The Dallas Cowboys could move on from kick returner KaVontae Turpin before the season even starts.
Turpin won’t make it to the Cowboys’ roster by the time the regular season starts, according to the 53-man roster projection from ESPN’s Todd Archer. The 26-year-old wide receiver is coming off of a Pro Bowl campaign as a returner, ranking fifth in the NFL last year with 10.4 yards per punt return.
But Archer predicted that five receivers — CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Brandin Cooks, Jalen Tolbert and Simi Fehoko — would make the Cowboys’ 53-man roster.
“The toughest omission was Pro Bowl returner KaVontae Turpin,” Archer wrote in a story published July 24. “With the change in the kickoff rule, I went with [rookie running back Deuce] Vaughn as the return man.”
Why the Cowboys Could Release KaVontae Turpin
The biggest reason Dallas could move on from Turpin, according to Archer, is a rule change pertaining to kickoffs. In May, a new league rule was approved that allows fair catches on kickoffs within the 25-yard line. That means if a returner fair-catches the ball anywhere inside the 25-yard line, the ball is automatically placed at the 25-yard line.
Over recent years, the NFL has made multiple rule changes limiting the number of kickoff returns, attributing it to protecting players’ health and safety. With the league moving in this direction, it’s limiting the value of returners and special teams players, as longtime New England Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater pointed out.
“For a player like myself, I wouldn’t have had a career most likely [without] this play,” Slater said. “I [also] understand the players that came before me — the [Steve] Taskers, the [Bill] Bateses — who were able to establish themselves and have careers in this league because of the kicking game.”
KaVontae Turpin Has Yet to Contribute as Receiver in NFL
Another thing working against Turpin is his frame. At 5-foot-9 and 153 pounds, he’s the lightest player in the NFL. Outside of his lack of size, he has yet to prove that he can contribute in the receiving game. During his rookie season last year, he was used almost exclusively as a returner, catching just one pass for nine yards while contributing three carries for 17 yards. He also saw just 62 offensive snaps last season.
Although Dallas didn’t use Turpin much in the offense last season, the former USFL MVP — he led the league with 540 receiving yards — stressed his desire to be more involved as a receiver at the end of last season.
“We had a talk during my exit meeting, basically saying like they already know what I did with the special teams this year and all that, but they are going to try and get me on the offense and try to make guys respect me more on both sides of the ball,” Turpin said, per the Blogging The Boys podcast. “I’m going into this training camp, I’m basically trying to show them that they have no choice but to use me on offense, that’s my mindset.”
With the top three spots locked up with Lamb, Cooks and Gallup, Turpin might have to outplay Fehoko and Tolbert to lock in one of the last receiver spots.
“Lamb is poised for another big season, and Gallup has to prove he is 100% returned physically and mentally from a torn ACL in 2021,” Archer wrote. “Cooks should be well worth the fifth-round pick the Cowboys gave up to get him from Houston.”