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: Special Teams
While they rarely come up in salary cap conversations, special teams players cost money too. The Cowboys boast one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history and the model of perfection at long snapper. The punter isn't half bad either, leaving no surprise that Dallas has one of the more expensive trio of specialists in the league.
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 special teams players are scheduled to cost against our 2017 salary cap.
Dan Bailey, K
A career-low 84.4% accuracy in 2016 dropped Dan Bailey from being the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Still, he's second all-time behind Justin Tucker by just half a percent.
When not being asked to kick 55-yarders, Bailey is still as good as has ever been. It's no surprise that his 2017 cap hit is currently scheduled to be fifth among kickers. Above him are the aforementioned Justin Tucker and three other veterans; Matt Prater, Sebatsian Janikowski, and Stephen Gostkowski.
As long as Dan Bailey continues to be "Mr. Automatic" when kicking within his range, the Cowboys are more than happy to keep him as one of the league's best-paid kickers. He has more than earned it and hasn't shown any signs of losing his touch.
Chris Jones, P
Chis Jones' 58 punts in 2016 was one of the lowest numbers in the NFL; 25th overall. The Cowboys' proficient offense kept Jones on the sideline more than most punters. However, when called upon, he was a valuable tool in the ever-important factor of field position.
With only the 15th-highest salary cap hit scheduled for punters in 2017, Chris Jones gives the Cowboys excellent value. He has a knack for aiming kicks for the sideline or hanging them high while still maximizing distance. His punts were only returned 29% the time by the opposition, one of the lowest rates in the league.
Jones will be in the final year of his contract next season. Having already been re-signed once by Dallas and improving his play during that deal, it's likely he will get another extension in the near future.
L.P. Ladouceur, LS
Usually, having the league's best player at his position comes with a heavy cost. Thankfully for the Cowboys, long snapper doesn't follow that same trend.
You could argue that L.P. Ladouceur is underpaid given the service he offers and the perfection with which it's handled. He is in on every punt, field goal, and point-after play and yet makes less than either Dan Bailey or Chris Jones.
Still, Ladouceur makes double what many long snappers do in the NFL. He is scheduled to be the league's highest-paid long snapper next season but you won't hear anyone complaining from Dallas. Louis-Philippe more than earns it.
2017 Salary Cap Impact
Total Special Teams Cap Hit = $6.97 million
Percentage of 2017 Salary Cap = 4.11%
Given the huge role that these specialists play in the team's success, 4% of the salary cap is nothing. Dallas gets more than their money's worth with all three players and shouldn't be looking to part ways with any of them.
Potential Cap Casualties
You couldn't blame L.P. Ladouceur if he feels a little threatened. Turning 36 in March, Ladouceur has seen young long snappers come through for several years now during training camp. The Cowboys have always said this is just for insurance purposes and to take wear and tear off their aging veteran.
If Dallas were to find someone they thought could match L.P.'s efficiency, they might go with the cheaper youngster and save $1.1 million by releasing Ladouceur. Finding that guy won't be easy, though. Ladouceur is the best in the business and perhaps of all time. What beats perfection?
Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report
Though it's still early in the 2018 season, the lead in the NFC East is up for grabs when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet this Sunday. Both teams would like their full roster available for the game, but the Week 7 injury reports indicate that won't be the case.
Here are the players either confirmed to be out of action tomorrow or are otherwise listed by Dallas and Washington:
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
- LB Joe Thomas (foot) - OUT
- CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle) - Questionable
The Cowboys are getting healthier, with Sean Lee finally off the injury report and set to return to action. Not only will Dallas get their elite linebacker back, but it means a deeper rotation while the team remains without Joe Thomas.
Tavon Austin elected to skip season-ending surgery on his injured groin, but his should be out a few weeks. That will put Cole Beasley on punt returns and perhaps create more offensive opportunities for Deonte Thompson and Brice Butler.
Awuzie remains limited in practice but has played the last few weeks despite the ankle injury. There is no reason to think he won't suit up in Washington.
- WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) - OUT
- WR Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) - Doubtful
- S Troy Apke (hamstring) - Doubtful
- RB Adrian Peterson (ankle, shoulder) - Questionable
- RB Chris Thompson (rib, knee) - Questionable
- G Shawn Lauvao (calf) - Questionable
- CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) - Questionable
- CB Danny Johnson (forearm) - Questionable
It's a rough time for Washington's offensive weapons. They will definitely be without slot receiver Jamison Crowder and likely starter Paul Richardson, who current lead all WRs in receptions. Josh Doctson will put into a major role, as will veteran Brian Quick off the bench.
