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Leaner QB Cap Figures to Follow Tony Romo’s Departure

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Tony Romo Career Start Percentage Compared To Other NFL QBs 1

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.

Position Breakdowns: SPECIAL TEAMS | RUNNING BACKS | SAFETIES | TIGHT ENDS | LINEBACKERS | GUARDS & CENTERS | DEFENSIVE TACKLES | OFFENSIVE TACKLES | DEFENSIVE ENDS | CORNERBACKS | RECEIVERS

Cowboys Capology: Quarterbacks

"Tony Romo's contract" is probably the most-talked-about phrase in all of Cowboys Nation right now. While the rest of NFL world is focused on his next team, the Cowboys are trying to figure out the best way to handle his departure.

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.

Confirmed 2017 Salary Cap = $167 million
Cowboys 2016 Cap Rollover = $2.4 million

Dallas Cowboys 2017 Salary Cap = $169.4 million

Now, using that number as our foundation, let's look at how much the Cowboys' quarterbacks are scheduled to cost against the 2017 salary cap.

Dak Prescott

2017 Cap Hit: $636k

Before we get to Tony Romo, let's take a quick look at the incredible bargain we have in Prescott's rookie deal. His cap hits over these next three seasons never go over $1 million. It's the kind of opportunity that the Seattle Seahawks had a few years ago with Russell Wilson; a playoff-caliber QB making minimal money and allowing them to stockpile talent around him.

The fourth year of Prescott's contract is open to negotiation. If he stays on the same successful trajectory, it's not hard to see Dallas signing Dak to a long-term extension at that point. For at least these next two seasons, though, Prescott is going to give the Cowboys to have great a QB without the high salary.

Tony Romo

QB Tony Romo

Tony Romo

2017 Cap Hit: $24.7 million

While there are a few people hanging on to hope, most of us understand that Romo will not be coming back to Dallas in 2017. There's more than one way that can happen.

We'll be going into much further detail about the other ways things can go with Romo, including the June-1st option, at the end of this article.

Free Agents

Kellen Moore - While he did perform the best of Dallas' QB carousel in 2015, Moore still didn't inspire much confidence. The best thing you can say about him last year is that he got hurt early and opened the door for Prescott to become a rookie phenom.

Still, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan knows and appreciates him. Don't be surprised if Kellen gets a minimal one-year deal to come back and compete for the backup job.

Mark Sanchez - His one appearance in Week 17 was about as bad as it can get. Sanchez looked lost, like a rookie playing late in a preseason game. However, with so many starters on the bench by the time he came in, Sanchez may not have received a fair opportunity to show what he can do.

I've given up on trying to project what veterans would make good backups. Matt Cassel seemed, on paper, to be as good as you could hope for and was a bust. If Sanchez wants to come back and compete with Moore for the job, I can't definitively say that there are better options out there.

2017 Salary Cap Impact

Total Quarterback Cap Hit = $25.34 million
Percentage of 2017 Salary Cap = 14.96%

Romo will count $19.6 million against the Cowboys' cap if he's traded or released, or even if he retires. That's an immediate $5.1 million saved, which isn't a small amount. That's a solid chunk that can go towards signing a new pass rusher or cornerback.

If Dallas uses the June-1st designation, Romo's 2017 cap hit drops to $12.7 million. That means an additional $6.9 million will be available this year, though not until June 2nd. That money can be used to sign draft picks or potentially extend contracts for guys like Zach Martin, La'el Collins, or DeMarcus Lawrence.

If the June-1st provision is used then that $6.9 million will be dead money in 2018. If they haven't already made their decision, the Cowboys should be thinking long and hard about if they'd rather pay that bill now or defer it to next season. Which makes more sense based on their current needs?

Tony Romo

QB Tony Romo

Next year, Dak Prescott will still count less than $1 million against your cap. If all of the Tony Romo dead money is gone, that is the time that Dallas could try to "go all in" on a championship. Not only would the Romo money be out of the way but Jason Witten's $12 million cap hit will also be gone. Huge spending room could finally be available.

You can look at it one of two ways. Eat all of Romo's dead money now and you give yourself even more spending power in 2018. That's cap space which would be there for you in the prime time of the 2018 free agent market. Deferring it doesn't help you in this year's FA market but stills has its uses.

$6.9 million is a lot of cap space. My hope is that Dallas will find a way to conduct business this year without deferring it. Deal with Romo's full $19 million cap hit now and you are going to be sitting pretty in next year's free agency, able to make whatever move and add whatever talent you want.

