Leading up to the March 9th start of NFL free agency, we will be looking at all Dallas Cowboys players under contract for 2017 and how much of the salary cap each position is taking up.
Cowboys Capology: Offensive Tackles
After 10 years of service in Dallas, Doug Free's time is close to ending. That end could come as soon as the next few weeks; Free is on the last year of his deal and Dallas can save $5 million in cap space if he's released. He's arguably the most attractive potential cap casualty on the roster.
If Free is released, how will Dallas address the right tackle position? They have some in-house options but also could look to the draft and free agency. We also can't dismiss the possibility that Free will return for one more year.
Before we dive into the specifics, let's look at the NFL's 2017 salary cap. The league announced that the cap would be set at $167 million for the upcoming season. Even though this is still a $10 million increase from last year, it's a few million short of what many were projecting.
Dallas Cowboys 2017 Salary Cap = $169.4 million
Now, using that number as our foundation, let's look at how much the Cowboys' offensive tackles are scheduled to cost against the 2017 salary cap.
As we discussed recently with Travis Frederick, Smith's contract is designed for annual restructuring to help the Cowboys' cap situation. Dallas has no intention of letting Tyron, one of the elite left tackles in football, leave the team anytime before his contract expires in 2023. They will keep moving money around freely because of that confidence.
Shortly after the Cowboys' playoff exit I wrote about how it was time to move on from Doug Free. Time hasn't softened my position one bit.
Releasing Free would create an instant cap saving of $5 million. Even if you have to spend all of that on his replacement, my belief is that player would give you more value for the money than Free is capable of at this point.
What's more, Dallas has two young prospects who've looked good in limited playing time. As we look at them next, consider the benefit of adding that $5 million to our spending pool. If you want the Cowboys to make those needed upgrades on defense, the money has to come from somewhere.
The 2015 third-round pick has flashed ability but been plagued by injury problems. He lost all of his rookie year to a hip problem. Last year he played early, starting in place of Tyron Smith in Weeks 3 and 4, but then going out with a foot problem and eventually going on IR for his back.
Taking a guy in the third round is no small thing. Other recent third-round picks for the Cowboys have been DeMarco Murray, Tyrone Crawford, Terrance Williams, J.J. Wilcox, and Maliek Collins. All of those players have been starters at some point, some as early as their rookie seasons.
Will Dallas put their faith in Chaz Green to replace Doug Free? If so, is Emmett Cleary enough of an insurance policy? Clearly, there are a lot of moving parts in figuring out this right tackle situation.
OT Emmett Cleary
After playing well in spot duty for Tyron Smith and starting Dallas' Week 17 finale, Cleary is an intriguing figure this offseason. We expect him to be in competition with Chaz Green, but the question is if they'll be vying for a backup role or the starting job at right tackle.
If Dallas does make Doug Free a cap casualty, will they trust either Cleary and Green enough to potentially take over? Have they shown enough to earn a shot at the job? We discuss this in more detail below.
Undrafted in 2016 and signed by the Arizona Cardinals, DeBord spent training camp and preseason with them until being released at first cuts. He then spent a few weeks on the New England Patriots' practice squad before finally ending up with the Cowboys, staying on their squad from late September through the end of the season.
DeBord's scouting report describes him as an athletic player with strength and technique issues. He was signed to a two-year futures contract in January, so Dallas must be interested in seeing where his development goes.
2017 Salary Cap Impact
Total Offensive Tackle Cap Hit = $18.19 million
Percentage of 2017 Salary Cap = 10.74%
Even after Tyron Smith's restructure the OT position takes up a good chunk of salary cap space. The only way that changes is if Dallas makes Doug Free a cap casualty.
As already mentioned, the ideal solution is to let Chaz Green and Emmett Cleary compete for the job. The winner would be your new right tackle and the loser would remain the primary backup and swing tackle. You'd clear the $5 million in space by cutting Free and not have to spend a dime of it on his replacement.
The draft is another option. Some have suggested that Dallas could use their first-round pick, given the solid value of taking offensive linemen in the later picks compared to other positions. Last year's 28th-overall pick counted $1.69 million against the cap as a rookie, so going that route would eliminate around 35% of what you saved by cutting Free.
If you're not confident in either Chaz Green or Emmett Cleary and want to commit draft resources to other positions, free agency is the other alternative. Dallas might be able to find a capable starter for about $2-$3 million; an older veteran who could provide a short-term answer.
The nice thing for Dallas is that the foundation trio of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin allow for them to take some chances at the other two spots. While you never want a weak link or liability, you don't have to invest heavily in all five positions to still have a dominant line. The superstar ability of your big three can help the other two to excel.
Is Terrance Williams Roster Spot Safe with Dallas Cowboys?
This will hardly be the last article written about the wide receivers of the Dallas Cowboys entering the 2018 season. However, we can only hope it's the last off-field incident that will factor into the difficult decisions the Cowboys will make on their final depth chart at WR. Yesterday, veteran Wide Receiver Terrance Williams was arrested for public intoxication after leaving the scene of a crash involving his Lamborghini.
Cowboys WR Terrance Williams released a statement on his recent arrest detailing several facets of the incident: "I have always been an upstanding citizen and handled the situation the best way I know how.
