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Don’t Believe What You Read About The Dallas Cowboys

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Cowboys Blog - Don’t Believe What You Read About The Dallas Cowboys 2

The Dallas Cowboys are NOT in Salary CAP hell.  Yes, that’s right.  Despite what you read about how badly the Cowboys are looking, there is a good reason that Stephen Jones keeps saying that it isn’t a problem.  That is because…

It isn’t a problem.

 

One of the things that is hard for both fans and most sports writers to wrap their heads around is that the process of restructuring contracts to create more Salary CAP room is a design feature of the current financial system in the NFL.  It is not a design flaw.  And in recent years, the Cowboys have gotten a little better at how they award contracts.  They PLAN for certain contracts to be restructured, especially early in a big contract.  They add clauses to the contracts which allow for restructuring to occur, almost automatically.

Case in point:

The Cowboys can easily get under the Salary CAP by restructuring the contracts of only 3 players they signed to extensions just last year – Tony Romo, Sean Lee, and Orlando Scandrick.

This week, the Cowboys cut a few players, and some people looked at it as them trying to shed salaries.  But, the 4 players they cut – DE Everett Brown, DT Corvey Irvin, and OG’s Ray Dominguez and Jeff Olson all could have been kept on the roster if the Cowboys really wanted them around.  Those 4 cuts only amounted to a total Salary CAP savings of $545,000

These were NOT salary CAP cuts. These were guys the Cowboys signed in the middle of last year’s injury plagued season that they had no interest in keeping on their team.   The Cowboys have defensive lineman Ben Bass and Tyrone Crawford coming back from injury, and have signed Caesar Rayford and Tristan Okpalaugo to their roster since the season ended.  They had enough time to look at both Irvin and Brown, and decided that neither player was in their long-term plans.  And although the Cowboys currently only have two guards left on their roster (hint: expect the Cowboys to draft a Guard), both Dominguez and Olson were in training camp a year last summer, and neither has shown themselves capable of playing at an NFL level.  All of these players were cut because they lack talent.

There is one planned cut that can be seen as a true salary CAP cut. Cutting Phil Costa will save $1,005,000 million off the Salary CAP  - almost twice the savings of the other 4 players combined.

After those 5 players get cut, the Cowboys will have 57 players under contract for 2014 for a total of $141,314,594.  But since only the top 51 salaries count against the salary cap, the salary CAP hit for the top 51 players is currently $138,719,594.

The NFL has announced that the salary CAP for 2014 will be $133 million; but, that doesn’t include the $1,280,693 of 2013 Rollover space the Cowboys have left over from 2013.  So, the Cowboys “Adjusted Salary CAP” for 2014 will be $134,280,693.  That is only $4,438,901 OVER the CAP, not the $25 million that keeps getting reported.

But wait!  What about the DEAD money from players who’ve been cut in past seasons? The Cowboys have 20 players no longer on the team that they will take CAP hits for in 2014.  The bottom 16, mostly due to left over signing bonuses of undrafted free agents, amount to only $406,439.  The majority of that is Phil Costa’s $225,000 DEAD money hit.  The top 4 DEAD money CAP hits do hurt because all are over $1 million each.  Ratliff, Livings, Spears, and Lissemore together add up to a 2014 CAP hit of $11,628,000.  Ouch.

When you add the CAP hits for DEAD money ($12,034,439) to the actual amount in salaries ($4,438,901) that are OVER the Salary CAP, the Cowboys need to shed 16,473,340 to get under the CAP – still considerably less than the $25 million most news outlets are reporting.

And here is how the PLANNED restructuring of the Romo, Lee and Scandrick Contracts gets the Cowboys under the salary CAP before March 11th rolls around.

Tony Romo

  • Current Salary - $13,500,000
  • New Salary - $955,000
  • Restructure Bonus - $12,545,000 prorated for 5 years at $2,509,000 per year
  • Salary CAP savings - $10,036,000

Sean Lee

  • Current Salary - $5,500,000
  • New Salary - $730,000
  • Restructure Bonus - $4,770,000 prorated for 5 years at $954,000 per year
  • Salary CAP savings - $3,816,000

Orlando Scandrick

  • Current Salary - $4,500,000
  • New Salary - $730,000
  • Restructure Bonus - $3,770,000 prorated for 5 years at $754,000 per year
  • Salary CAP savings - $3,016,000

 

Those 3 Restructured Contracts, contracts which already have restructuring clauses built into them because the Cowboys ALWAYS planned on restructuring them this season, create a total of $16,868,000 in CAP space, getting the Cowboys $394,660 UNDER the CAP by March 11th.  And remember, the Cowboys already have 57 players under contract.  Most of the teams which are way under the CAP have only 30-40 players under contract for 2014.

So, while it’s not ideal for the Cowboys to have to restructure these contracts, the NFL is not played in an ideal world.  This is not Utopia.  Every team deals with restructuring the big contracts of its star players.  It is part of the financial landscape of today’s NFL.  And all of this is before we even begin to talk about renegotiating DeMarcus Ware’s contract, restructuring Brandon Carr, or making Miles Austin a June 1st cut.  Don’t be fooled by the headlines.  The Cowboys are more than capable of getting under the salary CAP, and still have plenty of room to maneuver to find the room to negotiate contract extensions for its younger star players like Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray.



