The key word buzzing around the Dallas Cowboys right now is contracts. From Dak Prescott to Ezekiel Elliott to Amari Cooper to Byron Jones, and with other young stars on the horizon, the team is looking for ways to hold on to as much of its talent as possible. Today, given the concerns that are out there, I wanted to show you just how possible it really is.
Another key factor is the amount of cap space that should be opened up by the end of the season. Just consider the following players with expiring contracts:
- OT La'el Collins - $9.9 million cap hit
- DE Robert Quinn - $8 million
- LB Sean Lee - $6 million
- WR Randall Cobb - $4.56 million
- TE Jason Witten - $4.25 million
- S Jeff Heath - $2.95 million
- DT Maliek Collins - $2.2 million
- TOTAL: $37.9 million
Another big gain will come from Tyrone Crawford's contract. Dallas could save $7 million this year if he doesn't make the 2019 roster, and $8 million is if he's released in 2020.
There's also $5.5 million in dead money from the contracts of previously released players such as Terrance Williams, Orlando Scandrick, and Allen Hurns that will be expiring.
So now, between current cap space, expiring contracts and dead money, and cutting Crawford, we now have about $73 million to work with in 2020. That's when the large cap hits of any of these extensions will really take effect.
We have our available funds, so let's take a quick look at what market value is for our young stars.
We've heard about $32 million as the average salary on Dak Prescott's new deal, which would match what Carson Wentz just got from the Eagles. Ezekiel Elliott wants about $15 million in line with Todd Gurley, and Amari Cooper will likely be seeing $18-$19 million based on the contracts of Michael Thomas and Odell Beckham.
For Byron Jones, the top-five CB contracts average about $14-$15 million. So if we add all that up, we come to roughly $80-$81 million in average salary on these four deals.
So, working against the $73 million we discussed already, that does create a deficit. But we have yet to consider a crucial detail that many commonly forget.
Many hear "Ezekiel Elliott seeks over $15 million per year" and don't consider that he already counts $7.9 million against the cap as is. If Zeke gets re-signed, the bump in those first few years is only going to be about $5-$6 million more than the present.
Amari Cooper already counts $13.9 million against the cap. Byron Jones counts $6.3 million and Dak Prescott counts $2.1 million. All together, these four guys have a composite cap hit of $30.2 million.
So, with this taken into consideration, we really only need about $50 million to get these players extended. And considering the first few years of the contracts will generally come in below the average, the actual amounts needed for 2019 and 2020 would be a little below that.
Now we're not talking about a deficit anymore. Dallas would still have well over $20 million from that $73 million we put together earlier, perhaps using some of it to it re-sign players like Randall Cobb or Robert Quinn depending on how they perform in 2019.
Of course, there will be casualties. Dallas will likely have to let OT La'el Collins leave in free agency and hope that either promoting Cam Fleming or moving Connor Williams to right tackle covers them from 2020.
It also means not hanging on to veterans like Jason Witten or Sean Lee beyond this year unless they are willing to take major pay decreases. But that could be a moot point if either retires, which is fairly likely for both.
Now you may be wondering why, if this looks so easy, we're even having the current issue with Ezekiel Elliott's holdout. Why not just pay him if it's so doable?
The issue isn't just the 2019 or 2020 salary cap. The Cowboys have to think about the future for players like Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods, and every other young player they're projecting will deserve a second contract in the coming years.
It is by those future years that the cap hits on Zeke, Byron, and others could potentially restrict your activity with other player. But by then, there are all sorts of new realities that could also be at work
How many more years will Tyron Smith be viable at his high cap hit? And what will future increases to the league's salary cap, plus a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2020, mean for the financial landscape of the NFL down the road?
Also, in a few years, how comfortable will Dallas be to dip back into the restructuring business with contracts of Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Zack Martin, and others? It's a dangerous game, but a way to create salary cap room if necessary.
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The bottom line here is that everything is possible. There is way more cap space out there than many would lead you to believe, and especially if the Cowboys continue filling their team with quality draft picks as they have in recent years.
The issue with Zeke is about a lot of things. It's about the overall value of the RB position, which the NFL seems to be collectively trying to keep from exploding after the recent deals for Gurley, David Johnson, and Le'Veon Bell. It's also about Elliott's personal history and Dallas wanting some assurances if he finds himself in the Commissioner's office anymore.
Money is an issue but only because these mitigating factors. From a purely fiscal standpoint, Dallas CAN pay Elliott. Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott, Byron Jones, and any other young stud they want to hang on to over the next several years.
Just give it time, and don't let mainstream sports media fool you into overly worrying.
Taco Charlton Isn’t Going Anywhere After Strong Preseason Week 3
Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Taco Charlton might be turning things around. The former first round draft pick didn't have a great couple of seasons to start his career off, which forced him to be in a battle to earn a spot on the Cowboys 53-man roster this offseason. Three weeks into the preseason, it looks like he's a lock to make the team. In a "Dress Rehearsal" game that went great for the Cowboys, Charlton's performance was among the best players.
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed how the Cowboys' younger defensive ends could force the team to move on from Taco. From Dorance Armstrong to Jalen Jelks, there's a handful of promising players that were participating in a positional battle that one way or another, included Taco Charlton.
