After being away from the internet for a month and not being in tune with Cowboys Nation, I'm playing a little bit of catch up and hearing talk that the Dallas Cowboys won't be able to afford to pay DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, and David Irving.
Let me just say, "Hogwash" to that notion.
Yes, the 2018 salary cap is a bit tight at the moment, but they can always find ways to create more room through extensions, restructures, and well-timed releases -- no I'm not advocating releasing Dez Bryant.
Extensions for Lawrence and Martin could also create more cap room.
But to keep it simple, let's just look ahead over the next couple of years and see what the Cowboys' salary cap projections look like in 2019 and 2020.
2019 Salary Cap Projections
According to OverTheCap.com, the Dallas Cowboys are looking at a cap space number of $55 million in 2019. Their "effective cap space," or the maximum cap space a team will have when it signs at least 51 players to its roster for that season, is $51 million.
The good news for 2019 is that right now, only Orlando Scandrick's dead money ($1.6 million) is on the ledger for next season. Tony Romo's dead money finishes on the 2018 cap, so that albatross is done.
They currently have 43 players under contract for the 2019 season and that includes Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams' contracts. If they make any moves with them, there will be some dead money added to the cap, but it would/could also free up some cap space as well.
Let's look at what Irving, Martin, and Lawrence could be paid when signed to long-term deals.
The highest paid guard in the NFL is Left Guard Andrew Norwell, who just signed his deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars worth $13.3 million annually. If we take that number and assume Zack Martin will get paid more than that, we're looking at $13-14 million annually.
At 4-3 defensive end, Olivier Vernon is still the highest paid at the position at $17 million per year. Jason Pierre-Paul is right behind him with the $15 million per year contract he just signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Vernon's contract appears to have been outside the market range for the top 4-3 defensive ends as no one else with a long-term contract is making more than $15 million a year.
For DeMarcus Lawrence, it's likely $15 million per year with 45% guaranteed over five years is probably the minimum he'd take.
I'd bet his agent is trying to get him closer to or more than what Vernon is making with the New York Giants, and probably the 50% guarantee that Calais Campbell got with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Let's say, for reference, Lawrence gets $17 million per year over five years, with 50% guaranteed. Between him and Zack Martin, now we have $24-million dollars remaining in "effective cap space" to sign David Irving and the rest of the top 51.
The average of the top-five 4-3 defensive tackles sits at $15.36 million dollars. Irving could get that on the open market. For the purposes of this article, let's say he gets $15 million per year, that would leave Dallas $8 million in cap space for the 2019 season.
Even if he gets the top contract for a defensive tackle, that's around $17 million, which would still leave the Dallas Cowboys with $4 million in cap space for the 2019 season.
A franchise tag for Irving in the 2019 offseason isn't out of the question, especially if they get deals done with Martin and Lawrence. Again, that's without cutting or restructuring any other contracts, which we know the Cowboys front office loves to do.
2020 Salary Cap Projection
So, you're concerned that those three contracts will eat up all but $8 million of the 2019 salary cap. Well, let me offer you some information to take some of that anxiety away.
In 2020, OverTheCap.com projects the Dallas Cowboys will have $138 million in cap space, or $118 million in effective cap space. Those numbers figure as the fifth-highest cap space available for 2020, at this point. Fifth!!!
When was the last time the Dallas Cowboys were in that kind of position?
Now, that doesn't include our estimated figure of $46 million that you'll be paying DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, and David Irving, but if we subtract that money, you're still looking at $97 million in total cap space, or $72 million in effective cap space.
At that point they'd only have 16 players (the three mentioned above included) under contract in 2020, but they'd still have a ton of money to get their team filled out.
Dez Bryant's contract would be finished. The only bad contract that is still on the ledger at that point is Tyrone Crawford's $9-million cap hit. But if you decide to move on from him, you save $8 million, with very little in dead money.
Dak Prescott will be free by 2020, so that will be a big contract. I'd figure Dak, right now, is in the $20-25 million per year range. Kirk Cousins just signed for $28 million annually and Jimmy Garopollo got $27 million annually. Derek Carr is making $25 million on a deal he signed just a couple of years ago. Dak, with a big season could set the bar for highest paid quarterbacks, but that would be surprising. Cam Newton is a free agent in the 2019 offseason, so his extension will be the one to watch for Dak's figure.
Hopefully the Dallas Cowboys can take advantage of Dak's $630,000 and $720,000 cap hits over the next two years, because quarterback is about to get expensive again.
The Dallas Cowboys front office will have to decide whether or not to pick up Ezekiel Elliott's fifth year option, which I think they'll do, or they'll extend him.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
One of the skills of this Cowboys front office is their cap management ability. We look at contracts and the salary cap as a static thing that is hard and fast, like rock. They look at the salary cap and contracts like a potter looks at clay.
They know they can mold it and form it to look how they want it to look. Contracts are malleable to their creative workmanship.
