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Dallas Cowboys Potential Salary Cap Casualties

Jess Haynie

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Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: WR #11 Cole Beasley 1

There may be one game left in the 2017 regular season, but the Dallas Cowboys have been eliminated from the playoffs. While this final game may allow for some new footage of guys like Cooper Rush and Noah Brown, my eyes have already turned to the 2018 offseason. Today, we’re going to look at the Cowboys’ potential salary cap casualties.

What makes someone a potential cap casualty?

First and foremost, the amount that a player is scheduled to count against the salary cap would have to exceed the amount of dead money remaining on the contract.

For example, Sean Lee counted $7.3 million in 2017 but still had $14.4 million in dead money on his deal. Even if Dallas wanted to cut him, which obviously was never the case, it wouldn’t have made any financial sense to do so.

In 2018, Lee will count $11 million against the salary cap with only $7 million in dead money. Dallas could save a minimum of $4 million if they cut Sean, but of course nobody expects or wants this to happen.

Unfortunately, not everyone on the Cowboys has Sean Lee’s staying power.

Here are the players whose contracts and performance have left them vulnerable to be released during the 2018 offseason.

Benson Mayowa

Dallas Cowboys DE Benson Mayowa. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

DE Benson Mayowa

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $3.85 million
  • Dead Money: $1.1 million
  • Cap Savings: $2.75 million

This is a likely move given Benson Mayowa’s decreased role in 2017.

While he led the Cowboys in sacks last season (6), Mayowa was dwarfed this year by the rise of DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving, plus the first-round selection of Taco Charlton. Not only are these players all likely to return in 2018, but we may finally see Randy Gregory back in a Cowboys uniform.

If Gregory is reinstated by the NFL and still able to play, he would immediately take over the role Mayowa has now as a weak-side pass rusher and rotational player. Dallas will also hope to finally get Charles Tapper involved regularly, assuming he can stay healthy.

While $2.75 million doesn’t sound like a lot, it is enough to pay for a decent veteran backup at many positions.

That money may be better spent on a new reserve offensive tackle. It could be used to pay the salary of your first-round rookie. It could also go into the pool for re-signing Lawrence, Zack Martin, Anthony Hitchens, and any other free agents you want to bring back.

More than likely, Dallas will find a better use for that money than keeping Benson Mayowa around for one more season. He’s been a decent rotation player, but younger and better options have passed him by.

James Hanna

Dallas Cowboys TE James Hanna

TE James Hanna

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $3.5 million
  • Dead Money: $750 thousand
  • Cap Savings: $2.75 million

A strong blocker who occasionally flashes in the passing game, James Hanna may have played his final season in Dallas.

He turns 29 in July and has younger players pushing in, like Geoff Swaim and Rico Gathers.

Not only does James have to worry about the young guys behind him, but the offseason could bring changes at the top of the TE depth chart. Dallas may be looking to add more explosiveness to the offense by signing or drafting a new receiving option.

If Jason Witten is still around, as most expect him to be, then that would push Hanna down the depth chart.

It’s hard to see Dallas paying $3.5 million to any third-string player.

Even if there are no new additions, the Cowboys are going to give Swaim and Gathers every opportunity to take on larger roles. Like we discussed with Benson Mayowa, the money allocated to James Hanna could probably be better used at other positions.

Orlando Scandrick

Dallas Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick

CB Orlando Scandrick

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $5.28 million
  • Dead Money: $3.88 million
  • Cap Savings: $1.4 million

While the basic cap relief from cutting Orlando Scandrick wouldn’t amount to much, making him a June-1st release would make it more enticing. Dallas could get $3 million in 2018 cap space by pushing $1.6 million in dead money into 2019.

With June-1st cap casualties, it’s important to remember that those cap savings don’t become available until the actual June 1st calendar date.

That means you can’t use the money during the major free agency period beginning in March.

However, that money can be used to sign draft picks, sign June-1st cuts from other teams, any other remaining free agents, or re-sign your own players.

For example, let’s say Dallas puts a franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence to protect him during the offseason. They may spend the spring and summer negotiating his long-term deal and then be able use the post-June 1st Orlando Scandrick savings to help pay his new deal once it’s finalized.

Scandrick is expendable because of the youth movement in the secondary.

Dallas has a solid top-three of young cornerbacks with Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis. They may decide to give Orlando one more year for veteran leadership and increased depth, but you can also see why they’d decide to let him go.

Tyrone Crawford

Dallas Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford

DE/DT Tyrone Crawford

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $9.1 million
  • Dead Money: $7.3 million
  • Cap Savings: $1.8 million

Like with Scandrick, the basic savings aren’t worth losing a versatile and capable player. But once you get into the June-1st conversation, potentially releasing Tyrone Crawford makes way more sense. Splitting Crawford’s dead money over two season would create $6 million in cap space in 2018, and push $4.2 million in dead money to 2019.

