FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys released defensive tackle Dontari Poe on Wednesday, cutting ties with a veteran expected to play a key role for a disappointing defense now going through a midseason shakeup.
Poe was also the first Dallas player to kneel during the national anthem in protest of issues of racial injustice and police brutality. Owner Jerry Jones has been outspoken against such protests, at one time threatening to bench any Dallas players who did.
Jones softened his stance with the national reckoning over issues of race sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota. Poe was the only Dallas player to kneel in the first seven games.
Poe and defensive back Daryl Worley were released a day after the Cowboys (2-5) traded defensive end Everson Griffen to Detroit for a conditional draft pick in 2021. All three were free agents added during the offseason and are now among five additions that won't make it to the end of the season in Dallas.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is out for the season after tearing a leg muscle in training camp, leading to his release shortly thereafter. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was cut before the season started.
The trade of Griffen should clear the way for Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong and rookie Bradlee Anae to get more snaps. Poe's departure likely means more work for defensive tackle Justin Hamilton, recently signed off the practice squad.
Poe's release comes after his snaps dropped off significantly after a season-high 59 in a 49-38 loss to Cleveland in Week 4 when the Cowboys gave up 307 yards rushing.
Dallas has allowed more than 200 yards on the ground twice in the three games since the loss to the Browns, dropping to last in the NFL in run defense.
The Cowboys are also last in points allowed at 34.7 per game and easily on pace to surpass the previous franchise high of 436 points allowed in 2010.
Despite the ragged start and injuries that have decimated an offense that was ranked first in the NFL through five weeks, the Cowboys can take over first place in the NFC East with a win at Philadelphia on Sunday night. The Eagles (2-4-1) have a half-game lead over Dallas and Washington.
The Cowboys also are planning to bring back quarterback Cooper Rush after Andy Dalton sustained a concussion against Washington. It was Dalton's second start since Dak Prescott broke his right ankle, ending his season.
Rookie Ben DiNucci is expected to make his first start with Dalton likely to remain in the concussion protocol until at least late this week. Dallas signed Garrett Gilbert off Cleveland's practice squad after Prescott's injury.
Rush was Prescott's backup for three years before Dallas signed Dalton in the offseason. Rush was released not long after the Dalton signing and ended up on the practice squad for the New York Giants before his release last month.
Dallas expects to add Rush to the practice squad next week after the fourth-year pro clears COVID-19 protocols.