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Analyzing Cowboys Salary Cap & The Draft

Jess Haynie



Cowboys Headlines - Analyzing Cowboys Salary Cap & The Draft

[Disclaimer: This article is a correction/revision of a previous post titled "Cowboys in a Pre-Draft Salary Cap Crunch." I used some faulty information in that piece and apologize for the inaccuracy. Jess.]

You’ll never find an exact answer for what your favorite NFL team’s current salary cap space is. However, the two best public resources out there are and After looking at those sites today it’s clear that the Dallas Cowboys have some work to do between now and when they start trying to sign their draft picks.

The official NFL salary cap for 2016 is $155.27 million. Each team gets an adjusted salary cap based on their carryover amounts from the previous season. For the Cowboys, that figure is $159.3 million. These are exact numbers that are released by the NFL and the NFLPA.

Cowboys Blog - Jerry Jones: Holding a Fan-base Hostage 1As of today, OverTheCap has Dallas current salary hits at $151.4 million. Spotrac has our cap amount at about $1 million less.  Spotrac projects that Dallas will need about $9.2 million to sign all nine of their current picks. That’s about $4.4 million for the first-round, $1.1 million for the second, and then roughly between $650 and $450 for the subsequent picks. Obviously, those figures can change depending on Dallas trading picks.

So that's the good news; Dallas has about all the cap room they need to sign their picks. However, it also means they won't have any funds left after the draft for any other free agent moves.

Remember, there will be veterans who get released after the draft. Dallas is a great example of this as they may be waiting to release Brandon Carr until they see if they land a major cornerback prospect in the first few rounds. Plenty of other teams have their own similar situations and could send veterans packing once they've found rookie replacements.

Let's hypothesize that the Cowboys don't end up with a defensive end who can help right away. They will likely be going back to a free agent like Jason Jones, who's already visited, or seeing who gets released after the draft. They will need to free up funds to sign those players.

Here's a look at ways the Cowboys can still make some cap room, if needed

1. Brandon Carr

Dallas gets $6.38 million in space if they cut Carr outright and $9.1 million if they make him a post-June 1st cut, which increases our dead money for 2017. This is the clearest and simplest way to free up the needed money.

I’ve gone into far more detail about Carr’s contract situation and all the nuances and potential outcomes in this separate article from earlier today. Suffice to say that it’s going to be a major question mark going forward.

Cap Space Potential: $6.38M – $9.1M

2. Barry Church & J.J. Wilcox

Church is in the final year of his deal with a cap hit of $4.75 million. Dallas can recoup $4.25 million by releasing him at any point before or after June 1st, since it’s an expiring deal. Wilcox also has an expiring deal worth $1.8 million and Dallas can save $1.6 million by cutting him.

We’re going to assume that Byron Jones is playing safety next year. We also know that Dallas just made a four-year commitment to Jeff Heath as a special teams leader and versatile backup. That alone makes one of last year’s starters expendable. If Dallas also adds a safety prospect in the draft then it becomes even easier to cut one of them, and even opens the door for releasing both.

Cap Space Potential: $1.6M – $5.85M

Cowboys Headlines - In What Round Will The Dallas Cowboys Draft A Tight End?

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

3. Jason Witten

Witten has two years left on his contract with cap hits of $8.6 million this year and $9.5 million in 2017. There’s only $4.2 million in guaranteed money left, giving Dallas some flexibility to restructure the deal and create cap space by converting salary into signing bonus.

Dallas will likely make some move on Witten’s contract given his reliability and status with the team. He’s a player that they won’t feel any major concern about by increasing their liability on his contract. It’s hard to fathom a scenario where Dallas would release Witten next year. Keeping that option open would be their only reason for not moving money around.

Cap Space Potential: Up To $6 Million (Appx.)

4. Ronald Leary

Dallas gave Leary a second-round restricted free agent tender worth about $2.5 million. This money is not guaranteed, though, and they still have the option to release Leary or trade him.

Leary still has plenty of value for Dallas as a backup guard. However, if the Cowboys could get a draft pick for him while also clearing cap space then it could be the better scenario. Leary has the scare factor of his degenerative knees but has also proven to be a starting caliber guard for the best offensive line in the NFL.