That $6 million would likely cover the entire 2018 draft class and leave some leftover for other financial needs.

Deferring dead money to 2019 may feel like robbing Peter to pay Paul, but there is a reason this could be a sound strategy for Dallas.

The dead money from Tony Romo‘s contract is still hanging over the team through 2018. When that $8 million comes off the books in 2019, that is new space which can absorb some of these June-1st deferrals that we’ve proposed.

It’s a way to facilitate necessary moves now, spreading the costs over two seasons.

All that said, Tyrone Crawford may have played his way into at least one more season with Dallas.

He started nearly every game and is a valuable defensive line piece who can play both end and tackle. Unless Dallas feels they have to use his cap savings to bring back DeMarcus Lawrence, Crawford will likely stay in 2018 to provide stability and a veteran presence up front.

Cole Beasley

Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley

WR Cole Beasley

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $4.25 million
  • Dead Money: $1 million
  • Cap Savings: $3.25 million

Some of these are tougher to think about than others. Cole Beasley is a beloved fan favorite, but his decreased offensive role in 2017 and potential cap relief mean he has to be looked at.

After leading Dallas in catches and yards in 2016, Cole was fourth in both areas this season. He had four touchdowns, but was otherwise far less visible. Much of this was due to increased attention from opposing defenses, and perhaps also the sophomore struggles of QB Dak Prescott and absence of RB Ezekiel Elliott.

One reason Cole may be expendable is Ryan Switzer.

A fourth-round pick last year, Switzer was viewed by many as “Clone Beasley” and the guy who would eventually replace him. He’s already taken over as the primary return man and may now be in line for a greater offensive role.

If Dallas is confident in Switzer’s offensive ability and can save over $3 million by releasing Beasley, that’s a move they can’t dismiss lightly.

Again, this isn’t something anyone is rooting for.

These last few guys are all fan favorites. These are tough conversations to have, but the salary cap doesn’t adjust for legacies or jersey sales.

Trying to win a championship often means making hard choices with beloved veterans.

Just ask the New England Patriots.

Dan Bailey

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

K Dan Bailey

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $4.2 million
  • Dead Money: $800 thousand
  • Cap Savings: $3.4 million

If the Cowboys believe that Dan Bailey’s 79% field goal accuracy this year is solely due to his groin injury and will not linger into next year, then this is one you can probably take off the board. However, if Dallas is concerned about the kicker’s play going forward, there is a nice chunk of cap space to be gained by releasing him.

Dan Bailey turns 30-years old next month.

He’s been as good as they come since 2011, but he wouldn’t be the first kicker to lose the gift after so many seasons. Not many guys last as long as Morten Anderson or Adam Vinatieri.

If Bailey gets healthy and finds his rhythm again over the offseason, then there’s nothing to talk about. He’s still one of the two best kickers in the game today (Baltimore’s Justin Tucker is the other). And 30 is hardly old for kickers.

Still, after a horrible December ,and with that salary attached to him, you can’t ignore Dan Bailey in this conversation.

Jason Witten

Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten

TE Jason Witten

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $6.5 million
  • Dead Money: $0
  • Cap Savings: $6.5 million

This is highly unlikely, but we have to talk about anybody who can give you that much cap relief with zero dead money.

Jason Witten’s contract with Dallas is clearly structured so that when he decides to hang it up, the team won’t be stuck with any dead money. If Witten decides to play in 2018, they will likely convert base salary to bonus money to help lower his cap number.

If this was New England, we may be having a different conversation. The Patriots might take that cap space regardless of the veteran’s wishes, but Jerry Jones isn’t going to play hardball with arguably the greatest Cowboy of the modern era.

Jason Witten has said he plans to return next year, and it would be the most shocking move I can remember for the Cowboys not to go along with it.

But after such a disappointing season, you have to wonder how desperate Jerry Jones is getting. With Dallas moving to a more Patriots-style philosophy regarding free agency and roster management, could they potentially surprise us with how they handle Witten?

Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant

WR Dez Bryant

  • 2018 Cap Hit: $16.5 million
  • Dead Money: $8 million
  • Cap Savings: $8.5 million

The most talked about Cowboy right now, Dez Bryant’s current and future worth are being hotly debated after a quiet season, disastrous game last week, and his own defensive comments.

If these factors weren’t enough, Dez has the highest cap hit on the team and offers the most cap relief of any single player.

Dallas wouldn’t even have to wait for June 1st to get significant cap relief.

They could take that $8.5 million into free agency and get a franchise player at almost any position. If you were intrigued by the idea of Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas coming to Dallas, this is one way to make that happen.

