Cowboys Cut Veteran Starter in ‘Changeover’ Roster Move: Report

Mike McCarthy, Cowboys

Getty Mike McCarthy, Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys are giving its special teams unit a full-fledged makeover.

After divorcing from 16-year long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, the Cowboys on Wednesday released veteran punter Chris Jones, according to media reports.

“The changeover continues on the Cowboys’ special teams,” said ESPN’s Todd Archer. “Punter Chris Jones has been released, coming on the heels of the team moving on from long-time long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur. Jones had been with the Cowboy since 2011 but he dealt with injuries the last two seasons, including a core-muscle surgery that limited him to eight games in 2020. Hunter Niswander averaged 47.2 yards per punt after taking over for Jones. The move saves the Cowboys $2 million in cap space.”

Jones’ release is the second of the offseason for the Cowboys, who axed fullback Jamize Olawale on March 5. The team has added two outside free agents since the legal tampering period began Monday: LS Jake McQuaide and offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe. Dallas has also retained a slew of its own unsigned talent, including wide receivers Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson, cornerback C.J. Goodwin, and defensive tackle Antwaun Woods.

ALL the latest Dallas Cowboys news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Cowboys newsletter here!

Sign up for the Heavy on Cowboys Newsletter!

Another Era Over

Jones did not enjoy the longevity of Ladouceur, who went back to the Bill Parcells era, but the 31-year-old still carved out a nice career for himself during his decade in Dallas. A 2011 undrafted free agent from little-known Carson-Newman, he uncorked 483 punts, averaging 44.5 yards per boot, across 126 games. Only four of his punts were blocked.

As Archer mentioned above, Jones was hampered by a core-muscle injury in 2020, appearing in eight games and getting off just 24 punts before the Cowboys shut him down. In truth, Jones is likely entering a steep decline, as evidenced by his 2019 average of 41.6 — the first time it dipped below 44.0 since his rookie campaign.

Follow the Heavy on Cowboys Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!

New Blood

It’s a tough business move for the Cowboys given his tenure, but the writing was on the wall for Jones, forced to stand idly by and watch 2018 UDFA (and former member of the XFL’s Washington Defenders) Hunter Niswander come aboard and ultimately claim his job — Wally Pipp-style. Niswander, however, earned his shot, averaging 47.2 yards per punt on 26 attempts, with a long of 58.

“I think he’s put in a tremendous bid for a job in the NFL and definitely one here,” Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel said on Dec. 28. “Hopefully, he’s got a few more games to prove some more good punting.”

Unless the club selects a punter in next month’s NFL draft, entirely possible considering it currently boasts 10 picks, this is Niswander’s job to lose, with McQuaide snapping him the ball. Greg Zuerlein will return as Dallas’ kicker, completing the remodeled special teams that has Fassel’s fingerprints all over it.

READ NEXT: Cowboys Sign Former Washington Starting OT

Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL