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: Guards & Centers
Dallas may have the best center and guard in the NFL in Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. It's an incredible luxury, but the days of enjoying their greatness on rookie salaries are about over. Frederick has already received his big contract and Martin may have his before the year is over.
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' guards and centers are scheduled to cost against the 2017 salary cap.
As was just reported late yesterday, the Cowboys have restructured Frederick's deal to create a little less than $10 million in cap space. This move has been expected for some time; Frederick and Tyron Smith's contracts were strategically designed with these cap-friendly mechanisms.
Still just 26-year-old and perhaps the best center in football, Frederick is the kind of player you have no hesitation about restructuring. He is signed through the 2023 season and has plenty of wiggle room left on the contract. We can expect to see money moved around on Frederick's deal for the next few seasons.
The final year of Martin's rookie contract is here and makes him one of the biggest bargains in football. However, that cap amount could change before the season's over.
Dallas has already exercised the fifth-year option on Martin's deal, ensuring he'll be a Cowboy through 2018. However, last year that was worth $11.9 million. Assuming that the 2018 amount will be close to that once calculated, Dallas is going to want to sign Martin to a long-term deal to bring that number way down.
We go into even further detail on Martin's potential contract changes at the end of the article.
While he's received first-round treatment since joining the Cowboys in 2014, Collins has yet to get paid like a top prospect. After missing all but three games last year to a foot injury, Collins returns ready to reclaim his starting spot and prove he deserves his own major contract extension.
Collins will have just three accrued seasons after 2017, meaning he would be a Restricted Free Agent next offseason. Last year's first-round tender was worth $3.6 million, which the Cowboys would likely be more than happy to pay.
The big question is if Dallas thinks another team wouldn't be willing to give up that first-round pick to sign Collins. Given Collins' age and potential, sacrificing that pick might not deter teams picking in the middle to back of the first round.
It's too early to know, especially after the injury, where Dallas is on Collins' long-term prospects. Would they go ahead and extend him now or wait for a clearer picture? More on this below.
The versatile veteran replaced Mackenzy Bernadeau last year as the backup center. He has one year left on the contract and should be back to at least compete in training camp and preseason, if not make the team next season.
Dallas could save $800k by releasing Looney. It's not a big amount but is almost penalty free, which can never be ignored. I don't expect that to happen this early in the offseason, but "Jumbo Joe" will certainly be wary of any younger prospects who look like they can provide depth at center.
A fifth-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2014, Edwards was on their 53-man roster as a rookie but was never active. The former Tennessee State guard was released the following year, then spent the last half of 2015 season on the Jaguars' practice squad.
Last year, Edwards was still in Jacksonville until final cuts. He was eventually signed to the Cowboys practice squad last November and has now been signed a two-year futures contract.
Ronald Leary - It would be a major surprise if Leary returned to Dallas at this point. After a year of grumbling about his money, which was perfectly justified, Leary is going to be looking for a starting job and a solid payday. With La'el Collins coming back from injury, he won't find either with the Cowboys.
Jonathan Cooper - The former first-round talent was signed shortly after the Week 17 game as veteran depth for the playoffs. It was also a chance for Dallas to kick the tires on a player they admittedly coveted in the 2013 NFL Draft. We will have to wait and see if the Cowboys are interested in a further look.
2017 Salary Cap Impact
Total Interior Linemen Cap Hit = $9.45 million
Percentage of 2017 Salary Cap = 5.58%
It's a safe assumption that Dallas isn't going to let Zack Martin count $11-$13 million against their 2018 salary cap. The fifth-year option they've exercised is just a placeholder; they will almost certainly get a long-term deal done sometime between now and the end of the 2017 regular season.
We can expect that Martin's big contract will be similar to Travis Frederick's and Tyron Smith's, built to make year restructuring easy and friendly on Dallas' salary cap. They are the three foundation pieces of this great offense line and the Cowboys clearly intend for them to remain in place for many seasons to come.
