Sometimes in life, you need to suffer now so that you can thrive later on. For the Dallas Cowboys, they’ll need to suffer through their low cap space this season so that they can have a much higher cap space next season.
Despite no longer being on the team, the Cowboys will have to deal with the contracts of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for one more year. The team has about $14 million in cap space as of today, but by this time next year, the Cowboys are projected to have around $72 million in cap room.
Knowing Jerry Jones, he’ll want to re-sign his best guys, but will be frugal and won’t overpay. If we learned anything from DeMarco Murray it’s that when Jerry has a price in mind for you, he probably won’t waver. Not even if it means losing the player. The difference is that this time around, Jerry and the front office have some more money to spend.
Jerry may still choose to make smart monetary decisions on his players, but he may also decide to break the bank on his players. The only thing that’s certain is, nothing is certain.
DeMarcus Lawrence is the obvious first choice. He and the organization tried to get a deal done before the deadline, but he will have to play 2018 on the franchise tag. The team and Lawrence don't seem too worried though. Likely sometime next off-season, we'll see the two sides come to an agreement.
The only contingency is that D-Law needs to produce like he did last season. He has had an up and down career but really broke out last season.
His current market value is somewhere around $17 million a year. The Cowboys would have the money to pay the man but he needs to do what he did last season if he expects to get paid. Otherwise, he'll be wearing another team's jersey in 2019.
It seems like David Irving is always missing time for some reason. However, there’s a reason Dallas keeps bringing him back: the man can flat-out play.
Considering he got seven sacks last season -- not even in the full 16-games -- shows his potential is through the roof.
Coaches, fans, and teammates all know he can be a special player and a cornerstone piece for the Dallas defense. If he wants to be a Cowboy for his career, and get a nice chunk of the 2019 cap room, he needs to be on the field and playing like he has been.
Dak Prescott has won over most Cowboys fans.
His heart warming story about his mother and the reason he wears number 4, combined with him growing up a Cowboys fan and having that dream come true, has made him one of the most liked players on the team.
To date, Prescott has won 22 career games, second only to Russell Wilson for most wins in a player's first two seasons.
Prescott has won the NFC east, Rookie of the Year, been elected to the Pro Bowl, and has had a top-5 QBR in both of his first two seasons (3rd in ‘17, 4th in ‘18). If there was ever a time to give a franchise quarterback, franchise-level money, it would be during a time when the team has the cash to spend.
Now that Prescott has a fully stacked offensive line, new weapons and a ready-to-go Ezekiel Elliott behind him, Dak Prescott will be playing money all season.
In the second half of the 2017 season, La’el Collins finally seemed to get comfortable at right tackle. It took him some time but, eventually, Collins was able to show the skills that made him a top-10 draft prospect in 2015.
Last season, the Cowboys gave Collins a two-year $15.4-million contract extension.
Assuming Collins plays the entire 2018 season the same way he did the last half of last season, he would be due for more than an extension. He'd be due much more than a $7.7-million-per-year deal.
La'el Collins has started 30 career games, including all of 2017, and has only allowed five career sacks. He is inching his way closer to being a Pro Bowl-caliber right tackle and could earn a huge chunk of the team's large cap room this season by playing up to his potential.
By all accounts, it seems that the return to cornerback was a great move for Byron Jones. Jones was already arguably the defense's best athlete, but now he'll be expected to simply be one of the team's best players.
Originally at safety, new Secondary Coach Kris Richard sees Jones as a potential star and his style of corner. His size, athleticism and ability to attack the ball gives the cornerback group a player to lead.
The team picked up his fifth-year option this off-season but that doesn't mean an extension couldn't happen sometime next year. If he is the franchise corner that the Cowboys have been searching for, then don't be too shocked if he's signed sooner rather than later.
The Cowboys signed Hurns on a relatively inexpensive deal this summer. He signed a team-friendly deal, 2-years, $12 million. Essentially a "prove it" contract, Hurns is coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons after he put up over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015.
The Cowboys and Allen Hurns all believe he is much more of the 2015 player than he has been the last two years, but he'll need to show it in 2018.
The team released Dez Bryant and saw Jason Witten retire. They need pass catchers but they won't pay for one who can't live up to his worth.
If Hurns wants to be a Cowboy, or even at least be a higher valued player on the open market, he'll need to show he can be a number one receiver, stay healthy, and produce like he has shown he can. Otherwise, the Cowboys will use their money elsewhere.
Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?
The Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss at the Los Angeles Rams is still fresh on the minds of their players, staff, and front office. So much so that the team had to fan the flames on a Jason Garrett comment expecting Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to return. Garrett himself walked back this "report" once Stephen Jones noted it's still too early for any coaching staff changes. The focus will remain on Linehan's post until it's removed or the Cowboys OC is retained, but one coordinator the Cowboys now expect to keep is Rod Marinelli on defense.
