Cowboys all-time starting lineup: Who are America's Team's best?

Which players make the starting lineup in this collection of Dallas Cowboys superstars?
Dallas Cowboys, DeMarcus Ware
Dallas Cowboys, DeMarcus Ware / Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have had some huge names wear the star on their helmets throughout history.

One of the most visible teams in the history of sports, they've seen 32 members of their organization enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame and there will be more entering constantly.

Here, we sift through their superstar players and create an all-time starting team on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback: Roger Staubach

Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach
Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach / Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There's a case to be made for Troy Aikman who was one of the more clutch quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. He also finished with more Super Bowl rings than Roger Staubach but the Navy veteran gets the nod.

Staubach was nicknamed "Rodger the Dodger" due to his mobility and "Captain Comeback" for bringing his team back no matter the odds. Having him lead the team is the way to go and he would shine with the collection of talent he's surrounded with.

Running Back: Emmitt Smith

Dallas Cowboys, Emmitt Smith
Dallas Cowboys, Emmitt Smith / James D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

There's never been a running back as dominant as Emmitt Smith. Not just for the Cowboys, but the NFL in general.

Smith was just different. He wasn't just an elite runner; he had unbelievable durability and consistency. He ran for more than 1,000 yards in 11 straight seasons, with the only exceptions during his Dallas tenure being in 1990, when he went for 937 yards as a rookie, and 2002, when he had 975 yards. That proved to be his final year with the Cowboys, as Smith spent two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

MORE: 7 Cowboys stars who had forgettable stints with a different team

With Dallas, he had 17,162 yards and 153 touchdowns — both franchise records, surpassing the great Tony Dorsett. In all, he has 18,355 yards and 164 rushing touchdowns, both NFL records.

Wide Receiver: Michael Irvin, Dez Bryant, CeeDee Lamb

Dallas Cowboys, Michael Irvin
Dallas Cowboys, Michael Irvin / RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

It's 2024, so we skip the fullback and go with three wide receivers. The choices include Michael Irvin, CeeDee Lamb, and Dez Bryant. What do these three all have in common? The number 88.

Following the example set by Hall of Famer Drew Pearson, the Cowboys have given this number to players they expect to be great, and all three of these payers have lived up to that distinction.

Irvin, known as "The Playmaker," had more than 1,000 yards seven times in his career and is second in receptions (750) and yardage (11,904) behind tight end Jason Witten. Bryant makes it due to his ability to take over a game. In just eight years, he moved up to fifth in receiving yards, right behind Pearson who had three more years. He's first in receiving touchdowns, with 73, which is 25 more than Pearson had.

Lamb is the final pick and while it might be controversial to put him in over Pearson, it's also hard not to after watching his performance in 2023. Lamb set the franchise record for receptions (135) and yardage (1,735) in a single season. He's already eighth in yardage and 11th in touchdowns in franchise history and just turned 25 years old.

It might be a bit of a projection pick to put him on this list but if the Cowboys don't drop the ball in his contract negotiations, he should climb to No. 1 in every major receiving category.

Tight End: Jason Witten

Dallas Cowboys, Jason Witten
Dallas Cowboys, Jason Witten / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Another player who benefited from unbelievable durability and consistency was Jason Witten. He spent 16 years in Dallas and missed one game — which was during his rookie season when he suffered a broken jaw.

He's first in franchise history with 1,215 receptions, first in receiving yards with 12,977, and second with 72 touchdowns. Witten was also one of the premier blocking tight ends and was often mentioned among the best in the game during his career.

Offensive Tackle: Erik Williams, Tyron Smith

Erik Williams, Dallas Cowboys
Erik Williams, Dallas Cowboys / Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Erik Williams was a mammoth at 6-foot-6 and 324 pounds and lined up at right tackle for all three Super Bowls in the 1990s. He made four Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro, but might have still been overlooked due to the talent around him.

Tyron Smith ushered in a new era. He was the first offensive lineman Jerry Jones selected in Round 1 and there have been four taken in Round 1 since. He was one of the top left tackles during his tenure in Dallas, and shouldn't have been allowed to leave for the New York Jets ahead of the 2024 season. If injuries weren't an issue for him, Smith would still be protecting Dak Prescott's blindside — and doing as well as anyone to play the position.

Guard: Zack Martin, Larry Allen

Dallas Cowboys, Larry Allen
Dallas Cowboys, Larry Allen / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Larry Allen was the best guard in the NFL during his prime. A versatile player who moved to tackle when necessary, Allen came in at the end of their 90s dominance and won a Super Bowl following the 1995 season.

Zack Martin is arguably the best guard in the league today. All eyes were on him in 2014 when he was chosen ahead of Johnny Manziel and the Notre Dame product said he was ready to prove the team right. It's safe to say he's done that — and then some.

