The Dallas Cowboys are entering the three key waves of roster cuts, and one veteran pass-catcher could be on the chopping block soon.
The Cowboys addressed the tight end position this offseason by drafting Jake Ferguson in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft, as well as re-signing veteran tight end Jeremy Sprinkle to a one-year deal.
Sprinkle may have gotten a new deal, but that doesn’t mean he’s sticking around. Blogging the Boys analyst David Howman thinks Sprinkle could be leaving Dallas on August 16 after the Cowboys’ 17-7 loss to the Denver Broncos in the preseason.
“Not only did Sprinkle struggle on the field, he was thoroughly shown up by the other three tight ends in this game,” Howman writes. “Rookies Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot especially stole the show, further building upon what’s been impressive camps for both of them. That, in combination with Sprinkle’s rough night, could make him an early surprise cut candidate.”
On August 16, the Cowboys released five players, including tight end Ian Bunting. Sprinkle is still with the Cowboys after the team’s first cuts, but the pressure is still on as the roster gets smaller and smaller in August.
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Cowboys Tight Ends Were Mixed Bag in Denver
As Howman mentioned, Ferguson and Hendershot both impressed in an otherwise poor performance from the Cowboys. While Dallas as a whole racked up 17 penalties in the game, the rookie duo made solid contributions on offense.
Ferguson caught three passes for 29 receiving yards, and Hendershot brought down two catches for 13 yards. Not earth-shattering numbers by any means, but the two were getting open, catching what they could, and not really making mistakes.
On paper, Sprinkle’s numbers weren’t far off: the 28-year-old caught two passes for 16 yards on three total targets. However, he struggled as a blocker and contributed a bad holding penalty, which are the things that tight ends have to avoid, regardless of if they catch their targets or not.
“Tough start for Cowboys TE Jeremy Sprinkle, who is competing for roster spot this summer. Beat inside on offense’s first play from scrimmage, as Rico Dowdle halted for no gain. In third drive, a holding penalty on third down,” Dallas Morning News insider Michael Gehlken Tweeted during the loss.
The difference between Sprinkle and the rookies making errors is that the rookies are expected to have mistakes. For a five-year veteran like Sprinkle, those kind of missteps are far less acceptable.
Sprinkle’s Contract Situation
In 2021, Dallas brought in Sprinkle as a depth option for the offense. With Dalton Schultz the No. 1 receiving option, the Cowboys had Blake Jarwin, Sean McKeon and Sprinkle to back him up and take snaps as blockers and special teams help.
Sprinkle carved out a roster spot that he never lost with his special teams work, taking snaps in every regular-season game. However, with fresh blood in Hendershot and Ferguson, Sprinkle will have to prove he’s worth keeping around.
The good news from the tight end’s perspective is that his paycheck for 2022 is not far off from what Ferguson and Hendershot are getting as rookies. According to Spotrac, Sprinkle’s one-year deal pays him just under $1.2 million, which is almost $500,000 more than Hendershot’s UDFA rookie contract.
So, the good news for Sprinkle is that he’s cheap and the Cowboys know what they have after 2021. That works heavily in his favor. But he certainly appears to be on the bubble, and if he gets another preseason chance, he’ll have to correct his errors from the loss to the Broncos.