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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

Should Cowboys Consider Trading for Disgruntled Packers S Josh Jones?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Consider Trading for Disgruntled Packers S Josh Jones?

Despite their insistence that upgrading the safety position was a top offseason priority, the Dallas Cowboys haven't really done much to improve the backend of their secondary. They did sign former Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals Safety George Iloka as a free agent and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth-round in this year's NFL Draft, but neither player looks like a clear-cut upgrade at this point. Fortunately, there's still time to find Xavier Woods' counterpart for 2019.

Xavier Woods is the only clear-cut starter at safety currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine as to who starts opposite him this season. With that in mind, the Cowboys should be keeping all of their options open, including acquiring players who get released or even making a trade for someone they like. The latter is what I want to talk about today.

A potential safety who could be put on the trade block that I'm kind of intrigued with is Josh Jones, who has reportedly requested a trade from the Green Bay Packers.

Rob Demovsky on Twitter

Packers safety Josh Jones is skipping the voluntary OTAs and working out in Florida because he's hoping to be traded, a source told ESPN. The source said the 2017 second-round pick believes it would be best for both parties if they parted ways. Story coming on ESPN shortly.

Josh Jones clearly sees where he stands with the Green Bay Packers after they signed Adrian Amos in free agency and drafted Darnell Savage Jr. 21st overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, thus his absence from OTA's and trade request. He understands the business and knows he's not going to see the field much behind those two, meaning his best chance for playing time would be in a different uniform.

Josh Jones, Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers S Josh Jones

It's not all that shocking Jones has requested a trade. Even before the Packers added Amos and Savage he wasn't receiving a lot of playing time. He's just never seemed to fit into what Green Bay was trying to do on the backend of their defense. It may be in the best interest of both parties to mutually part ways. This is where the Dallas Cowboys come in.

I believe Josh Jones is exactly the type of safety Kris Richard would like to pair Xavier Woods with on the backend of the Cowboys defense. He fits the criteria Richard likes in his defensive backs as far as size, length, and speed are concerned. And, he also has the kind of skill set/mindset to become that Kam Chancellor "enforcer" type of strong safety.

Josh Jones is at his best when he can play around the line of scrimmage, much like Chancellor was during his time with the Seahawks. But, Jones also has the ability to be a factor in coverage as well. The only real question here is whether or not he's an upgrade over the likes of Jeff Heath, George Iloka, and maybe even rookie Donovan Wilson?

In all honesty, I don't have the answer to that question. Josh Jones really hasn't received a fair opportunity to prove himself in his first two years in the NFL. I believe the skill set is there to start in the league, but there's not much there to back up that belief.

Personally, I'd be willing to part way with a late round pick if I were the Cowboys to acquire Josh Jones. I like the idea of bringing him in to work with Kris Richard and allowing him to compete for the starting job next to Xavier Woods. This is exactly the kind of low risk/high reward move Dallas likes to gamble on, and it could potentially pay off in a big way.

Where do you stand? Should the Cowboys consider trading for Josh Jones?



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How Can The Cowboys Force More Turnovers In 2019?

Kevin Brady

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Ranking The Dallas Cowboys Rookies Through Week 8
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

2018 seemed like the beginning of a new era. A defensive era. For the first time in years the Cowboys were able to consistently lean on their defense during games, staying alive even as their offense sputtered and limped through stretches early in the season.

The defense was downright prolific some weeks. They carried the Cowboys to an inspiring home victory over the New Orleans Saints to put them in prime position to make the playoffs. They dominated the Wild Card game in key moments, making key stops and holding the Seahawks to just 22 points in the win. They featured one of the league's best individual pass rushers in DeMarcus Lawrence, an All Pro cornerback in Byron Jones, and one of the league's most exciting young linebacker duos.

For all of this success, this defense still lacked one thing. Takeaways.

The Cowboys forced only 9 interceptions in 2018, ranking 26th across the league. In fact, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was actually tied with Xavier Woods for the team lead in interceptions with just 2. When it comes to total takeaways the Cowboys' defense was a little better off, though, finishing 16th in the NFL.

Part of the "problem" seems to be their philosophy. The Cowboys have finished 26th, 24th, 27th, and 31st in interceptions dating back to 2015. They've also finished 9th, 25th, 18th, and 19th in team defense DVOA over that same stretch. Clearly there was an improvement in total defense in 2018, but neither their team defense nor ability to take the ball away has been strong since 2015.

The bigger problem, really, is a lack of luck. While this sounds like a cop-out, takeaways often do come down to just that. Of course putting yourself in the right place at the right time to benefit from a batted pass or overthrown ball matters, but those bounces finding the right hands is usually a matter of luck.

Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense

Nov 30, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown (30) returns an interception against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Turnovers are incredibly volatile year to year, and as much as you'd like your players to "make their own luck," randomness does play a part here.

You can certainly argue the Cowboys have done their best this offseason to increase their chances at takeaways, however. By trading for defensive end Robert Quinn, re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence, and adding talented players to the middle of their defensive line as well, Dallas has put an emphasis on getting after the quarterback and corralling the opposing running game. Putting pressure on quarterbacks can force them into quick decision making or bad throws, which could in turn breed interceptions.

This is far from guaranteed, though. Plus the Cowboys play against some of the league's top quarterbacks this year, which hurts their chances of taking the ball away further.

In the end the Cowboys will need both the skill of their pass rushers and defensive backs to put them in good positions, and luck to smile down on them, if they'd like to turn around their takeaway numbers in 2019. And after all, this demoralizing trend has to reverse itself at some point, doesn't it?



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Will It Be The Cowboys, Or Another Team, Who Pays Byron Jones After 2019?

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Headlines -  81

After having his fifth year option exercised for the 2019 season, cornerback Byron Jones enters a contract year this Fall.

Jones inarguably had the best year of his career in 2018: earning not only his first Pro Bowl selection but also Second Team All Pro honors for his performance. Doing it all without an impressive stat sheet, Jones was able to let his film speak for itself throughout most of the year, and he became the number one cornerback we'd all hoped he could be when the Cowboys decided to take the freakishly athletic defensive back in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

This contract year is quite unique for Byron Jones, however. Next offseason the Cowboys will be forced to re-sign and extend just about all of their key contributors on both sides of the ball. DeMarcus Lawrence already got his contract, but Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and others still await their deals. Deals which the front office has all-but explicitly promised will come.

This leaves Jones, the former first round pick and now former All Pro, generally considered to be the odd man out. So while 2019 is a contract year for Byron Jones, he may be earning himself a contract from a completely different team.

Jones has had an interesting road to this contract season. One which would be a shame for the Cowboys to waste. Moving between cornerback and safety during the first three years of his career, Jones fell out of the coaches' good graces while playing out of his most natural position. Under Kris Richard's new regime, though, Jones had his best season to date. He looked to finally be comfortable in his role, and was now playing for a coach who believed he could be a special player.

Now that Byron Jones has found his place in the Cowboys defense, and has earned his way into conversations with the league's top cornerbacks, he's likely priced himself out of the Cowboys' future plans.

It's funny how that works out. Of course, Jones should go get paid, and I'd never fault a guy for maximizing his value on the market. But there's a good chance the Cowboys make the mistake of allowing a premier cornerback to walk out of their building next offseason. But if they want to retain players like Elliott and Cooper, they may not have any other choice.



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