Every offseason before free agency opens in March, one of the hottest NFL topics is salary cap casualties. These are players who get released because the spending space it creates on the cap is determined to be more valuable than they are. Will the Dallas Cowboys have any cap casualties in 2021?
One revered source for NFL analytics, Pro Football Focus, recently made the assertion that Dallas would not have any major cap casualties this offseason. Should we believe them?
In fairness to PFF, their article was focusing on significant shifts in cap space involving players with big contracts. They essentially made the point that I did in an article yesterday; the Cowboys are going to give this roster and coaching staff at least one more year to make it work before drastic changes.
This means players like Tyron and Jaylon Smith, despite the cap benefits of releasing them now, should be on the 2021 roster. But should everyone on Dallas' roster feel as safe?
There's at least one player that I would bet money on being released in the near future; veteran Punter Chris Jones. After injuries and declining performance the last few years, plus the emergence of Hunter Niswander as his replacement, Jones would be a low-cost cut that creates an immediate $2 million in cap space.
While it doesn't sound like a lot in professional sports dollars, $2 million is enough to pay a few of your 2021 rookies or to sign a semi-reputable backup at many positions. It may only be a little over 1% of the total salary cap but those whole numbers add up faster than you think.
Jones' release is the only one that seems probably at this time. Many of the players that Dallas might have let go for cap savings, such as Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lee, or some of their disappointing young defensive backs, already have expiring contracts.
A couple of players to keep an eye on are CB Maurice Canady and S Darian Thompson. Dallas can save about another $2 million combined by releasing both players, but both are also candidates to return next year to compete for backup roles.
Again, these are small potatoes compared to what Dallas could get back on some of their key players' contracts. But the Cowboys' 2021 offseason will be about getting Dak Prescott signed and hoping for a much healthier year throughout the roster.
If the results don't improve, we can expect at least a few heads to roll a year from now.