Details concerning the severity of the incidents that led to Williams arrest remain somewhat unclear. His on-field production certainly has not been though, putting himself in an expendable position by failing to catch a touchdown in 2017 and only going for over 100 yards once.
Handling this Terrance Williams situation in whatever the "right way" is will be yet another critical decision the Cowboys make under Head Coach Jason Garrett. A team that has clearly valued continuity under Garrett, there is precedent for the Cowboys keeping a now-troubled player like Williams if the void he'd leave behind is too large.
It is widely believed that this is a Cowboys coaching staff working to keep their jobs in 2018. Losing Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Terrance Williams in one offseason may very well be too much.
Already dealing with a broken foot that expects to keep Terrance Williams out of football activities until training camp though, it is becoming increasingly easier for Williams to become forgotten about in new WR Coach Sanjay Lal's room.
New additions to this unit include FA signings Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, along with rookies Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson. Joined by the likes of KD Cannon, Lance Lenoir, and Malik Earl, all of these receivers are going to stake their claims for a spot on the Dallas Cowboys before Williams even catches another pass from Dak Prescott.
Once perceived to be fighting for positions below Hurns, Williams, and Cole Beasley as locks on the final 53 man roster, Williams' arrest is the epitome of "next man up" in Dallas. Even if Williams remains with the team in 2018 - as cutting him would only make moral sense for the Cowboys, not financial - his days as a starting receiver may very well be numbered.
As mentioned, this won't be the first look we have at the status of the Cowboys receivers. I'm already on record having high expectations for Michael Gallup, and believe Cedrick Wilson was one of the steals of the draft for the Cowboys in the sixth round. The unproven nature of this pass catching unit (through to TE with rookie Dalton Schultz) is going to make for fascinating training camp battles, competing for spots in an offense that could still be one of the league's best.
Terrance Williams Arrest: Salary Cap Impact if Released
The news of Cowboys Wide Receiver Terrance Williams' arrest yesterday sent a shockwave through an otherwise quiet mid-May news cycle. Many fans are wondering what the team might do, and what effect decision could have on Dallas' salary cap.
Unfortunately, moving on from Terrance won't bring the team in cap relief. But given their current cap space and where we are in the offseason, the Cowboys should have the freedom to cut the receiver if they choose to.
Depending on who you ask (OverTheCap, Spotrac), the Cowboys have somewhere between $5-$9 million in current cap room. If they release Williams before June 1st, his cap hit accelerates from $4.75 million to $7.25 million in dead money. That means he counts $2.5 million more off the team than on it.
If Terrance is cut on June 1st on later, the 2018 dead money is $4.75 million for a net-zero wash. That extra $2.5 million counts against 2019.
While that may sound cost-prohibitive on the surface, you have to remember where we are in the offseason. May is very different from March when you're talking about cap space.
Free agency is essentially over. The Cowboys don't need to worry too much about their 2018 cap room at this point, so they can absorb Williams' dead money if they want to cut him loose.
Martin's 2018 cap hit is currently around $9 million. Once he signs his new long-term deal, which is almost sure to come before training camp, that number should go down significantly. Dallas can do an immediate Year One restructure and potentially create around $6 million in cap space.
That alone would facilitate cutting Terrance Williams, but then they also have the hopeful new deal for Lawrence. The $17 million that Lawrence currently counts as a franchised player will go way down with a long-term contract. If Dallas can get that done, they may not have to touch Martin's deal.
The point here is that while cutting Williams is not a financially beneficial move, the money shouldn't stop the Cowboys if they don't want him around anymore.
If Terrance has proven anything during his five years in Dallas, it's that he doesn't have the talent to step into a primary role. With new arrival Allen Hurns and Cole Beasley both showing they can produce at a high level at times, plus exciting rookie Michael Gallup now in the mix, the Cowboys' season hardly relies on Williams' presence.
Of course, the Cowboys have a history of sticking by their guys during times of personal problems. Josh Brent did way worse than Terrance and remained supported by the organization.
But each situation and player are different, and the coaches may have already soured on Williams after a lackluster 2017. They may have only kept him because of those cap numbers we discussed before.
Terrance's latest dropped ball may have been the final straw, though. If so, the salary cap shouldn't stop Dallas from cutting him.
BREAKING: Terrance Williams Arrested For Public Intoxication After Car Accident
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams is in jail after crashing his car, a Lamborghini, into a light pole, per the Star Telegram. The incident occurred approximately at 3:00 AM, according to the reports and Williams, who fled the scene was arrested two hours later. He was arrested for public intoxication and was also charged for leaving the scene.
According to Clarence Hill, Williams was still in jail as of 11:30 AM.
Kate Hairopoulus, from SportsDay, reported that according to Frisco Police, the Lamborghini was found without a driver. After determining that the car belonged to the Cowboys' wide receiver, they proceded to arrest Williams near his residence, where he was riding an electric bicycle.
This certainly explains why T-Will wasn't arrested for DUI instead of public intoxication. Hairopoulus also reported that Williams has been released on a $369 bond.
Without much more details, Terrance Williams' future with the Cowboys doesn't look very promising as of right now. After hauling a lot of receivers during the offseason, the WR room in Dallas will feature a lot of competition.
Williams, who's recovering from a fractured foot and missing the offseason programs, has something to prove. Certainly, an accident like this doesn't help much his cause.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with more details about Terrance Williams' arrest.
Last updated at 2:20 PM CDT.
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