The issue would be what’s left at wide receiver.

You’d have to spend everything you save from cutting Dez — and a little more — to replace him with a new franchise WR. Unless you’re wholly confident that this new player would be an upgrade, that could easily wind up as a zero-gain move.

The front office has yet to give any indication that they would part with Dez Bryant this offseason. From a purely fiscal sense, it’s far better to wait until next year, when his dead money would be cut in half.

If the Cowboys can find another way to bring in some receiving talent this offseason, such as through the draft or with other cap space, Bryant could still be dangerous with less attention and another offseason to develop chemistry with Dak Prescott.

Still, $8.5 million is a lot of cap space.

Dallas cut a declining DeMarcus Ware in 2014 for $7.4 million in cap relief. If it happened to him, it could happen to Dez Bryant too.

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Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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3 Comments
  • Skidmark Goatcabin

    #11 needs to stay a Cowboy!

  • Ben Dangel

    I think Dez, Hanna, and Benson need to go.

  • Russ_Te

    Scandrick – keep, vs small savings to cut. The secondary is still a jigsaw puzzle and he can definitely contribute plays as it shapes out next year

    Crawford – disappears for games on end. Cut to save $5 and open a roster spot for a new project

    Beasley – shop, get Switzer’s 4th back for him at least, or trade for other need like OL depth. He should still have good value after the way New England has proved the worth of quick slot recievers the last 10 years

    Bailey – keep (posted after disaster in Philly ;^)

    Witten – cut for 6.5 million better directed at other needs with Gathers on deck. It’s a gamble, but not a big one based on his catches this year

    Dez – This is the hardest decision IMO. His declining game vs the cap savings is tempting, but you don’t have his heir apparent on roster as may be the case with Witten / Gathers. Speed WR should be a priority offseason, but Butler just showed yesterday – again – what he gives to the offense. If you were properly using Dez as a power possession reciever, underneath a coverage-stretcher who can occupy the FS and a CB, pretty sure he’d be a different & more formidable player with his RAC skills. He did stay healthy all year. Coin toss / keep

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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Dallas Cowboys

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job

Sean Martin

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Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job 1

By keeping all three top coaches (Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli) in place for 2018, there isn’t a Dallas Cowboys coaching hire that feels like they “must” get it right to contend next season. This is how it should be.

Producing nine wins, despite missing key players throughout the season, the Cowboys are changing things up at the position coach level to hopefully introduce new ideas and give the talent on this team a better chance at sustained success.

One coaching vacancy that needs to be filled by the right guy above any else is on the offensive line, where things haven’t been the same since the great Bill Callahan departed.

Frank Pollack took his place, and now finds himself with the Cincinnati Bengals after not being retained by Dallas this offseason.

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job

Tom Cable (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

The first name that was thrown around in consideration for the Cowboys job was Tom Cable, which sent a panic throughout Cowboys Nation before Cable decided to sign with John Gruden and the Raiders.

Cable had been coaching the Seahawks’ OL, a position that franchise has not valued in some time, and struggled to develop any talent in protection of their franchise QB Russell Wilson.

Now, two new names have emerged as candidates to coach the likes of two-time 1st Team All-Pro LT Tyron Smith, 1st Team All-Pro C Travis Frederick, and two-time 1st Team All-Pro RG Zack Martin.

Mike Solari and Paul Alexander

Paul Alexander has already met with the Dallas Cowboys, looking for work after 23 seasons with the Bengals. During this time, Alexander served as Marvin Lewis’ assistant head coach, in addition to his duties as their OL coach.

Judging on reactions out of Cincinnati to Alexander’s departure, the Bengals offensive line regressed under him in 2017, warranting change from a franchise that is as reluctant as any to move on from coaches.

Goodberry on Twitter

Paul Alexander better be gone

Most recently, Mike Solari has served as the offensive line coach for the New York Giants — far from a renowned unit around the NFL lately. He does have previous experience with the Cowboys, having served as an assistant OL and special teams coach here from 1987-88.

From 2006-07, Solari did reach the rank of offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, which shows the level of respect that the 30-year NFL coaching veteran has earned.

He will be the Dallas Cowboys’ next interview for their open OL coach position.

Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack 1

Dallas Cowboys RT La’el Collins, RG Zack Martin

Depth at tackle, a long-term answer at left guard, and an extension for Zack Martin are among the questions facing the Cowboys offensive line moving forward. Whoever is in charge of keeping this unit up to standard in 2018 though, may hold the keys to getting the entirety of the Cowboys’ program back on track.

Whether it’s Alexander, Solari, or another outside candidate yet to emerge, Inside The Star will keep you updated on the Cowboys’ ongoing coaching search.

Tell us what you think about “Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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