Friday, August 22, 2008

Six Potential Cowboys Cuts to Watch

Since the arrival of Bill Parcells in Miami, there has been no shortage of players, coaches and executives added to the Dolphins' organization with connections to the Dallas Cowboys.

With NFL teams trimming more than 20 players of their rosters by August 30, the Dolphins will have another opportunity to reel in even more ex-Cowboys. There is no question the Dolphins are lacking depth in certain areas and it will be interesting to see if Parcells and Ireland scour their former team's cuts to bolster the back end of Miami's roster.

Here are six Cowboys players that could be appealing to Miami if they fail to make the squad in Dallas. Why six? Because, that's why.

1. Richard Bartel
  • Position: Quarterback
  • Height/Weight: 6-3, 246
  • Age: 25
  • College: Tarleton State
  • Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent (2007)
  • Could replace... John Beck and/or Josh McCown
It is likely the Dolphins will part ways with either John Beck or Josh McCown prior the regular season, despite Sparano's weak claim the team could keep four quarterbacks. But is it possible the Dolphins could actually ditch both Beck and McCown? If the Dolphins deemed a prospect worthy of the No. 3 job, the answer is yes.

If Beck is dealt before the season begins (which seems quite possible now) and the two Chads have the top two spots on the depth chart locked up, is it really necessary to keep McCown as the emergency third-stringer? McCown was merely brought in to be a veteran on the squad - a role now filled by a more talented Pennington. In my mind, I'm not sure the Dolphins would have a problem adding a prospect like Bartel as the No. 3 guy rather than keep a mediocre journeyman like McCown.

What's the skinny on Bartel? He was signed by the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and spent the season on the practice squad. He originally attended SMU before transferring to Tarleton State. He's obviously a bit of a project, but he has a good arm is pretty smart. Bartel may end up on Dallas' practice squad if the team elects to keep only Tony Romo and Brad Johnson active, so why not offer Bartel a better gig and decent pay raise?

2. Rodney Hannah
  • Position: Tight end
  • Height/Weight: 6-6, 255
  • Age: 24
  • College: Houston
  • Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent (2007)
  • Could replace... David Martin, Justin Peelle or Sean Ryan
Tight end is probably one of the worst positions on the Dolphins at this point and the team is hoping Anthony Fasano shows some of the talent that earned him a second-round selection by Dallas in 2006. Beyond that, free-agent bust David Martin and pure blockers Justin Peelle and Sean Ryan are all competing for roster spots. While two of the three might make the team initially, none is so valuable they couldn't be replaced at any time.

Hannah will likely be pushed off the Dallas roster by a talented group of Dallas tight ends in Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett and Tony Curtis. A former college basketball player, Hannah has good size and physical tools and spent last season on the Cowboys' practice squad. While the next Antonio Gates he might be not be, he's certainly a prospect worthy adding to Miami's tight end stable, where there is little upside to be found.

3. Remi Ayodele
  • Position: Nose tackle
  • Height/Weight: 6-2, 300
  • Age: 25
  • College: Oklahoma
  • Acquired: Free Agent (2007)
  • Could replace... Paul Soliai, though not necessarily anyone at the position
If his surname sounds familiar, it's because his older brother, linebacker Akin Ayodele, is the Dolphins' starting inside linebacker. While not as accomplished as his sibling, Remi has had a few stints with the Cowboys over the past three years made his NFL debut with the team last season. He's a borderline prospect who doesn't have nearly the upside of Paul Soliai, which is why I could see Soliai sticking around even if Ayodele were to be added. That could be a long shot, however, as 3-4 teams don't often carry three nose tackles.

4. Alan Ball
  • Position: Cornerback
  • Height/Weight: 6-1, 176
  • Age: 23
  • College: Illinois
  • Acquired: 7th Round (2007)
  • Could replace... Nathan Jones or Joey Thomas
Sparano has spoken repeatedly about "turning over every rock" in trying to find players and cornerback is definitely a position where the rock-turning won't slow down any time soon. The Dolphins lack a true No. 1 corner and have depth issues as well. No one in the group outside of Will Allen is entirely untouchable.

Even if Ball is cut, it doesn't necessarily mean he's not talented. He's currently battling at a position that also features Terence Newman, Anthony Henry, Pacman Jones and Mike Jenkins. Ball has good height for a corner, is still very young and has some upside. While Nathan Jones and Joey Thomas are both in Miami because of their Dallas connections, Ball is a guy that could cause one to be replaced.

5. Darrell Robertson
  • Position: Linebacker
  • Height/Weight: 6-4, 255
  • Age: 22
  • College: Georgia Tech
  • Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent (2008)
  • Could replace... Rob Ninkovich, Junior Glymph or Titus Brown
Unlike the previous four players mentioned, Robertson hasn't a direct connection to any of the Dolphins' staff. That being said, Ireland surely scouted Robertson in preparation for the 2008 NFL Daft.

The Dolphins are still transitioning to the 3-4 defense and lack an entire roster of ideal personnel. The Dolphins are thin at outside linebacker with only Joey Porter assured a starting job and no one else even guaranteed a roster spot.

An All-ACC performer at defensive end, Robertson is a talented pass rusher and prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker. It might be worth giving him a shot over Rob Ninkovich, journeyman Junior Glymph or undrafted rookie Titus Brown.

6. WR Todd Lowber
  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Height/Weight: 6-3, 205
  • Age: 26
  • College: Ramapo
  • Acquired: Free Agent (2008)
  • Could replace... Greg Camarillo, David Kircus or Anthony Armstrong
Like Robertson, Lowber has no direct connection to Parcells, Ireland or any former Cowboys coaches now in Miami. Admittedly, I list him here primarily because I have been intrigued by him as a prospect for over a year now.

Lowber played college basketball and was a high jumper at a school called Ramapo in New Jersey. Until his arrival in the NFL in 2007, he had never played organized football in his life. So how exactly did he even make it this far when most of us have more experience with the game than him?

That can easily be explained by one number: 4.11. That's the 40-yard dash time Lowber put up in a personal workout in 2007, prompting the Minnesota Vikings to offer him a contract. He failed to make the squad out of camp and spent time on the New York Giants' practice squad last season, earning a Super Bowl ring in the process.

Re-signed by the Giants this offseason, Lowber was released this summer and was briefly on the practice squad of the CFL's Toronto Argonauts before being picked up by Dallas. His pursuit to make the Cowboys is currently being chronicled on the HBO series Hard Knocks.

It's not surprising that Lowber is still very raw as an NFL receiver. He still trying to grasp the game and has much to learn, but his physical tools are undeniable. He has good size, blazing speed and astounding leaping ability to go along with smarts and drive. As thin as Miami is at receiver, it'd be worth trying to get Lowber, if only on the practice squad, and see if receivers coach Karl Dorrell can tap some of his potential.