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If Dez Bryant’s Released, Don’t Blame the Salary Cap

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Tweet Break: Dez Bryant Speaks Out on Missing Meetings, Medical Treatment
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Friday's highly anticipated meeting between Jerry Jones and Dez Bryant could mean the end of the receiver's eight-year relationship with the Dallas Cowboys. If Bryant is released, some will likely refer to him as a salary cap casualty.

The Cowboys salary cap, and the timing of the move, suggest otherwise.

While releasing Dez now would create an immediate $8.5 million in cap space, that money isn't really needed in mid-April. Top free agents, and the lucrative contracts they require, are no longer on the market.

Furthermore, Dallas already has nearly all the cap room needed to fund their 2018 rookie class. Depending on who gets drafted, they can easily release a player like tight end James Hanna ($2.75M relief) to secure their rookies.

If that's not enough, all of the cap space the Cowboys could need for the rest of the year should come from reaching long-terms deals with guard Zack Martin and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin

Right now, Zack Martin counts $9.3 million against the cap. He received the fifth-year option on his rookie deal which pays him like a lesser version of the franchise tag.

As soon as Martin signs a long-term contract, that cap figure will drop. Dallas will almost certainly do an immediate restructure which could bring the 2018 hit down to as low as $3-$4 million. That's $5-6 million in relief; all you need to handle the rest of your 2018 business.

Assuming DeMarcus Lawrence also gets a new deal, more savings are coming. The first year salary will drop him from the $17 million franchise tag number to something at least a few million lower. A restructure would drop it even more.

Those deals should be done well before the Cowboys head to training camp in July, which is when they need to have their rookie contracts finalized. Ideally, they would have them done by June 1st to take advantage of any new free agents that may emerge after a new round of cuts.

But don't let anyone tell you that the Cowboys need Dez Bryant's money to facilitate the deals with Lawrence and Martin.

The cap hits that DeMarcus and Zack have right now are the highest they will have for 2018. Any new deals will bring those numbers down, so you don't need another penny of cap relief to get them done.

Jason Garrett, Earl Thomas

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas.

There is really only one cap-related reason that Dallas might want to cut Dez Bryant, and it's the potential trade for Seattle safety Earl Thomas.

This notion, discussed heavily for months, may still be on the table. If the Cowboys ultimately decide they want Thomas, his contract demands will be close to $10-11 million per year.

But the increasingly conservative Dallas front office seems unlikely to make this move. Not only does paying top dollar for a 29-year-old safety create concern, but the draft picks that would have to go to Seattle are precious.

What's more, Dallas could find other ways to clear the space. We've already outlined how they could free up over $10 million with the Lawrence and Martin deals, plus cutting Hanna. They could also make Tyrone Crawford a cap casualty if needed.

Dallas could also save $3.25M by cutting receiver Cole Beasley, if they're okay with losing receivers. That would seem a less painful move now after the signings of Deonte Thompson and with Ryan Switzer entering his second year.

Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant

So no, friends, don't call it a cap casualty.

If Dallas moves on from Dez Bryant, it has more to do with the relationship between team and player. It may be the lack of chemistry Bryant has with quarterback Dak Prescott, or his decreasing production over the last three years.

It may be the wearing down by coaches and teammates with Bryant's sideline and locker room personality, which becomes far less tolerable if the player isn't backing it up on the field.

It could be how Dez seems unable to stay healthy. Even though he played all 16 games last year, he missed 10 games from 2015-2016. What's more, Bryant always seems to be nursing some sort of play-hindering injury.

It also may be the belief that Dez isn't going to get any better from here. His physical style may have finally caught up to him, leading to an early degradation of physical ability.

Along those lines, it may be frustration that Bryant hasn't done more to improve the technical side of his game. Now that he's slipping a little athletically, his deficiencies in route running and other skills are becoming more exposed.

Jerry Jones, Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and WR Dez Bryant

When Jerry and Dez meet, the conversation will involve finances. The Cowboys may want Bryant to accept a pay cut, which could spare them having to cut a guy like James Hanna or make some other move.

