With a number of key performers up for new contracts in the next few seasons, it’s safe to say that hard decisions await the Dallas Cowboys. As the Cowboys look for creative ways to pay their stars, we look at the hardest decisions looming on the horizon.
The NFL salary cap is structured with the aim of allowing all teams to compete, and for the formation of dynasties to be much harder. While this has given us a good turnover of teams competing each season, if not always a different Superbowl winner, it presents challenges for teams. While the cap increases every year, it doesn’t increase near enough for all the players to be kept happy.
Just Jerry Being Jerry?
With the latest round of Jerry Jones interviews, a lot of key nuggets have come out. Dak is going to get paid because they’re “sold on him”. Some players, however, will have to give the Dallas Cowboys a discount if they want to remain with the team.
If we can talk them into not maxing out, doing well, but not maxed, that allows us to have other good football players around them. If we can put Super Bowl rings on these guys, they’ll be legends around this area for many, many, many years to come. What they may give up a little bit in their contract, they should be able to invest in being a Cowboy and making our teams better.
Is it understandable that Jones wants his players to think more about the team? Of course. Jerry wants to win, and the best way to do that is to get the best players you can for as little money as possible. Is it realistic. No.
So how bad could things be? Becoming free agents at the end of the 2019 season are : Dak Prescott (QB), Amari Cooper (WR), Allen Hurns (WR), Randall Cobb (WR), La’el Collins (RT), Maliek Collins (DT), Sean Lee (OLB), Jaylon Smith (ILB), and Byron Jones (CB). And that’s just the biggest names.
So What’s The Dallas Cowboys Cap Situation?
For the current season, the Dallas Cowboys are $19m under the cap, which is a decent way to enter training camp. However, Jerry has already said Dak will get paid, and likely be in the region of Russell Wilson’s bumper new contract. Given that Dak currently counts only $2m to this years cap, that could be a problem right off the bat if the deal is done this off-season.
So while they may want to tie him down, they may have to wait until after the season, unless they restructure some contracts. This may be an option, but creates cap pressures in following seasons, which given the volume of players that need to be signed, could create even more problems. At the end of the 2020 season, Ezekiel Elliott will be a free-agent.
Now clearly some players will be released as they enter the less productive years of their careers, such as Randall Cobb most likely. However, if we focus on just the key players in the group, Prescott, Cooper, L. Collins, M. Collins, Lee, Smith, and Jones we come up with some difficult maths.
Not Enough Money To Go Around
For the 2020 season, the Cowboys currently have $60m in cap space which seems like plenty on the face of it, but let’s break things down.
Dak Prescott, if he’s getting in the region of Wilson’s contract will count nearly $25m against the cap. Wilson counts $26m for the coming season, rising to over $30m for the remainder of his deal. No matter what Jerry says, Dak is not Russell Wilson, but he will certainly get paid, and the $25m cap number seems reasonable.
Amari Cooper suffered through some bad years with the Raiders, so he may well be a candidate for giving the Cowboys a discount. But at the same time, his incredible production at the end of last season makes him hard to underpay. He likely gets a deal in the $14m-15m per year range. And while this could be backloaded a bit this will sting.
The market for tackles has recently been reset by the contracts for Trenton Brown, Taylor Lewan, and Ja’Wuan James. Teammate and left tackle Tyron Smith is on $12m per season, and this likely sees Collins sitting around $10m if he wants to stay in Dallas.
Then There’s The Defence
Maliek Collins will have a slightly less harsh impact on the salary cap, but he likely comes in around $7.5 million per year.
Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith have begun forming quite a potent partnership and it’s hard to see the Cowboys wanting to break that up. However, for those keeping count as we go along, we’ve already spent $56.5m of that $60m cap space. The likely cost of keeping both these linebackers is in the $17.5m-$20m region for the pair. Which isn’t even close to fitting under the cap.
However, with Lee coming towards the end of his career, and Leighton Vander Esch on the rise, Lee may well have to be a cap casualty at the end of this season unless he takes a big discount.
If they still want to keep Byron Jones, they’ll have to come up with another $10m-15m per year.
That’s a total market value for those 6 players of about $94 million plus.
With a cap projected in the region of $188 million, that’s a huge portion of your salary cap tied up in just 6 players. While that’s not all that uncommon, it should be remembered that Dallas already has $40 million per year tied up in three other offensive linemen, and $21 million per year on DeMarcus Lawrence.
And we didn’t even get around to talking about paying Zeke in 2021.
While there is certain to be room to renegotiate some contracts this will really only kick the can down the road at best. What’s really needed is finding players in the draft who can replace the more expensive players in the lineup. However, this is easier said than done. Especially when so many productive players become free agents at the same time,
Hard decisions await the Dallas Cowboys for sure.