THIS WEEKS FREE AGENCY FRENZY: The dollars n’ sense of the Dallas Cowboys NFL Salary Cap | 2014 NFL Free Agent Review
IRVING, Texas – First the good news.
As expected the Dallas Cowboys successfully ducked under the NFL salary cap last week despite all the consternation being made out there.
By this afternoon they still had roughly $7 million of cap space, and by June 1 they will add another $5.5 million when the release of Miles Austin takes effect, basically a savings fund to absorb this year’s rookie pool, projected to cost them roughly $5.3 million for their eight draft choices.
Oh, and this may be a reach, but the current Dallas Cowboys Top 51 cap figure for 2015 is only $108 million, but then that doesn’t account for Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith’s option ($10.5 million), Doug Free, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter, Ronald Leary, and Miles Austin’s $5 million more of dead money that rolls over into next year. But still, that’s better than this year right, when the Cowboys were projected to be nearly $25 million over the cap heading toward March 11 before the cap increased nearly $7 million (to $133 million).
Now the bad news, and be forewarned, you might not have the stomach for all this.
As you know, after the Dallas Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware the Broncos signed him in the blink of an eye to a three-year deal too rich for the Cowboys’ cap blood to match. Then it took Washington all of two full days to sign unrestricted free agent Jason Hatcher to a four-year deal, another one too rich for the Cowboys’ salary cap constitution, and the Redskins seem to also be flirting with Cowboys unrestricted free agent Anthony Spencer, although with his knee condition there should be a buyer-beware tag on him. And the Cowboys no longer own the rights to wide receiver Miles Austin, designating him a June 1 release.
Now the Cowboys did ink a couple of guys, defensive end Jeremy Mincey and defensive tackle Terrell McClain, but remember, Denver didn’t even attempt to re-sign Mincey and the Texans didn’t even offer McClain a minimum restricted free-agent tender ($1.4 million). At least the Dallas Cowboys didn’t commit a lot of cap dough to them.
It’s no secret the Dallas Cowboys have one of the tightest salary-cap situations in the NFL. Some unexpected relief came from the league.
The NFL set the cap at $133 million, instead of the $126.3 million figure that was originally expected.
At $126.3 million, the Dallas Cowboys were projected to be a league-high $31 million over the cap. March 11 is the deadline for teams to slip under the cap.
While the new projection offers the Cowboys a couple million dollars of relief, it doesn’t save them from having to make tough decisions about key players.
The cap is primed to soar even higher in 2015, after money from the league’s new television deals enter the equation.
The cap rise is good news for both teams seeking cap maneuverability and players who now begin to taste the fruits tied to the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011. The structure of the CBA and the timing of the television deals sets the players up well from 2015 to 2020.
When the Dallas Cowboys released defensive end Marcus Spears in March, he was designated as a post-June 1 cut, giving the Cowboys $2 million in salary cap space.
Well, the team gets that extra money now, and, added up the savings with the pay cut tackle Doug Free accepted, the team picked up $5.5 million in savings.
The Cowboys can use this extra cap space to take care of middle linebacker Sean Lee, who is entering the final year of his contract, and maybe even outside linebacker Bruce Carter. The team can also make moves to secure the services of wide receiver Dez Bryant or grab another free agent.
It’s doubtful the Cowboys extend Bryant and Carter right now considering each has two years left on their deals.
But Lee seems to be a logical choice and talks could happen during training camp and continue through the season.
The 2013 salary cap is tentatively slated to be at or just below $121 million, according to NFL sources.
The values for restricted free agent designations and franchise tenders have also been set. Below are the tentative franchise tag and transition tag numbers for each position, in millions.
These figures were distributed in early December at the annual meeting of team owners in Dallas. They will likely be finalized in March.
CB: Franchise: $10.668 Transition: $8.939
DE: Franchise: $10.984 Transition: $8.994
DT: Franchise: $8.306 Transition: $6.919
K/P: Franchise: $2.926 Transition: $2.654
LB: Franchise: $9.455 Transition: $8.216
OL: Franchise: $9.660 Transition: $8.560
QB: Franchise: $14.642 Transition: $12.845
RB: Franchise: $8.079 Transition: $6.851
S: Franchise: $6.798 Transition: $5.899
TE: Franchise: $5.962 Transition: $5.105
WR: Franchise: $10.357 Transition: $8.716
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys have created $2.755 million in salary-cap room by restructuring DeMarcus Ware’s contract for the second straight season, according to multiple sources.