But at this point, given all of the other options the teams has to clear cap space, it's really more about wanting to reset their relationship with the player. The pay cut may be a symbolic gesture; an admission that Dez hasn't delivered as a franchise WR since getting his new contract.

For all we know, nothing will change after this meeting. Bryant may call the team's bluff and win, keeping his money and his job for one more season.

After all, Dallas may ultimately decide that losing Dez costs more than whatever the cap space could bring in. They still get a solid starting WR for 2018 and can then cut him next offseason with only $4 million in dead money, as opposed to $8 million now.

But the Cowboys may not be bluffing. Moving on from Dez Bryant may very much be on the radar, and it could happen as soon as tomorrow.

Just rest assured that, if it does happen, it was about more than money.


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
  • Randy Martin

    Seattle needs receivers…what do you think about a trade that involves Dez for ET, and if the teams deem that trade would involve draft picks, make it happen. That trade would mean we don’t need to look for a safety in the draft, at least not early, and we can go get DJ Moore at 19. I would like to see a Dez, Hurns tandem, but I’m resigned to the possibility it might not happen so might as well get a great player in return!

  • Russ_Te

    I’d be good with cutting Crawford for a project DL’er… ;^)

    No to:

    – Trade for Thomas. You lose picks, cap $ and Woods can’t get in the game at his natural FS

    – Long deal for Lawrence. Better to spend the $17 million this year off of his 2017, then see what his value looks like next offseason. You can still do a multi-year then, on more solid info that you’re not spending into out years and possibly ending up with dead money on an injured or released player. The team was jammed up on Romo that way, and just re-worked Witten for multi-years with a likely same result for out years. They need to get out of that – it’s how you end up broke at FA time.

  • Russ_Te

    All I want for camp is a fast WR… ;^)

Dallas Cowboys

REPORT: Cowboys DL David Irving’s Accuser Retracts Claims Of Domestic Violence

Kevin Brady

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David Irving

After what was a rather crazy day which resulted in reports the Frisco Police Department were investigating Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving for domestic violence, the accuser has now retracted her claims.

https://twitter.com/DCBlueStar/status/988527577915674624

This retraction comes after the mentioned reports of domestic violence claims against David Irving earlier in the day. Irving was neither arrested nor charged for the incidents, though two separate allegations were made.

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms allegations made against Cowboys player David Irving were reported on April 22nd. At two separate times: 5pm & 10pm. Allegations made by girlfriend @wfaa

Irving has claimed through his own social media account that his accuser is an ex-girlfriend looking for retaliation over a breakup. Irving has already said he has changed the locks on his house in attempt to change behavior moving forward.

Whether or not Irving abused his reported ex-girlfriend is not for me to say, but it will be interesting to see how Roger Goodell handles the matter after she retracted her claims later in the day. As we know very well, the NFL can claim violation of the personal conduct policy even if the justice system pursues no charges.

And the results of both the Frisco PD's investigation and that of the league office will be intriguing over the coming weeks and months.


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Player News

REPORT: Cowboys DE/DT David Irving Suspected of Domestic Violence

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

[4/24/18 UPDATE: Irving's accuser has since recanted with police. However, the NFL could still investigate under their domestic violence policy.]

ORIGINAL STORY

Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving is under investigation by Frisco, TX police for charges of domestic violence, according to a report by Jobin Panicker of WFAA-ABC in Dallas.

The following was tweeted from Panicker's account not long ago:

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms it is investigating serious allegations against Cowboys player David Irving. No arrests. Assault-Bodily Injury, Unlawful Restraint, & Assault-Impeding Breath and Circulation @wfaa

Jobin Panicker on Twitter

BREAKING @FriscoPD confirms allegations made against Cowboys player David Irving were reported on April 22nd. At two separate times: 5pm & 10pm. Allegations made by girlfriend @wfaa

The veracity of the accusations are certainly not ours to judge, but other recent events on Irving's social suggest he is in the middle of a breakup with his girlfriend. Posts early this morning on his Twitter account appeared to be from an unauthorized user, and David later posted on both Twitter and Instagram that someone had hacked him.

