Emphasis on “at least.”
The Cowboys have now retained 10 players from that aforementioned group, agreeing to terms on new, one-year deals for linebackers Joe Thomas and Justin March. Both are expected to sign Friday, per the team’s official website.
Undrafted in 2014, Thomas originally joined Dallas the following season, after a practice-squad stint in Green Bay, where he was coached by Mike McCarthy. His time in a Cowboys uniform was brief, however, as the Packers plucked him off their taxi squad and onto the active roster.
Thomas returned to North Texas in 2018, inking a two-year contract. He made 10 regular-season appearances, notching seven tackles as a special teams fixture.
He was more active last season — literally — collecting 33 tackles, a pass deflection and forced fumble across 15 games. He also made two starts in the wake of injuries to starting LBs Sean Lee and Leighton Vander Esch, who ended 2019 on injured reserve.
Capable of manning all three ‘backer positions, Thomas, 28, will continue to function as a special teams maven, and again for McCarthy, hired this offseason to replace Jason Garrett. He provides valuable depth behind Lee, whom the club re-signed, Vander Esch, who’s recovering from spinal stenosis, and stalwart OLB Jaylon Smith.
March is similar in many facets. He, too, was a UDFA, scooped up by the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2015 NFL draft. He landed in Dallas in 2017, having completed stops in Miami and Seattle.
March, 26, was active for seven games that year, logging two tackles, and buried, like Thomas, on the third side of the ball. He’s since appeared in all 32 games across 2018-19, totaling a combined 16 tackles and one pass breakup.
He’s lower on the tentative depth chart than Thomas but will be a crucial component for new special teams coordinator John Fassel, who succeeds longtime STC Keith O’Quinn.
“You know I can’t wait to turn special teams into a real factor with Coach Fassel here this year,” March told SI.com’s Mike Fisher.
Altogether, over the past 72 hours, the Cowboys have locked down Thomas, March, Lee, wide receiver Amari Cooper, tight end Blake Jarwin, offensive lineman Joe Looney, cornerback Anthony Brown, long snapper L. P. Ladouceur and kicker Kai Forbath. They also franchise-tagged quarterback Dak Prescott.
In out-of-house moves, the club’s thus far brought aboard defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and CB Maurice Canady.
Dallas has lost its fair share of talent, as well. Defected are CB Byron Jones (Dolphins), WR Randall Cobb (Texans), defensive end Robert Quinn (Bears), safety Jeff Heath (Raiders), TE Jason Witten (Raiders), defensive lineman Maliek Collins (Raiders), offensive tackle Cam Fleming (Giants), and interior offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo (Bengals).
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