Engineer, writer and private NFL analyst, he began developing his own statistical analysis program in 1998 to measure and predict the performance of NFL teams. Scott is also a self-taught expert on the NFL salary CAP, analyzing how Cowboys contracts affect the team this year and in future seasons. Mr. Harris' skill lies in digging inside the numbers to explain which statistical measurements matter, and which do not. Mr. Harris developed his skill at writing for his college newspaper, and had his own politically oriented blog for several years. A passionate fan of the Cowboys, Scott uses his skill with numbers and writing to provide a unique viewpoint of the Cowboys and the NFL as a whole. He is a native of the DFW metroplex and currently resides in Golden, Colorado designing environmental controls systems for data centers, high rise buildings, college campuses, and government bases.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Matt Atencio

    March 3, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Where are you getting this information? How does one expect for either of the three players to take a pay cut so significant? How does Romo go from$120 million to only $12 million?

    • Scott Harris

      March 3, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Matt,

      Rory explained it correctly. The player does not take a cut in pay. Instead, they get an immediate payout by signing their restructured contract, and a reduced salary during the year.

      Imagine you get paid $1000 per week ($52000 per year). Your boss comes to you and says he wants to give you a check for $46,800 today, and then pay you only $100 per week for the next year. You still get $52000 for the year, but you get a big check up front instead of waiting for each weekly paycheck. That is how it works for the player.

      • mattatencio93

        March 4, 2014 at 9:34 am

        Ah, that makes a lot more sense. Thanks much

  2. Rory M

    March 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Matt – none of these players are taking a “pay cut” – they are essentially having their base salary adjusted to a lower “cap friendly” value, while the difference is being put into a signing bonus – money they see right away. The reason they change base salary to signing bonuses is because they can spread the “hit” out over multiple years of the contract.

  3. Bryson Treece

    March 4, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    As Scott Harris, our resident capologist, predicted yesterday Lee, Scandrick, Romo all restructured. Decisions on miles and ware looming— Cowboys Nation (@CowboysNation) March 4, 2014

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2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch

Kevin Brady

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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL's Top 10 Rookies

As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.

It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.

Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.

No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.

Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.

There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.

Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.

Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.



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Star Blog

What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?

Kevin Brady

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.

Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.

They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?

Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.

Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.

Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.

Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.

Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.

This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.

The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.



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Star Blog

3 Things We Learned About The Dallas Cowboys In 2018

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

Coming into the 2018 season, loads of questions surrounded the Dallas Cowboys and the future of their roster.

Could their defense stay intact when the annual Sean Lee injury occurred? Was Kris Richard going to lead the Cowboys young secondary to places we thought they could be? And would Dak Prescott earn a contact extension and become the official franchise quarterback of America's Team.

Of course, there are tons of other questions that may have gone unanswered, but these three critical areas seem to find clarity in 2018.

Leighton Vander Esch And Jaylon Smith Are Legit

The Dallas Cowboys caught a lot of flack for their selection both of these linebackers, each for different reasons.

When they snagged Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft, it was still unknown to the public if Smith could ever even play football again. When they took Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall last April, fans questioned how valuable an off-ball linebacker would be on a defense that already had Sean Lee.

Well, after their first full season together, it's easy to say that both Vander Esch and Smith are the linebacker options of the future in Dallas. Named to the Pro Bowl during his rookie season, Vander Esch took the world by storm in 2018. When Lee went down, he was there to not only fill his shoes, but to outplay the veteran all year long.

What is fun to consider is that as good as Vander Esch was this season, Jaylon Smith might be even better. Both posses insane sideline to sideline pursuit ability, and are some of the surest tacklers in all of football.

Watching these two grow together will be a pleasure over the coming seasons.

Their Young Secondary Is Coming Together

Like their linebackers, the Dallas Cowboys secondary is a young group, who fans are excited to watch grow throughout the years. It seemed like more pressure sat on the shoulders of young cornerbacks Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie than of Smith and Vander Esch, however.

With Kris Richard joining the staff and making the decision to move Jones to cornerback full time, it was do-or-die for the former first round pick. Byron Jones answered all the doubters, earning not only a Pro Bowl selection but also First Team All Pro honors for his performance.

Opposite him, Awuzie had a rough start to his sophomore campaign. While typically right there in coverage, wide outs too often made contested catches over him. Over the final few weeks of the year, however, that changed and Awuzie played some of the best football yet.

Xavier Woods, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis (in much fewer snaps) all had fantastic seasons as well, giving the Cowboys great hope and confidence in their secondary moving forward. They may need to add another safety during the offseason, however, though Jeff Heath remains more than just a viable option.

Dak Prescott Is Here To Stay

Whether or not you think it's justified, Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the future in Dallas. And he earned that right the back-half of 2018 and during the postseason. After a shaky start to his 3rd season, Prescott turned things around nicely, leading the Cowboys to a 7-1 finish to the regular season.

Prescott played the best football of his young career down the stretch, and showed just how valuable he is both on the field and in the locker room. It seemed like every game he made 2-3 winning plays that put the Cowboys over the top that afternoon.

Dak is going to get a contract extension, and will be locked in as a Cowboy for the foreseeable future, and with the way he played the final 10 games of his season, I can't second guess this decision much at all.



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