The Dallas Cowboys head into this month’s NFL Draft with almost all of their 2018 cap space depleted. They may need to open up a little more room following the draft to be able to sign all of their rookies. Could that lead to a few more salary cap casualties?
Current projections have Dallas with just about $1.9 million in available cap space. That figure doesn’t include whatever they’re paying the newly-signed DE Kony Ealy.
The Cowboys have 10 picks in this year’s draft, with a projected total amount of about $7 million needed to sign them all. Of course, the number of picks may go down after trades. But even if Dallas bundles picks to trade up, salaries also increase with higher slotted picks.
The good news is that there shouldn’t be any big deficit. During the offseason, a team’s available cap space is based on the Top 51 salaries they have on the books. That means players #52-90 don’t count against your spending power.
Right now, the players at the bottom of Dallas’ Top 51 count about $550k against the cap. In their rookie years, even last year’s second and third-round picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis) only had roughly $780k and $650k cap hits. That’s a fairly negligible net difference.
If the Cowboys draft 19th overall as currently slotted, that player should have a first-year salary of a little over $2 million. That, plus all the other small overages, does mean Dallas may need to make a move to free up enough space to get everyone signed.
Don’t worry, Dez Bryant fans; we’re not coming for your boy.
Dallas won’t need to do anything that extreme to free up room. Their easiest move would be to cut tight end James Hanna for $2.75 million in savings. That should cover everything needed to get their rookies signed before training camp.
And if the Cowboys draft a new TE, Hanna would be even more expendable.
Another possibility is to make defensive end Tyrone Crawford a June-1st cut. That would give the team $3.1 million in relief. Again, depending on what happens in the draft, Crawford may not be needed.
Ideally, none of these moves would be necessary. Dallas will free up cap space by reaching long-term deals with guard Zack Martin or DE DeMarcus Lawrence. They could potentially free up well over $10 million in space by bringing them down from their team option and franchise tag cap hits with new contracts.
That is likely the team’s current strategy, and why they haven’t had to pull the trigger on anything with Dez Bryant’s contract. It looks like Dallas will be able to conduct all of their remaining offseason business without any major cap casualties.
Unless, of course, they’re still interested in trading for a certain All-Pro safety from Seattle. Depending on what happens in the draft, that move could become more attractive.
If the Cowboys still have a big move in mind, before or after the draft, cap casualties will likely be necessary. Stay tuned.