Dallas Cowboys release Dontari Poe, Daryl Worley

FRISCO, Texas -- A day after trading defensive end Everson Griffen to the Detroit Lions, the Dallas Cowboys have cut veteran defensive tackle Dontari Poe and cornerback Daryl Worley as they look for ways to jump-start a defense that has been woeful.

The Cowboys had hoped to make a trade involving Poe or Worley, but opted to move on when they were unable to do so.

Poe and Worley were not on the practice field during the portion open to the media, and coach Mike McCarthy would not get into the players' status at his daily news conference.

Poe had just nine tackles in seven starts. He signed a two-year deal worth up to $10.5 million as a free agent that included $3.5 million guaranteed. He was limited in training camp after coming back from quadriceps surgery, but he did not help stop the run.

The Cowboys are last in the league in run defense, allowing 178.3 yards a game on the ground. They have given up more than 200 rushing yards in three of the last four games.

Poe became the first Cowboy to kneel during the national anthem, but the decision to let him go was strictly about his play and not his protest, according to a source.

Worley, who signed a one-year deal worth $3 million, started four games after injuries to Anthony Brown and Chidobe Awuzie. He had 13 tackles and just one pass deflection and was beaten numerous times. With Brown back from injury and Awuzie expected to return against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Worley became expendable.

Because Poe and Worley are vested veterans, their base salaries are fully guaranteed and the Cowboys do not gain any immediate salary-cap space. They will save $4 million in cap space in 2021 for Poe.

Griffen was dealt to the Lions for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2021. Depending on how much he plays and how many times he is on the Lions' game-day roster, the Cowboys could receive a fifth-round pick.

With these moves, the Cowboys open up chances for younger players such as Randy Gregory, Bradlee Anae, Justin Hamilton and Reggie Robinson to see more action as they look to the future.

"I don't really rely on actions or transactions to really send messages," McCarthy said. "I've had the opportunity to talk to the football team every day. They know clearly how I feel as far as the process of where the team needs to get to and how we're going to do it. This business is about opportunity and making the best of your opportunity. That's really what all of the personnel decisions will come down to."

The Cowboys (2-5) are in third place in the NFC East, but still have hopes of winning the division. The Eagles are in first place with a 2-4-1 record.