By: Paul “The Closer” Wanecski
Jerry Jones loves to spend every dollar of salary cap space he can and this year is no exception. Coming into last season, the Dallas Cowboys were significantly over the salary cap. They were not aggressive in free agency and instead were able to use a foundation of solid draft picks to establish one of the leagues youngest and most effective offensive lines. They are still not out of the woods with the salary cap and with Jerry Jones as general manager; you have to wonder if they ever will be.
Entering 2015, the Cowboys will have an adjusted salary cap of $148,578,313, leaving currently about 5.5 million in cap space. On the current roster four players combine to a cap figure of 66 million, so the roster from a financial perspective is very top loaded. Actually, of the fifty one players whose contracts are considered part of the salary cap limit, they only have nineteen players with cap figures over 1 million dollars. Three of the top eight contracts are at the cornerback position.
CB Orlando Scandrick has a 4.3 million cap hit on the last year of his contract. While extending his contract will bring only minor relief, any little bit would help if you think he has long term value.
CB Brandon Carr has not performed like a player who has a 12 million cap figure. He will either need to take a pay cut or he could be a post June 1st release, saving near 8 million at best.
TE Jason Witten is carrying an 8.5 million figure this season. While you would think that you can turn some of his base salary into bonus money for cap relief this season, which is not advisable. He is already receiving 3.4 million in prorated bonus money with future salary cap numbers near what 2015’s figure already is.
LT Tyron Smith, this contract you cannot do anything with at this point. Believe it or not, it is actually written to extend into the 2023 season with 2015’s base salary fully guaranteed. For those of you keeping score at home, he has a 13 million cap figure.
QB Tony Romo is in a similar situation. His contract pushes 10.7 million in prorated bonus money alone this season coupled with a guaranteed 7.5 million of his 17 million base salary. His cap number is 27.7 million this season and drops to 17 million next season, only to spike up past 21 million the following season.
OG Mackenzy Bernadeau has too low a salary to take a pay cut. His release will save 1.5 million.
WR Dez Bryant got the franchise tag to the tune of a near 13 million salary this season. Clearly, working out a deal with him that lowers that figure is best, having a signing bonus to prorate and adjust off a more reasonable base salary.
RT Jeremy Parnell will most likely be brought back; both he and Doug Free were solid last year. Free is a bit more of an established player and his salary would be higher, where Parnell wouldn’t garner the attention the free agent market and will be more affordable.
LB Rolando McClain was a reclamation project and it paid off. While his off the field issues will keep most teams at bay, the lack of offers for him will draw him back to Dallas at an affordable rate. He is not a priority considering the presence of LB Sean Lee, but, Lee’s health is a reason for the organization to handcuff that position.
DE Anthony Spencer will not be resigned.
RB Adrian Peterson would have to be a free agent in order for him to become a Dallas Cowboy. Until that happens, Jerry Jones can continue to try and trade for him in EA SPORTS MADDEN 2015.
The need at running back is real, as DeMarco Murray will be part of a very saturated market this offseason. He could return but it would have to be below his market value. Dynamic playmakers like CJ Spiller or Ryan Mathews, while attractive, carry some pretty significant injury history for the price. Dallas may go dumpster diving for a Donald Brown type player.
Defensive tackle will also be an area of need. You can basically eliminate them from any major signings at the position. Whoever they pick up via free agency will only be a bridge to who they draft.
Dallas could shock the world and draft a running back if they don’t feel the value in the free agency class fits their needs. If Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) is still on the board, Jones may not be able to control himself. Most of the running backs are being projected to slide into the 2nd or 3rd round. The team’s best chance to get their player of choice would be at the 27th selection in the 1st round, which would not be unreasonable.
ILB Denzel Perryman (Miami) could also be a fit. Given the team will need to add a bit of depth into the linebacker core, Perryman would be able to acclimate if Lee is healthy and would be an immediate contributor in passing situations.
Some projections have DE Owamagbe Odighuzuwa (UCLA) as a first round selection; others have him as low as the third round. This is not a player who is going to go outside an opposing player on the pass rush. He could slide inside to DT given his size and make up but he has quite a bit of work to do technically. While I am sure he interests the Cowboys, he would only be selected if the team thought his raw talent could be shaped to fit what they need.
Defensive tackles grow on trees in college. They will be able to address this position at any time in the draft, possibly multiple times.