Peterson and Thompson both practiced this week and should play, but have nagging injuries that could slow them down. Washington is already missing Rob Kelley and rookie Derrius Guice, who are both on injured reserve.
Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao is also nursing a lower leg injury, but practiced in a limited capacity all week. His backup is undrafted rookie Casey Dunn out of Auburn.
In the defensive backfield, starting CB Quinton Dunbar was a Friday addition to the injury report with a shin injury. He did practice with it, though, so will likely play. Backup safety Troy Apke is doubtful with a hamstring issue.
Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys are 0-3 on the road this season. Not only do you already know this, but they do as well, needing to build off a 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 at AT&T Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East at the Washington Redskins.
Although the Cowboys were given Monday and Tuesday off, they are focused on addressing one alarming reason why the team has struggled so much on the road -- particularly on offense.
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out the Cowboys lack of communication in early season losses at Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. "Seeing the same thing," was the issue Elliott addressed when discussing the Cowboys knowing their assignments in hostile territory.
Yesterday, Quarterback Dak Prescott told the media of a meeting between players and coaches that addressed this specifically.
Dak Prescott said players & coaches held a meeting before today's practice to "address the elephant in the room," which is poor communication among the offense on the road. "I know we'll take a lot from that conversation," The QB said.
Unlike Prescott's remarks about new "wrinkles" in the Cowboys offense prior to a 26-24 home win over the Lions, this has a tangible sign of progress for an offense that made scoring 40 on the Jaguars look impossibly easy. The Cowboys season high in total yards remains the 414 amassed against Detroit, after which Prescott confessed that he simply tells the media "things" that aren't necessarily true.
The Cowboys didn't necessarily do anything new against the Lions, but they most assuredly will this week against the Redskins, at least by way of signaling and remaining in sync on offense.
Prescott and Elliott's leadership is on full display here, and their on-field impact can be attributed as closely to the Cowboys successes or failures as any duo in the NFL.
Missing is a similar impact from Center Travis Frederick, who remains sidelined as he deals with GSB.
Joe Looney's play at center has been good enough to pave the way for Elliott's 586 rushing yards so far, second to Todd Gurley at 623 yards, but his ability to call checks for the offense is understandably much more limited.
Looney deserves all the credit in the world for his strong play in place of Frederick. The Cowboys have never asked for him to be anything he isn't, a reliable depth option that earned a second contract and with it the starting center job for the time being in Dallas.
He has the full support of his teammates, Frederick included. All of this is lovely to put down in writing until Looney and the Cowboys have been forced to step on the field with the crowd against them and attempt to sustain a drive, something Frederick will unfortunately not be a part of for a long while.
If the Cowboys offense isn't going to unveil new wrinkles in the scheme, there is one wrinkle worth mentioning that's new to the team's communication on offense this season. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan up in the box, his play calls are sent down to first-year Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, who has been in the ear of Prescott ever since playing with him from 2016-17.
Sure, these are things that could've been addressed before the Cowboys managed only eight points in week one, turned the ball over three times in week three, or punted away their best chance at victory in week five. The best teams in the league likely already have these things down to routine, and few would consider the Cowboys anywhere near the upper echelon of the NFL.
Following sixty minutes of football at a division rival they've won four in a row against, with an even more impressive five game win streak at the Redskins, the Cowboys could control their own path atop the NFC East.
That feels truly incredible for such a young team faced with a steep learning curve early in the season, adjusting to it on the fly as they prepare to leave everything on the field before a bye week.
#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance
It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.
But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.
According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.
Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.
What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.
For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.
As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.
Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.
Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).
Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.
Star Blog2 weeks ago
If Jason Garrett’s Out, Who’s In? Potential HC Candidates
Star Blog7 days ago
Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?
Player News2 weeks ago
Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL’s Top 10 Rookies
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Did Garrett’s OT Decision Cost Him More Than Just the Game?
Star Blog1 week ago
Is Jason Garrett Losing the Cowboys Locker Room?
Player News5 days ago
Oakland Raiders’ Wide Receiver Amari Cooper On the Trade Block
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Report: Jason Garrett “Not Going Anywhere” with Possible Extension Coming Soon
Game Notes1 week ago
Jaylon Smith Looks Healthy, And The NFL Should Be Terrified