That being the case, Martin's 2017 cap hit may not chance much even with the extension. Frederick's first season counted just $2.2 million against the 2016 cap. Martin is currently at $2.85 million and I would expect that number to stay about the same no matter what happens with his new deal.
The other starting guard, La'el Collins, is perhaps the more intriguing figure. How much does Dallas already believe in him? How much can the needle move during the early part of the season?
Signing Collins as an undrafted free agent was an anomaly. He was only there because of an unfortunate personal circumstance that robbed him of his draft status and the money that should've come with it. Dallas would probably love to make things right for him with his next contract, but can they really afford to pay four offensive linemen like superstars?
Considering how well the line has performed with Ronald Leary, Dallas might decide that Collins is a luxury they can't afford after this year. Perhaps they'll give him that first-round RFA tender for one more season. Still, I could see the Cowboys being more than happy to see another team sign him away in exchange for a first-round pick.
There's an old adage that "you can't have prime rib at every position" on your team. Sometimes you have to settle for the chopped steak just to make the budget work. Dallas gets at least one more year of Collins on the cheap, but they've already got a lot of prime rib on the offensive line for many seasons to come.
Thankfully, it's a decision they don't have to make just yet.
The Brady Report: Cowboys Defense Run Over In Primetime Loss
Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings was a tough one to take for the Dallas Cowboys. They could easily be sitting here today at 7-2 or 6-3, comfortably ahead of the Eagles for first place in the division and fighting for a first round bye in the postseason.
Instead, they are barely over .500 on the season and face de facto must win games each week from here on out. Obviously they let this one slip away, but there's a whole seven games to go before we know the fate of the 2019 Dallas Cowboys.
Let's discuss what went wrong (and right) last week during the Cowboys 28-24 loss.
- What more can we say about Dak Prescott? The Cowboys franchise quarterback was incredible yet again on Sunday night, having arguably his best game to date even in defeat. Prescott was in complete control of the offense, and showcased his mastery by bailing the Cowboys out with some big third down throws. Prescott finished with 397 yards and 3 touchdowns, and continues to force the hand of the Jones family to break out the checkbook this offseason.
- Much like Dak Prescott, I'm running out of adjectives to describe the play of wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper has been a God-send for this Cowboys offense over the last calendar year, looking like one of the best wide outs in the league week in and week out. Cooper went for 147 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches, and should have been given a chance to win the game on the team's final drive.
- Alright, that's enough praise in defeat. Let's talk about the negatives. The defensive tackles were flat-out awful. No matter who it was - Antwaun Woods, Maliek Collins, Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder - anyone who was asked to defend the run at the 1 or 3 technique position had some very low moments against the Vikings. Minnesota bullied the Cowboys upfront on both the sides of the ball, en route to over 150 yards on the ground for this Vikings offense. Dalvin Cook and the Vikings offensive line won this game, and the Cowboys interior defensive line needs to be better if they hope to actually compete against good teams.
- The defensive tackles were bad against the run Sunday night, but let's not let the linebackers off the hook. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are each immensely talented, but neither has been as consistent as a run defender as they need to be going forward. Smith looked flat-out dis-engaged at times during this one, and both linebackers were run over by interior offensive linemen getting to the second level. I've often praised Smith for his versatility and what it does to unleash this defense, but he was plain bad last week.
- Of course, we can't let the coaching staff off the hook for this loss either. Head coach Jason Garrett made several questionable fourth down calls down the stretch of the game, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was determined to pound the ball on first down despite achieving next to no success. On the defensive end, Kris Richard's defensive backs were toasted. Chidobe Awuzie continues to look like a liability opposite Byron Jones, and the safety spot next to Xavier Woods has been a massive hole all season. And, while both Jones and Woods have been mostly good this year, neither was particularly impressive either during this loss. It was a total and complete defensive failure. This team needs to get better fast, and it all starts at the top with the coaching staff.