Marinelli himself disputed the season-long belief that this was likely his last as the Cowboys defensive coordinator. With Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard not taking any of the three HC positions he interviewed for, Marinelli doesn't have to worry about shuffling his title to accommodate Richard - who called the plays from week one this season anyway.
Rod's title does include his specialty as defensive line coach though, a unit that the Rams dominated with their offensive line to a historic degree. The Rams' season-high 273 rushing yards was provided by both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson surpassing 100 yards on the ground, the first time in team history they've had two backs reach this mark in a single playoff game.
Rams HC Sean McVay hardly had to reach into his vaunted 'bag of tricks' to expose the Cowboys defense in a way they hadn't been all year, but there was still an element of brilliance in his offensive game plan. It came out after the game that the Rams picked up on the keys the Dallas defensive linemen used to signal stunts and twists before the snap. While this is nothing more than just great scouting yielding an unforeseen advantage, it's left the Cowboys with more than enough time to ponder what went wrong in the Coliseum.
The Rams offensive line knew what the Cowboys defensive line was going to do before the snap on Saturday. https://t.co/oGo6Eiz4av
The answer to this may be nothing other than the coaching questions the Cowboys are already considering. With Richard's interviews in Tampa Bay, Miami, and New York coming at the beginning of the week leading up to game day, it's possible Marinelli had a larger say in the Cowboys preparation on defense.
It was Marinelli's defense that conceded 412 yards to the Rams in 2017 in a loss at AT&T Stadium. Matching him up with McVay leaves a lot to be desired, while Richard helps bridge this gap - something he was seen desperately trying to do on the sideline with a battered Cowboys defense.
As each day of the offseason passes, a change at either coordinator position becomes less likely in Dallas. On offense, the play caller has more than a season's worth of evidence showing the deficiencies of the Cowboys attack. In a league fueled by recency bias however, Marinelli certainly didn't leave his best performance on the field in Los Angeles.
Somewhere in the middle of this is Jason Garrett, safely in place as the head coach that should be personally trying to upgrade his top two assistants however possible. Marinelli signing up for another year makes this hard on defense, though Richard should resume play calling duties next season.
Again, this leaves the onus of the Cowboys improvements for 2019 on the offensive side of the ball, something that'll be realized when the shock of their defense letting them down in the biggest game of the season is gone.
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
You may have already heard that the Dallas Cowboys will be flush with salary cap space in 2019, and that's very accurate. A huge portion of it comes from over $30 million in expiring cap penalties, otherwise known as "dead money."
Quick explanation; dead money occurs when a player is released or retires prior to the expiration of their contract. Any guaranteed money, such as the original signing bonus or money converted in a restructuring, that has not yet been paid out according to the contract schedule is accelerated.
For example, when Tony Romo retired after 2016, he still had $19.6 million in guaranteed money owed to him. Dallas chose to split this dead money over two years, and thus had a $10.7 cap penalty in 2017 and $8.9 million last season.
But now Romo's dead money, along with Dez Bryant's and several other players, is coming off the Cowboys' books. The result is a roughly $30 million infusion of salary cap space for 2019.
Here were the major culprits for last year's dead money:
(All cap figures are taken from Spotrac.com)
- QB Tony Romo - $8.9 million
- WR Dez Bryant - $8 million
- DT Cedric Thornton - $2.5 million
- CB Orlando Scandrick - $2.3 million
- CB Nolan Carroll - $2 million
- WR Deonte Thompson - $1.8 million
- DE Benson Mayowa - $1.1 million
- K Dan Bailey - $800 thousand
- TE James Hanna - $750 thousand
Those players alone make up a little over $28 million. Another $4 million or so came from over 30 players with lesser penalties that still added up.
Right now, the Cowboys have only $1.76 million in dead money on their 2019 salary cap. Nearly all of that is the $1.6 million still owed to Orlando Scandrick.
That difference is where the cap space comes from, and it will be of tremendous help to Dallas as they have major financial moves coming. They need to re-sign DeMarcus Lawrence, deal with a major salary bump for Amari Cooper, and consider a contract extension for Dak Prescott.
The 2019 number will change, of course, as the offseason rolls on. If Dallas elects to release players like Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, or others, some dead money will appear. But that will be offset by whatever cap savings motivated the move in the first place.
This is a good reminder of why the Cowboys' new era of fiscal conservatism is a good thing. After years of what felt like perpetual "salary cap hell," they are finally getting out from under those penalties and have complete flexibility this offseason. They may not even need to cut a guy like Crawford, who they almost would have been forced to in past seasons.
We'll be talking a lot more about individual players and their contracts in the weeks ahead, but this summary helps us see that Dallas isn't nearly up against the financial wall as they have been. We still miss guys like Romo and Dez, but we won't miss that awful dead money in 2019.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
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