Furthermore, Irving shared that he was already taking steps due to the volatile situation.

David Ja Rodd Irving on Twitter

@DCBlueStar Changed the locks yesterday

While personal lives should stay that way, Cowboys fans are understandably concerned after what happened last year with Ezekiel Elliott. As we saw then, Roger Goodell's "justice" system allows for just an accusation to lead to a suspension. There is no burden of proof on the accuser.

And as in that case, even if the police dismiss the allegation, the NFL can still pursue the matter under the personal conduct and domestic violence policies.

It would be nice to just say "let the process play out," but the NFL commissioner doesn't hold himself to that standard. Therefore, we have to report this as it could mean consequences for David Irving and the Dallas Cowboys no matter how legitimate the claims are.


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Player News

Jaylon Smith Practicing Without AFO Brace

John Williams

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Jaylon Smith Voted Cowboys' Ed Block Courage Award Winner 1

A lot of the talk circling the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL Draft is the need for the Cowboys to draft a linebacker as insurance to Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith's injury issues.

One of the questions, Sean Lee, will always be a question. When he's on the field, he's as good a linebacker as there is in the NFL. In 2016, he finally got in a near full season and rewarded the Dallas Cowboys with an All-Pro season that led the team to the playoffs. Talent has never been the issue with Lee. Keeping him on the field has been.

Jaylon Smith's question isn't his health as much as it is his recovery. The surgery to repair his ACL and MCL that he suffered at the end of his final season at Notre Dame was considered a success. There was a caveat, however, that there was no telling how much functionality would return because of the massive nerve injury that occurred.

Last year, Jaylon Smith actually played football games. No small step. In some games he made some plays and in other games, it was clear that he was still struggling with changing directions and running with receivers and running backs in coverage.

Time is Jaylon's biggest ally and another offseason removed from his injury should only help him get stronger and more confident in his recovering knee.

Lost in all of the Dez Bryant hoopla was a beautiful little nugget that Jaylon Smith teased Cowboys Nation with last week.

Jaylon provided a great look at his training regimen on the first day of team workouts and if you look closely, you'll see with a Clear Eye View that Jaylon Smith isn't wearing a brace, tape, or any other kind of support. On his knee or foot.

Jaylon Smith on Twitter

Focused vision, Determined belief, Earned dreams. #ClearEyeView

Remember that even after Jaylon was playing and practicing without a knee brace, he was still requiring an AFO brace to help with his foot drop.

Oh, how much one offseason can change things.

Mike Fisher, now of 247Sports.com, quoted Smith as saying, "I have more power and more flexibility now. And the dropfoot (issue) is fading. Absolutely!'' over on Scout.com, and there was this:

"As our colleague Bryan Broaddus has previously noted, it does seem that some of the testing is behind him, that the nerve is regenerating, that the repaired knee is stronger than ever and that more improvement is ahead of him. Smith's 6-2, 245-pound body is about as sculpted as is imaginable. His mind is sculpted, too, the result of his faith and his intellect and his personality and more. He suggests now that more improvement is inevitable, and that includes the medical improvement that is now, to him, simply "a matter of timing.'''

Mike Fisher - 105.3 The Fan and 247Sports.com

There is still a lot of hope around The Star and Cowboys Nation that Jaylon Smith can return to the All-American form that was projecting him as a top-five talent in the 2016 NFL Draft. If he's healthy and moving with better lateral movement and agility than he was in 2017, that's a huge step forward for Jaylon Smith and the Dallas Cowboys.

The progression of his knee and his confidence in said knee is going to be a huge determining factor in Dallas' plans to draft a linebacker. If they feel confident that he will be a more functional linebacker in 2018 than he was in 2017, then perhaps they could wait until day two or three to address the linebacker position.

We can't fully know their intentions as we get closer to draft day. How they address the linebacker position in the 2018 NFL Draft could give us an excellent indication of how they feel about Jaylon Smith's progression.

What we do know is that Jaylon Smith will never give up working toward being an elite middle linebacker. Let's hope he can realize his dreams. Everyone will be better for it.


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