Brian Waters, Terrance Williams, Kyle Bosworth, DeMarco Murray, Cole Beasley, DeMarcus Ware, J.J. Wilcox, Caesar Rayford

Cowboys make roster moves on D-line

November, 12, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys made a roster change late Tuesday afternoon, but it's not what most fans are looking for: The team released defensive end Caesar Rayford, who played in seven games and totaled five tackles.

To replace Rayford on the 53-man roster, the Cowboys signed defensive tackle Corvey Irvin. Irvin played at Georgia and was drafted in 2009 by Carolina in the third round. He's played in 18 NFL games, including 12 games for Tampa Bay last season, when he recorded six tackles.

Guard Phillipkeith Manley and defensive tackle Jason Vega were released from the practice squad, and tackle John Wetzel was signed to the practice squad. Wetzel signed with Oakland as an undrafted free agent after the 2013 draft and was released in August.

The day started with the Cowboys working out 16 players, including veteran safety Michael Huff, who was cut by Baltimore last month. But the Cowboys, in need of improved play along the secondary, have decided to focus their energies to the defensive front, which has had health issues. Starters DeMarcus Ware (thigh) and Jason Hatcher (stinger) are nursing injuries. Hatcher missed Sunday's game at New Orleans. Ware returned after missing the previous three games, but he said he tweaked his thigh during the game. Ware added that he didn't believe it was too serious, and Hatcher said he expects to play in next week's game at the New York Giants.

Since the start of the season, the Cowboys have signed nine defensive linemen to the active roster.