Cap Space Potential: $2.5 Million

Cowboys Blog - NFC East Free Agency: Key Dallas Cowboys Players 1

Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

5. Morris Claiborne

The former first rounder has a one-year deal for $2.7 million and only $500k guaranteed. If the Cowboys end up drafting Jalen Ramsey or another cornerback that projects as an immediate top-three player then they could opt to release Claiborne.

Dallas doesn’t want to do this. They are hoping that Claiborne, still just 26, could have a great year and be worth a continued relationship. They don’t want to admit defeat with a former sixth-overall pick if they don’t absolutely have to.

Cap Space Potential: $2.2 Million

6. Darren McFadden

This is another “if they draft this guy” scenario. If the Cowboys end up with Ezekiel Elliott, or even a second-round running back, then there’s a strong case for releasing last year’s starter.

McFadden’s 2016 cap hit is $2.1 million and only $100k of that is guaranteed. Dallas has already added Alfred Morris in free agency and brought back Lance Dunbar. If they add a notable running back rookie as well then how much do they really need McFadden?

Cap Space Potential: $2 Million

7. Other Post-Draft Releases

Dallas could look at cutting several other veterans depending on what they end up with after the draft. Here’s a look at some guys who could be expendable if rookies are added at their positions and the cap savings they over:

Andrew Gachkar, LB $1.3m
Terrance Williams, WR $1.67m
Gavin Escobar, TE $979k
Terrell McClain, DT $1m
Jack Crawford, DE/DT $860
Lance Dunbar, RB $887k

Some of these would certainly be harsh moves. Guys like Crawford and Dunbar just re-signed with you for one-year deals hoping to prove themselves. However, just one of their cap savings amounts pays for nearly two of your mid-late round picks. It would be cold-blooded economics, but it could be necessary if bigger moves aren’t made.

~ ~ ~

There are two other obvious, big contracts to consider; Tony Romo’s and Dez Bryant’s. However, Dallas is reluctant to do anything with those deals given the health issues of both veterans. They don’t want to limit their future options and will do everything they can to avoid restructuring either.

Cowboys Headlines - Spending on Defensive End is a MUST 2As we’ve outlined, there’s plenty of money to be moved around. The big question will be if the Cowboys need to make any moves or if they'll be happy with their roster as is.

Dallas could arguably keep the current roster intact if the draft yields help in a few key areas. Defensive end is, in my opinion, the only spot where they have a clear liability issue. They don't have anyone outside of DeMarcus Lawrence who can be relied on yet as a starter. If they don't get a pass rusher in the first few rounds then I feel they will have to seek free agent help after the draft.

Through free agency they've covered themselves, at least to a minimum, at other positions. I would even include cornerback and safety, despite what many others might say. If the top three corners next year are Orlando Scandrick, Brandon Carr, and Morris Claiborne then you're not bad off. A starting safety duo of Byron Jones and Barry Church is improvement from last year. Throw in some improved pass rushing and I think these five could surprise some people.

Clearly, who Dallas drafts will go a long way to determining what salary cap moves are needed. There's the potential for none at all to made, or maybe just minor moves with lesser players.

If they do want to add any more talent after the draft, though, then they will have some choices to make.

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

  • Anthony

    Re sign hardy he would be a still no other team wants him get him help put in his contract a put a out reach program in th e contract

    • Jess Haynie

      Hardy burned his bridge here by being openly disrespectful of Jason Garrett in locker room and a bad influence on young players. It's not about his personal problems, just that he's an asshole and not worth the trouble.

Player News

Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys

Brian Martin



Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys

It looks as if the Dallas Cowboys will be adding yet another wide receiver through free agency. According to sources, Allen Hurns plans on signing with the Cowboys.

Josina Anderson on Twitter

WR Allen Hurns just told me, "I'm going to sign with Dallas." #Cowboys

This is a move that seemed unlikely after the Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson a few days ago, but I know a lot of Cowboys Nation will be excited about this transaction.

Allen Hurns joins a receiver group that features Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown, and the recently added Deonte Thompson.

While this move is exciting, it does create more confusion for the Cowboys and their wide receivers. It's difficult to imagine all of these WRs sticking to the roster, which means there will be some tough decisions that need to be made.

What will the Cowboys do with Dez Bryant?

Will Cole Beasley be cut or traded?