Loss to Minnesota Could be the Final Nail in Jason Garrett’s Coffin
The 2019 NFL season kind of seemed like a do or die situation for the Dallas Cowboys current Head Coach Jason Garrett. He is currently in the last year of his contract and his future with the Cowboys organization could be hanging in the balance, especially after the devastating loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
If Jason Garrett isn't extended beyond this season, this loss to Minnesota could possibly be where his career with the Dallas Cowboys started to circle the drain. There are still several games left on the Cowboys schedule this season, but this one loss could be the one that ends up knocking them out of the playoffs. If that's true, it's hard to believe JG will be retained.
Jerry Jones, and son Stephen, have both fully supported Jason Garrett since he became the Cowboys full-time head coach back in 2011 after serving as the interim HC for Wade Phillips in 2010. That's nearly a decade of the Jones' sticking by JG through all of the thick and thin over years. That unwavering support however could be coming to an end though.
The proof is in the pudding as they say. As a head coach Jason Garrett is slightly above average according to his all-time win/loss record. His regular-season record as the HC with the Cowboys is 82-62 (.569) and he's 2-3 (.400) in the postseason. Add all of that up and he's 84-65 (.564) in his career… slightly above average.
If I know anything about the Jones', I know getting the Dallas Cowboys back to the promised land as one of the best teams in the NFL is at the top of their list. That's why we've seen them over the years take chances on players other teams wouldn't in order to put together the most competitive roster they possibly could. Now that attention might need to be shifted from the players to the head coach.
Much like the Jones', I've supported and stood by Jason Garrett over the years. That support is dwindling though after each and every loss this season, at least on my part. Personally, I'm ready to find some new blood and move on. What the Jones' end up doing though is completely up in the air.
I want to believe the Dallas Cowboys are ready to move on from JG, but I'm not completely convinced. The fact that his current contract is about to expire after the season suggests they're at least considering parting ways, but that's all it does. I think how the rest of season turns out after the devastating loss to the Vikings will end up determining his fate.
If JG somehow sneaks the Cowboys into the playoffs it could save his job. That unfortunately is no easy thing to do with the teams they have left to play this season. Because of that, the Week 10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings could end up being the final nail in Jason Garrett's coffin.
What do you think? Is it time to part ways with Jason Garrett?
Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s Status Still Unknown for Cowboys Game
The Dallas Cowboys are headed to Detroit this Sunday for a Week 11 meeting with the Lions. As Dallas tries to get back to winning games, they may get a boost from the absence of Lions' Quarterback Matthew Stafford. After missing last week's game with a back injury, Stafford's status for this week remains unclear.
Stafford was a limited participant in practices all of Week 10 for Detroit and went into their game with the Chicago Bears as a game-time decision. He was ultimately ruled out due to fractures in his back; the first start Stafford's missed for the Lions since the 2010 season.
Jeff Driskel got the start as the Lions fell in Chicago. He is 1-5 as an NFL starter overall, going 1-4 in games for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018.
The Lions are now 3-5-1 on the year and at the bottom of the NFC North. They are also far behind in the Wild Card race, which leads to speculation that they could shut Stafford down for the season to preserve his long-term health. Based on Matthew's contract, the earliest Detroit can easily get out from his contract is after the 2020 season.
For his part, Matthew Stafford has said he has no plans on staying out this season as long he's medically cleared to play. He certainly would love to be active this Sunday against the Cowboys, the team of his youth, after playing his high school football in Dallas.
Even if Stafford plays, Dallas has done solidly overall against opposing quarterbacks in 2019. They are sixth in passing yards allowed per game and 14th in opponent passer rating.
Detroit is fourth in passing offense right now in the NFL but that was based on eight games with Stafford at QB. Jeff Driskel will not perform at that same level, and the Lions' rushing attack has been very weak since Kerryon Johnson went on injured reserve.
We'll see in the coming days if Matthew Stafford is at practice for Detroit and to what extent. But even if he does practice some, as he did last week, it could once again be a last-minute decision for the Lions if Stafford actually plays on Sunday.
With the Cowboys desperate for a win, they'll take all the help they can get.
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