Ware was scheduled to count $10.301 million, but after lowering his base salary to $825,000 and turning the difference into signing bonus the All-Pro outside linebacker will count $7.546 million against the cap this year.
The Cowboys have a little more than $5.5 million in salary-cap room entering the season and would like to carry over as much room as possible to 2013 because of the remaining $5 million hit they will take from the NFL’s cap sanctions that were imposed in the offseason.
The Cowboys also re-worked the contract of center Ryan Cook, whom they acquired in a trade from Miami last week, the sources said. The Cowboys lowered Cook’s base salary from $1 million to $700,000 and gave him a $300,000 bonus and added a year to his deal with him scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent following the season. He will make $1.1 million in 2013.
Barring an unforeseen veteran signing between now and training camp, expect the Dallas Cowboys to head to California with about $4 million to spend in salary cap dough.
That should be enough to sign basically any current unrestricted free agent, if not two or three veterans, or conveniently extend the contract of just about any player they wish.
And that’s despite the $5 million cap penalty the team accepted for this year. And that’s despite signing more outside free agents than any other year in team history. And that’s despite having the No. 6 overall pick in the draft still unsigned.
Per a report of team-by-team cap space last week, the Dallas Cowboys are in the middle of the pack in terms of money to spend, with nearly $7.2 million in the bank. That number has been confirmed inside Valley Ranch.
The deal for Morris Claiborne, the only unsigned player currently on the roster, will count about $3 million against this year’s cap.
There are several different positions at which the Cowboys could still use an additional veteran. Mentioned most often are wide receiver, tight end, center, safety and punter.
However, the club has been steadfast in its intention to give young players a chance to prove themselves.
RELATED: Team-by-team cap space as of June 22
Jaguars: $25.1 million.
Titans: $19.97 million.
Eagles: $18.02 million.
Browns: $17.7 million.
Bengals: $16.58 million.
Chiefs: $16.54 million.
Buccaneers: $15.74 million.
Colts: $14.59 million.
Packers: $11.25 million.
Patriots: $10.93 million.
Broncos: $10.87 million.
Vikings: $10.59 million.
Panthers: $8.76 million.
Seahawks: $7.47 million.
Bills: $7.38 million.
Cowboys: $7.18 million.
One of the most popular questions this time of year is about salary cap space — as in, how much does each team have left? So it’s worth it every now and then to check in and see where those situations stand. I’m using the figures from the NFL’s web site, figuring they’re as close to official as it gets. So here’s their cap room figure for each NFC East team as of March 30:
Dallas Cowboys: $2,164,189
The Cowboys did their free-agency work early, and I wouldn’t expect too much more. This figure would be $7,164,189 if not for the penalties the league imposed for the way the Cowboys spent in the uncapped 2010 season. But I still don’t think they’d have plunked down big dollars to compete with Jacksonville to sign receiver Laurent Robinson. They’ll bargain-hunt for their No. 3 wide receiver again, as they did last year when they turned up Robinson. And while there may be another signing or two — bargain receiver, second tight end, veteran safety — the Cowboys’ attention right now is on the draft.
New York Giants: $3,431,050
This gives the Giants a little bit of room to address their needs at linebacker, offensive line and running back, though they don’t seem in much of a hurry to do any of those things. Up tight against the cap for the second year in a row, the Giants continue to maintain their prudent, patient approach to the offseason. They’ll probably bring back linebacker Jonathan Goff and add a veteran running back, but I think they address their tackle need at some point in the draft, if not in the first round.
Philadelphia Eagles: $16,255,888
Lots of money, and there’s plenty the Eagles can do with it, starting with signing a free-agent tackle to replace the injured Jason Peters and working out a new deal for running back LeSean McCoy. The Eagles also are in the market for a veteran safety, a veteran running back and some more linebacker help. But they’re not spending like sailors this offseason, mainly because they did last year and most of those same guys are still on the team.
Washington Redskins: $7,681,338
Yeah, and think about it. It’d be $25,681,338 if not for their salary-cap penalty. This figure still gives the Redskins plenty of room, if they want, to sign linebacker London Fletcher, running back Tim Hightower and a new right tackle. But especially in Fletcher’s case, they need to get more creative than they expected they would have to be. Fletcher turns 37 this year and isn’t going to get the kind of long-term deal that allows the team to spread out the cap hit over a period of years. The Redskins have been active in free agency and can continue to address their needs, but the penalty has forced them to adjust the way they’re going about their spending.