Current Salary Cap Struggles in Dallas
The Dallas Cowboys have had problems with the salary cap for several seasons in recent history. A lot of this has to do with how well the Cowboys have acquired players in the past. Dallas has been one of the better drafting franchises over the past decade, especially in the first round. They have also been great regarding trades and free agency. The Cowboys have been following a proven blueprint a lot of successful football organizations have done. Draft well, keep the key contributors and let the others walk in free agency. The problem here with this is Dallas has been too good at acquiring its athletes and paying them too well to keep them with the team. That has the organization sitting in a terrible, financial state right now.
The Cowboys are currently just over $12 million over the cap as of March 9. This is nothing new for Dallas. They have restructured long-term contracts to create wiggle room to acquire other players in the past. That is not a realistic option this time around. The Cowboys have reworked the contracts of Dak Prescott and Zack Martin so far this offseason, but that may be all they do this offseason. Dallas has previously mentioned how they would like to avoid that as it simply kicks the bucket down the road. The team would only like to do that with players they expected to be with the team for the foreseeable future. That is probably why the franchise elected not to do the same with Ezekiel Elliot’s contract. The running back’s future in Dallas is up in the air given his considerable cap hit now and in the future. This means the Cowboys will absolutely have to cut some of their major cornerstones to get under the cap.
What the Cowboys are Currently Doing
Dallas has been incredibly active this last week. The team has announced they are putting wide receiver Amari Cooper on the trading block. If the Cowboys cannot find a trade partner for Cooper, he will be given his outright release. Either way, his leaving would create $16 million in cap room. That would be enough to put them under the limit, but would only give them $4 million for free agency and the draft. Dallas will likely do more to create more space.
Another player who may find himself on the cut list is defensive end, DeMarcus Lawrence. The pass rusher has been a possible cut for a couple of seasons now, but this could finally be the year he is released. Dallas has reportedly asked him to take a pay cut, but Lawrence refused to do that. This may mean the All-Pro could and should be released. His stats have simply not justified his salary thus far. Since he signed his contract extension, Lawrence has yet to even produce a total of 15 sacks over three seasons. I know sacks are not the tell-all for a defensive end. Others on the Cowboys’ defense have reaped the benefits of having Lawrence on the field. However, a player who is being paid over $20 million a year should be able to amas 10 sacks a season. I would say if the team was more comfortable in terms of spending, I would keep him. That unfortunately is not the case. Dallas would create an additional $8 million in cap space.
After those two moves, the Cowboys would have around $12 to spend. That may not be enough for the team’s liking. The organization may decide to move on from offensive tackles Tyron Smith and/or La’el Collins as well. Releasing those two would generate $5 and $2 million respectively. Cutting nether would be a surprise to anyone as both struggled to stay on the field last year. Dallas could cut tight end Blake Jarwin and get over $3.5 for doing that. Neither side wants to see him leave the Cowboys and the team is reportedly working on a pay cut to keep him in Dallas.
Other Work Dallas is Doing
The Cowboys are not considering these moves just for the draft. They would also like to keep some of its players around. Dallas recently placed the franchise tag on tight end Dalton Schultz. That means his salary for this coming season, $10.9 million, is fully guaranteed. Both parties are working on a contract extension to create a little cap flexibility.
The franchise is also looking to keep another wide receiver in the building. The Cowboys have been working with Michael Gallup on a contract extension as well. This deal would average somewhere in the ballpark of $10 million per year. I think doing this would be a huge mistake for Dallas. Gallup is coming off a season-ending injury and the organization is not sure if he will be as good as he has been. They could decide to keep Cedrick Wilson instead. Wilson would certainly be less expensive than Gallup which would give the Cowboys more flexibility with the cap. If the team decides to let one or even both walk, they could turn to free agents such as James Washington or Allen Lazard. Dallas could also decide it is easier and cheaper to select replacements in this coming draft. The Cowboys have a history of picking above-average wide receivers deeper in the draft.
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