The Dallas Cowboys front office can always find the money.
If they want Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, and David Irving to be on the roster, they'll find a way to have them on the roster. If for some reason they don't want them on the team, it will be for some reason other than money.
Does James Hanna’s Retirement Make TE a Draft Priority?
The Dallas Cowboys depth at the tight end position took a little bit of a hit this past Friday when James Hanna announced to the world that he planned on retiring. The Cowboys will now move him to the reserve/retired list, thus creating questions as to who will be Jason Witten's primary backup in 2018?
Before James Hanna's retirement announcement, it was rumored he could end up getting cut to get some salary-cap relief. The Cowboys fortunately didn't have to make that decision, but Hanna's retirement has the same impact on the salary-cap as it would have if it would've been released.
The downside of all of this is that the Dallas Cowboys now have to find out who will now become their backup tight end this season. This is definitely an important decision because Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was, and his age could make him start becoming susceptible to injuries, although he has been an Iron Man the majority of his career.
I don't know about you, but there's really not anybody currently on the Cowboys roster who inspires a lot of confidence. Geoff Swaim will likely step into James Hanna's vacated role behind Jason Witten, but the depth behind him creates more questions than answers.
The Dallas Cowboys are supposedly pretty high on Blake Jarwin, but he will be entering his second year and hasn't really received a lot of playing time as of yet. Then, there is Rico Gathers, a fan favorite, who flashed his ability in preseason last year.
Gathers mere size and athletic ability makes him a mismatch against anybody who tries to cover him, but I just don't know how committed he is to his football career. He seems much more focused on trying to become a rapper than he does improving his craft. Hopefully, that's not the case and he can take the next step in his development.
The Dallas Cowboys current situation at the tight end position is a little depressing. In fact, I really think it's holding the Cowboys offense back and it's past time to do some upgrading.
Fortunately, there is an event happening this week that could improve the entire tight end position… the 2018 NFL Draft. If the Dallas Cowboys weren't planning on drafting a tight end before James Hanna's retirement, they should seriously consider it now.
Jason Witten isn't going to play forever and if he was to get injured, the Cowboys offense would seriously be in trouble. We all know he's not the player he once was, but he is still the best and most dependable option currently on the roster.
Unfortunately, we witnessed firsthand just how bad things can get when a starter goes down and the depth behind them isn't capable of stepping in and handling the job. That is why the Dallas Cowboys should have a better contingency plan in place if something were to happen to Witten.
The good news is that this year's TE draft class is pretty deep and the Dallas Cowboys should be able to take one to not only replace James Hanna, but hopefully become Witten's successor as well.
Should the Dallas Cowboys draft a tight end?
Dallas Cowboys “All or Nothing” Series to Shed New Light on HC Jason Garrett
You likely already know by now that the 2017 Dallas Cowboys season -- by all accounts, a forgettable one for fans, coaches, and big-name players -- will be documented forever thanks to NFL Films' latest All or Nothing series.
Effectively, All or Nothing is a new spin on the popular Hard Knocks series with one major difference. This Amazon Prime exclusive doesn't just follow a team through training camp, as NFL Films gets inside team meetings and games throughout the entire season.
The 2017 Cowboys yielded just nine wins, creating more than enough drama for television along the way. This was yet another season where Head Coach Jason Garrett's job was put on the line, although early reviews of All or Nothing (available to the public April 27th) paint Garrett as the lead antagonist.
Jason Garrett drops at least 10 f-bombs in the first show. Before the Broncos game in Week 2: "You want to quiet the game down? Hand the f---in' ball to 21 and knock their ass off the ball.
Watching the Titanic and expecting a different outcome is a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment, as will be reliving a frustrating season in Dallas. By the end though, Cowboys fans will have a much better understanding of where the 2018 team stands - particularly in the eyes of a Head Coach they looked to fire once again this offseason.
Jason Garrett has long been described as a "players coach", one that his Cowboys teams want to fight for. Whether or not the Cowboys have gone too far in constantly churning their roster in Garrett's image for little end result will likely be determined this season.
This is a Head Coach that has been in place for the departure of DeMarcus Ware, Tony Romo (serving as a pivotal decision maker for the Cowboys choosing Dak Prescott as their full-time starter in 2016), and most recently Dez Bryant.
An added bonus to All or Nothing will likely be that it captures Dez Bryant's final moments with the Cowboys.
Garrett to Zeke at practice after Broncos loss: "I want that f---in guy at Ohio St. who was running down on that kickoff. Remember after you played your 2nd play in the NFL against the Seahawks, you came over to me and you said, 'Give me the f---in ball!'
The Cowboys did not just lose Ezekiel Elliott in 2017 (serving his six game suspension), and All or Nothing will remind every one of just how much talent came off the field for Garrett's team last season. Coming out at the same time as the Dallas hosted 2018 Draft, Cowboys fans can build their excitement for a 2018 triumph back to the playoffs.