When was the last time we ever said that about the Cowboys?



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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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rich

    February 26, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Swallow the medicine now and avoid stupid contracts like this in the future. Dead money is the enemy. It is one thing to restructure Tron and Fred to bring in a couple of studs. It is a whole other thing to have to restructure them to pay dead money for a guy that wasn’t even here last year. Much less this year and by all means avoid having any dead money next year. Take the hit and learn from it.

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      February 27, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      I agree. I’d feel different if we got that extra cap space now, but it’s not nearly as valuable after June 1st as it would be in next year’s FA market.

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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?

A season after Jason Witten's retirement, the Dallas Cowboys still have a need at tight end. Replacing a future Hall of Famer is no easy feat so it's only logical that it would take longer than a season to feel good about who's in at tight end.

The Cowboys currently have two tight ends who could be pretty serviceable going forward. Fourth round pick Dalton Schultz did a very solid job as the team's TE2, specially toward the second half of the season. He turned into a pretty good run blocker and despite only racking up 116 yards in 12 catches, he's a guy the Cowboys' offense could use even more in the future.

Also on the team is Blake Jarwin, who functioned as the Cowboys' main tight end for most of 2018. His performance against the New York Giants in week 17 made us wonder whether or not he could be an important target on the Cowboys' offense.

These two could very well have more in them than what we've seen. With a new offensive coordinator in town, tight end is a position the Cowboys could start using way more. As Bobby Belt pointed out on Twitter a few weeks ago, Scott Linehan's offense doesn't benefit tight ends very much. Before we give a verdict on what Schultz and Jarwin can do, I'd like to see them work with Kellen Moore's offense.

Bobby Belt on Twitter

One thing you consistently see when Scott Linehan takes over an offense is a drop in the starting tight end's production. Randy McMichael, Byron Chamberlain, and Jason Witten all saw drops in yards per catch, receptions per game, and yards per game once Linehan took over.

Here's the thing. If the Cowboys are not taking a tight end in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, are they really upgrading what they already have? I'm not sure we'll be convinced about that if they draft a player for the position until the third or fourth round. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for the Cowboys drafting a TE in the second round, because I believe there are more pressing needs on the team. However, signing a veteran free agent might be the better option for upgrading the position.

Should a veteran TE be an option?

This year, there are quite a few interesting names in the tight end market. Veterans such as Jared Cook, Tyler Eifert and even Antonio Gates will be looking for a new team pretty soon. I know, that would be "getting older." But it could also mean getting better. Building a solid TE committee with a veteran leading Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz could be the way to go for this football team.

Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency? 1

TE Tyler Eifert (Aaron Doster / USA TODAY Sports)

Eifert is a great tight end... when he's on the field. Durability is his biggest weakness, as he hasn't played more than 10 games since 2016. The Cowboys could take a risk on him and constantly rotate him with Jarwin and Schultz. It may be a huge risk, but it could pay off big time. If the price is right, Eifert should be targeted by the front office.

The 2018 Oakland Raiders had a season to forget, winning only four games. Even still, Jared Cook's season was impressive. He finished the year with 896 yards and multiple 100-yard games. The biggest issue with Cook is his age. He turns 32 in April. But hey, he's literally coming off from a career year.

Jesse James is a younger guy who could also be worth it. He's not an a potent receiver, but he gets it done in the passing game and is one hell of a blocker. James could be a legit, cheaper option for the Cowboys in free agency.

There are a lot of names out there the front office could look at. Charles Clay was just released by the Buffalo Bills and Nick Boyle will be looking for new job after new arrivals pushed him out of the Baltimore Ravens' roster just to mention a few names.

We'll see what the front office's plans are soon enough, but right now, I'd say tight end is a need the Dallas Cowboys should at least try to address in free agency instead of the NFL Draft.

Tell me what you think about "Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Cornerback

Jess Haynie

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Byron Jones

Unlike other positions on their roster, cornerback appears ready to off the Dallas Cowboys stability in 2019. However, that doesn't mean the team can just ignore it this offseason. There are still a few decisions to be made.

Thanks to a shrewd move in April of last year, Dallas will be enjoying Byron Jones' services at a bargain. They picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract and will be paying him just $6.3 million next season.

That's a steal for a Pro Bowl corner, who generally make more than double that amount in a single year. But the Cowboys are still left the decision of whether or not to give Jones a long-term deal now or wait until he hits free agency in 2020.