Are the Cowboys comfortable absorbing Terrance Williams' cap hit if traded or released?

Will this keep the Cowboys from drafting a WR early?

All of these questions and more will have to be answered eventually. But, one thing is for sure, things are definitely about to get interesting.

Of course, there is a bonus here for the Dallas Cowboys. Since Allen Hurns was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he doesn't count against the Cowboys compensatory picks next season.

Please stay tuned and we will continue to keep you updated on contract details and any other news involving Allen Hurns as it becomes available.

What do you think about the Allen Hurns signing?

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Dallas Cowboys

What Signing Thompson Means for Hurns and Cowboys WR Position

Mauricio Rodriguez



Questions Surround Cowboys WR Position After Deonte Thompson Signing

UPDATE: News of Hurns saying he will sign with the Cowboys broke as this article went live. 

Free Agency began a bit late for the Dallas Cowboys, but they've already done enough to get fans discussing about the latest additions to the roster. Adding help on offense, defense and special teams in form of tier-2 free agents may not be what Cowboys Nation wants to see, but I'm certain they wouldn't have enjoyed giving Sammy Watkins a three-year $48M contract, either.

However, the Cowboys are clearly in the wide receiver market after an offensively disappointing season. They have quite a few of this year's class of wide receivers prospects scheduled to visit Dallas, and they've hosted some WR free agents as well.

This week, they even signed one.

Deonte Thompson, who started seven games for the Bills last year, is coming to Dallas on a one-year $2.5M contract. The 29-year old could be the burner receiver this offense is missing and could end up being an improved version of Brice Butler for the Cowboys in 2018.

He hasn't had a great career but last season was his best year so far. Starting three games for the Bears and seven for the Bills, Thompson was able to rack up a career-high 555 yards and two touchdowns.

His best attribute as a player is definitely the speed he brings to the table and his ability to separate down the field, which he'll be looking to do on Dak Prescott's offense this season.

But there was another wide receiver visiting Dallas this week and now we wonder whether or not the Deonte Thompson signing will keep the Cowboys from targeting former Jaguars' WR Allen Hurns.

According to Todd Archer, that won't be the case.

Todd Archer on Twitter

Told the signing of Deonte Thompson does not close the door on the Cowboys' interest in Allen Hurns, who visited the team Wednesday and had dinner. Things could get interesting in the Cowboys' wide receivers' room.

It shouldn't be. First of all, Hurns is a much better player than Thompson and would provide this offense with a receiver who can play in the "X" or in the "Z" role. We've been talking about getting Prescott a reliable target to try to give him a "best friend." Allen Hurns could be just that.

Sure, he's had a couple of down seasons, but the talent is there to take.

Simply put, the Deonte Thompson signing shouldn't stop the Cowboys from looking at WR in the first round of the NFL Draft. Allen Hurns would.

Cowboys en Español: Nuevas Contrataciones, ¿Podría Ser Allen Hurns la Siguiente?

It sure would make things interesting in the wide receiver room for Dallas. Despite what many believe, Dez Bryant will probably remain a Cowboy even if Hurns is signed. Let's say the Cowboys go out there and get the 26-year old from Jacksonville and have to decide which six receivers to keep for the season.

They'd possibly have to decide among these:

  • Dez Bryant
  • Terrrance Williams
  • Cole Beasley
  • Ryan Switzer
  • Allen Hurns
  • Deonte Thompson
  • Noah Brown
  • A drafted rookie?  

This is where a lot of dilemmas start taking form. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are basically the same player and if you're not going to use them both at the same time, do you keep them anyway? What about Terrance Williams? He could be the worst receiver to make the cut just because of his contract. 

Noah Brown showed promise in 2017, are they ready to move on from him? And finally, a rookie could very well end up beating Deonte Thompson, who was guaranteed a million in his contract.

Wide receiver is indeed one of the top needs for the Dallas Cowboys. They could head to the 2018 NFL Draft needing one in the top rounds or they could be fine signing Hurns and taking a late-rounder receiver to compete in training camp for a spot on the roster.

As long as they're having a tough time deciding because they are all good, it should be fine.

Tell me what you think about "What Signing Thompson Means for Hurns and Cowboys WR Position" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Player News

Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson

Jess Haynie



Deonte Thompson

The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.

Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.

Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.

Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.

For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.

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