However, the Michigan product showed up to play versus the Los Angeles Rams with two passes batted down. Despite making such plays, we still hadn't seen much from him in the pass rush department.
That changed against the Houston Texans last Saturday when he managed to get two sacks (one strip-sack), two forced fumbles and a recovery. This was undoubtedly Taco's best game in his career. He still has a lot to prove, but it was definitely good to see him have a "breakout" preseason game.
With such performance, it doesn't seem like he'll be going anywhere in 2019. Charlton won't be a starter for this team, but he could become a very important rotational piece for Rod Marinelli's defense. He has a great opportunity to find playing time during the first two weeks of the season before Robert Quinn returns from suspension.
One unfortunate note was that in his best game yet, Taco went out injured twice (ankle). The first time he went back to the field to get some more but had to walk off the field for a second time. Hopefully, he's able to play next Thursday but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't after having a breakout game versus the Texans.
Taco Charlton still has a very long way to justify being a first-round pick, but his play against Houston was a start. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in the 2019 regular season. He'll have to fight for playing time and he'll have to make every snap count to turn his career around.
Cowboys’ Taryn Christion Gets Time at QB; More Coming?
Last night was the first time we've seen Taryn Christion, the Dallas Cowboys' fourth quarterback on the current depth chart, actually playing the position in preseason. Could we see more of Christion at QB in this Thursday's finale, and at what point should Mike White be worried?
Signed just a few days before training camp began, Christion has been tried at running back, receiver, and various special teams units while the Cowboys were in Oxnard. But last week he started getting more time at quarterback, and last night's win over the Houston Texans saw him playing a few drives at QB to close the game out.
Sure, Taryn came in fourth behind White in the rotation. But that Dallas thought to give him reps in that game, the critical dress rehearsal game, is telling.
Jason Garrett doesn't get cute with rotations and playing time. He's old school, and there's meaning in every decision he makes about when and how guys get time in preseason.
Ironically, the decision came following Mike White's best preseason game this year. He went 6-of-9 for 56 yards and a touchdown, plus avoided any sacks or turnovers.
Rather than let White keep building on that, though, Dallas pulled him for Taryn Christion in the 4th quarter. It seemed as if the Cowboys were determined to get him some time at QB.
An even better showcase will come this Thursday night. The Cowboys host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final preseason game; we know Dak Prescott won't be playing, and the team may even protect Cooper Rush with limited time on the field.
Dallas likely intends to give Christion some significant playing time on Thursday. And to help make that easier, they played him last night to get some of those butterflies out of his system.
No, Taryn Christion probably isn't going to make the 53-man roster. Neither is Mike White, for that matter. It feels like the battle for the number-three QB is more about the practice squad now.
But whatever the case, the battle seems to be heating up. Dallas appears more invested in Christion now as a quarterback than at any other point since he arrived; some added intrigue for Thursday's final preseason game.
HOU 0, DAL 34: Defense Dominates in Dress Rehearsal Game
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't have scripted a better result in tonight's dress rehearsal game against the Houston Texans. All three phases of the game made big plays as they dominated 34 to 0.
The night belonged to the defense as they terrorized Houston's starters and reserves along the offensive line with 8 sacks. Taco Charlton, a former first-round pick turned outcast was the star of the night with 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. In my opinion, if there were any doubts about him making the roster he put them to bed tonight.
Kerry Hyder showed once again why he's one of the smartest free-agent signings of 2019. After being a lost man in the 3-4 defensive scheme with his former team the Lions, he's done a really good job applying pressure even though he hadn't recorded any sacks in the first two preseason games. However, tonight he recorded 2 sacks and reminded everyone of the player who had 8 sacks in 2016.
The young guys weren't to be left out in this defensive clinic. Dorance Armstrong, Trysten Hill, Daniel Wise, and Joe Jackson all had half sacks. Rookie Safety Donovan Wilson had one of the plays of the night with a beautiful interception as he tapped both feet before heading out of bounds. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin, who will probably make the roster on his special teams ability, got in on the interception party himself high pointing a contested pass.
Dak Prescott was only 2 for 5 (11 for 14 in the preseason) but managed to escape what looked like a sure sack and roll to his left and threw a rope to Michael Gallup for a touchdown. The two have shown a lot of growth and chemistry during training camp, something that was missing at times in 2018.
Wide Receiver Devin Smith had 6 receptions for 79 yards while Cedrick Wilson snagged 3 passes on 4 targets. Both receivers are fighting for the final roster spots in the receiver group which they'll have to continue to do next week against the Buccaneers.
Tight End Marcus Lucas had a very solid game with 4 catches for 50 yards. He will definitely be a player to watch in the final preseason game before final cuts are made. Cooper Rush went 15 for 25 and further solidified his position as the primary backup to Prescott. Mike White was also solid going 6 for 9 and tossing a touchdown.
Special teams got in on the action themselves when Linebacker Joe Thomas recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Now the Cowboys have only one more preseason game before the 2019 season begins. All that's left now is figuring out the last few roster spots and staying as healthy as possible. September 8th is right around the corner.
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