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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?

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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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2 Comments
  • Rich

    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

      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.

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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