Anything short of this likely costs Jason Garrett his job, although everything he means to the Dallas Cowboys will be put in better-than-ever perspective by All or Nothing.
I don't wanna spoil the "All or Nothing" TV show more than what you've already seen or heard. But if you watch it, you're going to get a great look at: 1. Jason Garrett's actual persona 2. The dynamics of Dez's relationship within the team 3.
Cowboys en Español: Definiendo la Urgencia por un WR este NFL Draft
El líder en recepciones de anotación en la historia de la franquicia más emblemática en la historia de los Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant, ha visto su tiempo portando la estrella solitaria llegar a su fin. Un fin, por cierto, que dejó a algunos cuantos aficionados, administrativos y jugadores en un estado de descontento.
Por más que me gustaría entrar a detalle de si el veterano receptor merecía ser recortado o no, si el equipo tomó la decisión correcta o no, el NFL Draft está a menos de una semana de distancia. Así que, en vez de hablar de lo que pudo haber sido, hablemos de lo que puede ser.
Los Cowboys, a pesar de ser conocidos como una potencia ofensiva en las últimas temporadas, necesitan a un wide receiver. Sí, Dallas consiguió al agente libre de Jacksonville Allen Hurns, pero siendo honestos, no parece ser suficiente talento para un equipo que quiere construirle una ofensiva amigable a su quarterback, Dak Prescott.
Si el roster sólo tiene a Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown y Deonte Thompson; se necesita un WR. Incluso con Bryant en el equipo, se necesitaba un receptor. Lo cual lleva a la gran pregunta: ¿el despido de Dez significa que a los Cowboys les urge aún más un receptor? ¿Significa que definitivamente buscarán mejorar la posición con su selección de primera ronda?
Algo queda claro, la administración sabía lo que sucedería. Dez Bryant no estaba en los planes para el 2018 y claramente sus planes para abordar el NFL Draft no se verán cambiados por la partida del apasionado #88.
Estas estrategias se plantean por meses y más meses. Los Cowboys se han fijado mucho en la posición de receptor, desde que fue el NFL Combine hasta las visitas privadas que toman lugar a lo largo de Abril.
Es un hecho que tienen en la mira a los receptores. Claramente, quieren añadir más talento a la ofensiva para Dak Prescott.
En una clase de prospectos que cuenta con bastantes receptores, otra pregunta naturalmente, es ¿lo harán en primera ronda o más tarde? Me sorprendería demasiado si el equipo espera hasta la tercera ronda. Sin duda, es algo que tienen que atender con una de sus dos primeros picks.
En el primero, la selección #19 global, podrían encontrar a uno de los tres mejores receptores del año. Calvin Ridley, de Alabama; Courtland Sutton, de SMU; DJ Moore, de Maryland. Si buscarán el "remplazo" de Dez Bryant en uno de estos tres jugadores, definitivamente será uno de estos tres prospectos.
Todos tienen lo suyo. Sutton es un receptor estilo "X" (como Dez Bryant) mientras Ridley, por ejemplo, es claramente un receptor "Z" (como Terrance Williams). DJ Moore brinda un poco de versatilidad entre ambos roles, y podría ser un jugador de impacto en cualquiera que se le juegue, aunque probablemente brillaría más si se le permitiera jugar como un "Z."
Afortunadamente para Dallas, el recién firmado Allen Hurns también es capaz de tomar cualquiera de los dos roles. Esto le da flexibilidad a los Cowboys de tomar al que más les guste, o en su defecto, a quien esté disponible.
En mi segundo Mock Draft del año, simulé a Courtland Sutton, producto de SMU a los Cowboys con el pick #19. Los coaches de la Estrella Solitaria han mostrado bastante interés por el producto local y no me sorprendería nada verlos aterrizar un receptor como él la próxima semana.
Ahora bien, si Dallas decide esperar hasta la segunda ronda para conseguir a un par de manos confiables, encontrarán talento. Definitivamente. James Washington, DJ Chark, Michael Gallup, Anthony Miller, entre otros podrían estar ahí en la selección #50 (segunda ronda).
Si el equipo quiere tomar talento para otra posición en la primera, lo podrán hacer sabiendo que encontrarán un WR talentoso al día siguiente.
Afortunadamente, esta ofensiva se basa en Ezekiel Elliott y el juego terrestre detrás de la línea ofensiva. Los receptores son importantes, por supuesto, pero no es necesario tener algo tan dominante como lo fue Dez Bryant en el 2013 y el 2014, por ejemplo.
Por ahora, sólo falta esperar como abordan los Cowboys esta necesidad la próxima semana cuando el NFL Draft del 2018 tome lugar en el mismo lugar en el que este equipo juega sus partidos e intenta pelear, el AT&T Stadium.
Con un poco de suerte, estrenaran el campo este 2018 obteniendo su primer victoria del año la próxima semana.
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