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The Genius Of Tony Romo’s Contract For The Dallas Cowboys

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Cowboys Blog - Tony Romo and the Statistical Argument, Not the Answers

Last year, Tony Romo received a new contract, and it was trumpeted that he signed a 6 year, $108 million contract extension that pays him $18 million per season.  Many people were upset.  Also, many people are still upset because it seems that the Cowboys are killing themselves in future seasons by constantly restructuring Romo’s deal.

What I want to explain is why that is the wrong way to look at Romo’s contract.  In fact, Romo’s contract is a masterpiece of financial planning, and Stephen Jones deserves a lot of credit for helping provide financial stability for the Cowboys at the starting QB position for the foreseeable future.

Let me explain…

Although it was reported that Romo’s contract was a 6 year deal, in fact, it was a 7 year contract.  Here are the official numbers.

  •  Official length and size:  7 yrs, $119.5 million, $25 million signing bonus, $55 million guaranteed

Breakout:

  • $25 million in bonus paid up front.
  • (Age 33) 2013 Salary - $1.5 million + $5 million prorated bonus
  • (Age 34) 2014 Salary - $13.5 million + $5 million prorated bonus
  • (Age 35) 2015 Salary - $17 million + $5 million prorated bonus
  • (Age 36) 2016 Salary - $8.5 million + $5 million prorated bonus
  • (Age 37) 2017 Salary - $14 million + $5 million prorated bonus
  • (Age 38) 2018 Salary - $19.5 million
  • (Age 39) 2019 Salary - $20.5 million

So, let's dive into the analysis of this contract.

  • Average Salary over first 3 years - $19 million per season
  • Average Salary over first 4 years - $16.375 million per season
  • Average Salary over first 5 years - $15.9 million per season
  • Average Salary over entire 7 years - $17.07 million per season

The first thing that jumps out at me is the Big drop in Salary in the 4th year of the contract.  The second thing that jumps out at me is that the last 2 years of the contract are for $40 million with no prorated signing bonuses.

So, if you look at the contract from the standpoint of being a 5 year contract, then the Cowboys are paying an average of less than $16 million per year, which is exactly what I thought was the right market price for Romo at this point in his career.

I suggested several times last year that the Cowboys would give Romo a 5 year, $80 million contract with a $25 million signing bonus, and about $48 million guaranteed.  In other words, the first 3 years of the contract would be guaranteed.  Well, in fact, if you drop off the last 2 years with the $40 million in salary that Romo is unlikely to see, what Romo got was a 5 yr. contract for $79.5 million, a $25 million bonus, and $55 million guaranteed.  I was over by $500K on the total amount, and under by $7 million on the guarantee.

But if you look even closer, this contract becomes even more CAP friendly for the Cowboys.  It is quite obvious that the Cowboys plan to Restructure Romo's salary in both years 2 & 3 of his contract, and possibly in years 4 & 5.

This year the Cowboys had a CAP number of $22,836,333 for Romo.  But after restructuring his contract next year, he will get about a $12.5 million Restructure bonus with a $1 million salary. That will lower his CAP hit this year by $10 million.  Next year, in 2015, the Cowboys are likely to restructure Romo's contract a 2nd time, giving him say a $2 million salary, and a $15 million Restructure Bonus.  That will lower his CAP hit in 2015 by $12 million - another big way for the Cowboys to save money on the CAP.

Then, in 2016, Romo's contract drops to $8.5 million.  The Cowboys could choose not to restructure his contract that season. With Romo playing the 2016 season at the age of 36, the Cowboys can choose to cut ties with Romo anytime after 2016 and still walk away with a good deal.

After restructuring his contract in 2014 and 2015, here is what the actual breakout will look more like:

Breakout:

  • $25 million in bonus paid up front in 2013
  • (Age 33) 2013 Salary - $1.5 million + $5 million prorated bonus = $6.5 million CAP hit
  • $12.5 million Restructure bonus paid in 2014
  • (Age 34) 2014 Salary - $1 million + $7.5 million prorated bonus = $8.5 million CAP hit
  • $15 million Restructure bonus paid in 2015
  • (Age 35) 2015 Salary - $2 million + $10.5 million prorated bonus = $12.5 million CAP hit
  • (Age 36) 2016 Salary - $8.5 million + $10.5 million prorated bonus = $19 million CAP hit
  • (Age 37) 2017 Salary - $14 million + $10.5 million prorated bonus = $24.5 million CAP hit
  • (Age 38) 2018 Salary - $19.5 million + $5.5 million prorated bonus = $24.5 million CAP hit
  • (Age 39) 2019 Salary - $20.5 million + $3 million prorate bonus = $23.5 million CAP hit.