Center: Mark Stepnoski

Mark Stepnoski, Dallas Cowboys
Mark Stepnoski, Dallas Cowboys / James D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

A third-round pick from Pitt, Mark Stepnoski joined the Cowboys the same year as Troy Aikman, in 1989. He was there for two titles, making the Pro Bowl in four consecutive seasons. He left for the Houston Texans in 1995, missing the third title run.

Stepnoski returned in 1999 for three final seasons. He was no longer a Pro Bowl player during that final run but he still started 42 more games.

EDGE: DeMarcus Ware, Micah Parsons

Dallas Cowboys, DeMarcus Ware
Dallas Cowboys, DeMarcus Ware / Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Ware was supposed to need time to develop after Bill Parcells took him in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. The Troy product was learning to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but he was a 16-game starter as a rookie and had 58 tackles and eight sacks. He continued to grow after that and set the franchise record with 20 sacks in 2008. He's also first in team history with 117 sacks.

Another pick that could cause controversy is Micah Parsons. He has just three seasons under his belt but has 40.5 sacks. For reference, Ware had 33.5 after three years. Parsons has a long way to go in order to surpass Ware, but he's off to a hot start and is only getting better.

Defensive Tackle: Bob Lilly, Randy White

Bob Lilly, Dallas Cowboys
Bob Lilly, Dallas Cowboys / Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Mr. Cowboy has to make the list, as Bob Lilly is one of the two tackles. Lilly was the first player chosen in the NFL Draft by the Cowboys and their first Hall of Famer and first Ring of Honor inductee.

He's joined by Randy White, who moved from linebacker to defensive tackle and became a superstar. White made the Pro Bowl nine times and was an eight-time All-Pro.

Linebacker: Ken Norton, Jr., Lee Roy Jordan, Sean Lee

Ken Norton, Jr. Dallas Cowboys
Ken Norton, Jr. Dallas Cowboys / Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

The son of a World Heavyweight Champion boxer, Ken Norton, Jr. was as tough as expected. He spent six seasons with the Cowboys and had 579 tackles, seven sacks, and one interception. He was the defensive leader that went back-to-back in 1992 and 1993. Norton signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994, and it's no coincidence that was the year they finally got over the hump and won a Super Bowl once he arrived.

Lee Roy Jordan and Sean Lee join Norton to round out the linebackers. Jordan was a five-time Pro Bowler who helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl VI. Lee was arguably one of the top three linebackers in the NFL during his prime but injuries always held him back. When healthy, he was a complete game-changer.

Cornerbacks: Deion Sanders, Mel Renfro

Dallas Cowboys, Deion Sanders
Dallas Cowboys, Deion Sanders / Lou Capozzola-USA TODAY Sports

Deion Sanders was a two-sport athlete who was the biggest star in the league when the Cowboys signed him in 1995. He joined the team late in the season since he played for the Cincinnati Reds simultaneously. He recorded 14 interceptions in 63 games, running two back for touchdowns.

In addition to his work on defense, Sanders had 1,184 yards and four touchdowns on punt returns. He even played some offense, catching 49 passes for 624 yards with another touchdown.

Next to him is Mel Renfro, who has a franchise record of 52 interceptions. He played in Dallas from 1964 through 1977 and won two Super Bowls while making ten trips to the Pro Bowl.

Safety: Darren Woodson, Cliff Harris

Dallas Cowboys, Darren Woodson
Dallas Cowboys, Darren Woodson / James D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

At safety, we start with Darren Woodson who was one of the smartest defensive backs in the game during his tenure. Selected in Round 2 out of Arizona State in 1992, he was there for all three championships in the 1990s and remained through the 2003 season. Woodson racked up 967 tackles, 11 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, and 23 interceptions. His loyalty to the team despite their struggles in the late 90s and early 2000s was admirable as he continued to provide a steady veteran leader for their secondary.

Cliff Harris grabs the other spot, giving this All-Time team another Super Bowl-winning safety. Harris was there in Super Bowls VI and XII. A six-time Pro Bowler, he had 29 picks and 10 forced fumbles in his 10-year career.

Specialists: Dan Bailey (K), Mat McBriar (P)

Dallas Cowboys, Dan Bailey
Dallas Cowboys, Dan Bailey / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Undrafted out of Oklahoma State in 2011, Dan Bailey was the kicker in Dallas for seven years. At one point, he was the most accurate kicker in league history, until Justin Tucker surpassed him. Bailey led the NFL with a percentage of 93.8 in 2015 and even though he slipped in 2017, finished his time in Dallas 186-for-211on field goal attempts — 88.2 percent.

Austrailian kicker Mat McBriar joins Bailey as the punter. He spent nine years with the Cowboys and was so reliable we can forgive him for going to Philadelphia in 2012. McBriar averaged 45.3 yards per punt and twice led the league in average. He landed the ball inside the 20-yard line 175 times proving to be a valuable weapon.

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Randy Gurzi


Arizona State grad