It's easy to say that they should enjoy the discount and worry about it next year. But then you risk a second Pro Bowl trip and the lure of the open market. Byron's asking price could only go up.

Of course, Dallas could then also have the option of using the franchise tag.

Keep in mind that Jones will turn 27 this September. Dallas could decide that it makes sense to play through the rookie deal this year, franchise him in 2020, and then reassess when he's about to turn 29 years old.

If they give Byron a long-term deal now then they'll have to pay him like one of the top corners in football. It may be wise to wait.

Chidobe Awuzie, Giants

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

Another decision facing the Cowboys is if they think they can improve at the second starting position. It was an up-and-down year for Chidobe Awuzie, but he was playing his best toward the end of the season. Dallas could hope that a second year with Kris Richard's coaching, and just more general growth for a third-year player, will elevate Awuzie's game.

However, with plenty of cap space to work with, Dallas could pursue a solid veteran option and then allow Awuzie to play the nickel role. It would not only perhaps improve the CB2 position but also bolster depth overall.

Speaking of depth, Anthony Brown returns for the final year of his rookie deal. While never spectacular, Brown has been a gem as a former sixth-round pick with 29 career starts. He brings exceptional value and may even compete with Awuzie for the starting job.

While arguably the team's best young corner in 2017, Jourdan Lewis comes into this season with a lot of uncertainty. He fell out of favor last season, perhaps for not fitting the physical style that Richard likes. But he did manage to snag the game-clinching interception in Dallas' upset win over the New Orleans Saints.

If a scheme mismatch is the issue, the Cowboys could look to trade Lewis this offseason. He still has two years left on his rookie deal and was considered a first-round prospect by some in 2017. A cornerback-needy club might have more use for him than Dallas seems to.

If they did move Jourdan, the Cowboys might turn to Donovan Olumba to fill out the depth chart. He was one of their surprising performers in last year's training camp and spent the year on the practice squad. At 6'2", he has the size that the team seems to be looking for now in its corners.

More than likely, Dallas will ride with this group in 2019 with no big changes. I do think a Lewis trade is possible, especially with the Cowboys short on draft picks this year. But don't expect any major cap space or draft capital to go at one of the team's more solid positions.

With all the other work Dallas needs done this offseason, a little stability at cornerback is a luxury.



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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center

Jess Haynie

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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Even with Dez Bryant's release and Jason Witten's retirement, the loss of Travis Frederick last season may have been the most damaging to the Dallas Cowboys. The team looks forward to getting their All-Pro center back in 2019 while also having a reliable backup still under contract.

Just within the last few weeks, Frederick has provided encouraging updates on his status for next year. It looks like he'll be able to participate in all offseason activities, but the Cowboys would settle for Week One. There appears to be plenty of cushion for that to happen.

Travis' absence in 2018 was seen in various ways. Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times, second-most in all the league, after just 32 and 25 times the previous two seasons. Part of that is missing Frederick's blocking ability, but also the way he would assist with reading the defense and making pre-snap adjustments.

Dallas would've loved having Frederick out there to help Guard Connor Williams, who worked with Travis throughout the offseason only to lose him in late August. It was not an easy way for the rookie to start his career.

We also saw issues in the run game. Even while Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing, short-yardage situations weren't as easy as they used to be. The Rams were able to neutralize the Cowboys' rushing attack in Dallas' playoff loss, something that Frederick might have helped overcome.

Joe Looney

Dallas Cowboys G/C Joe Looney

This isn't saying that Joe Looney did a bad job. On the contrary, Looney was more than adequate and helped keep Dallas from suffering far greater damage without Frederick.

After Joe's work in 2018, Dallas won't blink at keeping him on the $1 million salary he's due next year. It's a bargain for a backup of his quality, and especially given his versatility as an option at guard as well.

Not only are Frederick and Looney locked in for 2019, but Dallas also still has backup Adam Redmond under contract through next season. He was added after final cuts last year to be Looney's backup and should return to at least help the team through July and August.

With these guys already in place, there's no reason to think that Dallas will give much attention to the center position during the offseason.

At most, a mid-round draft pick might be used on a player who could potentially replace Looney in 2020 as the backup. Joe's contract ends next season, and he could be competitive for starting jobs with other teams at that point.

With lots of other concerns throughout the roster, Dallas is fortunate to have so much security at center. All signs are positive on Travis Frederick's return, and that is a huge boost to the team as it looks to push forward from last year's playoff run.



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