The Cowboys can cut Romo at age 37 prior to the 2018 season, and only take a $8.5 million DEAD Money CAP hit in 2018.  If you consider that they will likely be paying a new QB on his Rookie contract in that year, taking that CAP hit will be easy to swallow.

Also, if the Cowboys decide to draft a rookie QB in 2015 or 2016, and let him sit for 1-2 years behind Romo, then theoretically the Cowboys can start the 2017 season with at least 2 years left on his Rookie contract.  The Cowboys could designate Romo a June 1st cut, and then take a $10.5 million CAP hit in 2017, and another $8.5 million CAP hit in 2018 while the salary of the new Cowboys QB is still relatively low.

What this means is that the Cowboys have arranged a contract with Romo, that when combined with the rookie contract of a new QB picked in 2015 or 2016, will not cost them more than $19 million per season for the next 6 years.

That, my friends is a very, very well written contract.  Romo get's 4 years to make it work at an average salary of just over $16 million per season - well below the rate the top QB's are getting.  The Cowboys get a contract guaranteed to cost them no more than $19 million per season against the Salary CAP for the starting QB.

(Note:  This does NOT include $14.6 million the Salary CAP hits for Romo's previous contract that are spread over the next 4 seasons.  The Analysis above was strictly for Romo's new contract.)

Now, instead of looking at it from the perspective of an individual player, let’s look at it from the perspective of a General Manager.  If I’m the General Manager, what I want is Salary CAP stability at the starting QB position.  At a time when franchise QB’s are getting paid at a rate of $20 million per year or more, can I reduce that obligation and at the same time, get quality play at the QB position at a reduced rate?

Here is the real deal.  Romo was already scheduled to make $11.5 million in 2013.  If you consider that his contract is ACTUALLY a 4 year deal for $65.5 million, that means that the Cowboys tacked on 3 more years for $54 million - an average of 18 million per season.

Here is where you have to just sit back and appreciate the Genius of the structure of the contract that the Cowboys got Romo to sign.

  1. Assume the Cowboys restructure Romo's $13.5 million salary in 2014 into a $12.5 million signing bonus + $1 million salary.
  2. Assume the Cowboys restructure Romo's $17.0 million salary in 2015 into a $15.0 million signing bonus + $2 million salary.
  3. Assume the Cowboys restructure Romo's $8.5 million salary in 2016 into a $6 million signing bonus + $2.5 million salary.
  4. Assume the Cowboys draft a new young QB in 2016 to replace Orton as the Backup who will learn as Romo’s backup for for 1 season.  The Cowboys draft this kid late in the 1st or early in the 2nd round, and pay him a contract in the range of $8 million over 4 years - an average of $2 million per season.
  5. Assume the Cowboys cut Romo in 2017, but designate him a June 1st cut.

Here are how those moves, along with the new contract Romo just signed, affects the Cowboys salary CAP over the next 6 seasons.

  • 2013 - Romo CAP hit - $6.5 million + $5,318,333 Old Bonus CAP hit (OBCH) = $11,818,833 Total CAP hit
  • 2014 - Romo CAP hit - $8.5 million + $4,336,333 OBCH = $12,836,333 Total CAP hit
  • 2015 - Romo CAP hit - $12.5 million +$3,273,000 OBCH = $15,773,000 Total CAP hit
  • 2016 - Romo CAP hit - $14.5 million +$1,635,000 OBCH = $16,135,000 Total CAP hit
  • 2017 - Romo DEAD money CAP hit - $12.0 million + New QB Salary - $2 million = $14 million Total CAP hit
  • 2018 - Romo DEAD money CAP hit - $11.5 million + New QB Salary - $2 million = $13.5 million Total CAP hit
  • 2019 - Negotiate new Contract for New QB based on performance.

What the Cowboys have done with this contract is guarantee that they will have a very friendly Salary CAP number for the Starting QB for the next 6 years.

Also, the DEAD money for Romo's bonuses in 2017 and 2018 prevent the Cowboys from spending that money on other players - ensuring that they have the CAP space to sign the new QB they draft in 2016 without having to cut a bunch of guys in 2019.  Essentially, the DEAD money acts as a place-holder reserving that part of the CAP for the starting QB in the past and in the future for those 2 seasons.

Genius, I tell you.  Just Genius.  I am in admiration of Stephen Jones.



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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Star Blog

2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones

Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.

Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.

Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.

The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas

Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.

Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.

The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.

Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Time to Stop Making Excuses for QB Dak Prescott?

Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.

Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.

Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Pues en Dallas, hoy dos  jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.

Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.

Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.

Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.

Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial" 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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Star Blog

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

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Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 2

Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.

The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.

The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.

Lock Down the Big Guns

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

@Randy81MossRetires, via Twitter

Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.

Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.

As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.

Adding New Talent

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 1

@brkicks, via Twitter

One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.

Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.

If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.

Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.

Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.

The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.

As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.

Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.



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