20 million. Give or take. That’s the cap room that the Dallas Cowboys have to begin the 2012 Free Agency feeding-frenzy come March 13th. The only question that remains is how Owner/GM Jerry Jones, Head Coach Jason Garrett, and the Dallas Cowboys Scouting Department will choose to spend it. Contracts will have to be re-worked, but that’s not a bad position considering the amount of dead money incurred from the over priced contracts of released players including Marion Barber, Leonard Davis, Roy Williams, Andre Gurode, Marc Columbo, and the soon-to-be released CB Terrence Newman.
The only question that remains is how to spread the wealth. Will Jerry go after a few shiny pieces, or will Jerry spend it all on acme bricks and mortar and build a team from the ground up with several contributors at every position, and players that will challenge each other for the starting position week in and week out? I hope it’s the later, but for grins sake, and to get the imaginative juices flowing, I’m going to play Jerry Jones for a the next seven paragraphs.
I remember from a movie that had Sandra Bullock in it, that the first thing you do after buying the house is writing the check for the insurance. Tony Romo (QB, Dallas) is Jerry’s house, and even though that movie was meant to be for a starting Left Tackle, this league is changing. Age and inexperience plague the interior of the offensive line, and Phil Costa (2011 starting Center) should never touch a football ever again. Sometimes you have “fat guys” (endearing term that offensive/defensive lineman enjoy) that can handle a ball (see Vince Wilfork and B.J. Raji rumble with the football after interceptions) and sometimes you have ‘fat guys’ that should never touch it (i.e. Phil Costa, Leon Lett).
Carl Nicks (G, New Orleans) is the reason Drew Brees (QB, New Orleans) has been so successful. Well that and he’s a founding member at Ball-So-Hard University. But, Drew Brees has been able to consistently step up into the pocket and shred defenses because Nicks and Jahri Evans (G, New Orleans) cleared the way. As the top Free Agent at that position, he will also command top dollar of around $8 million a year. I sign that check and my offensive line goes from somewhat of a question mark to a strength instantaneously. Now I have three Pro-Bowl caliber lineman in Doug Free (T, Dallas), Carl Nicks, and Tyron Smith(T, Dallas) protecting the best thing that has happened to the franchise since Troy Aikman(Former QB, Dallas, Hall of Fame).
The offense is almost complete. The Wide Receiver that had the most chemistry with Tony Romo remains a Free Agent, but I’m Jerry Jones, and I’ve been burned before by one year wonders. My money tells me to give Laurent Robinson (WR, Dallas) a four year, 16+ million dollar deal, but my gut tells me to hold off and make sure that this wasn’t a one season fling. I re-sign Laurent Robinson, but to a two year deal for seven million; all guaranteed. Laurent knows he has something special here, and probably won’t be as successful anywhere else, and as owner and General Manager, I want to make sure that Laurent is the real deal. Both sides are happy and now I move onto the defense.
Defensively, I have some really good players in some really good positions, but it never seems to be enough. I have to get rid of Terrence Newman (CB, Dallas) or lower his contract. I offer option two to Terrence. As a lifelong Cowboy, he will suck up his pride and be dropped as a corner in the dime package. Yes, I know his skills are declining, but I’d rather have Newman covering a 3rd receiver than Alan Ball (CB, Dallas) or Frank Walker (CB, Dallas). Instead of Newman getting paid almost eight million, he takes a pay cut to two million, with incentives to hit three million depending on snaps, games played, and performance.
There still remains a problem. I only have one starting CB in Mike Jenkins, and one starting slot corner in Orlando Scandrick. (There is no way Scandrick can start on the outside) Newman has just recently been demoted to dime duty, but who is going to fill his starting position. It will be pricey, but it will be worth it. He is most famous for going blow-for-blow with the manbeast known as Andre Johnson (WR, Houston). Cortland Finnegan (CB, Tennessee). Finnegan wants to win, and his mean streak is exactly what this defense needs. Someone on the secondary that will stick a hit on a defenseless receiver just for the highlight reel on Sports Center. With the wheeling and dealing prowess I have as Owner/GM of the Dallas Cowboys, I am able to get Finnegan on a reasonable contract. Six million a year, with incentives for games played. Stanford Routt (recently released CB from Oakland) is also a good choice here, but my Cowboys have enough problems with penalties as it is. No need bringing in another flag-grabber.
We still aren’t set on defense. Out of my 20 million in cap space this year, I’ve spent about 17.5 million, but with the Cap Room genius of my son Stephen Jones, the prorated signing bonuses will only eat up about 10 million. This gives me enough room to resign Anthony Spencer. I know, quit your hollering; he’s not the best, but what else are we going to find? He’s the best ‘other’ OLB in the league. Cap room can’t allow you to have 2 DeMarcus Ware (OLB and 2 time NFL sack champion, Dallas) type OLB’s on the team.
The only thing left is to sign a monstrous prototypical 3-4 Nose Tackle. Sione Pouha is an unrestricted free agent out of NYJ, and likes the color blue, so he will leave the Jets and join the Cowboys as a giant run-plug in the middle. This will use up about eight million in cap space, but now Rob Ryan and Jason Garrett have all the tools they need to bring another Lombardi trophy back to Dallas. And if they can’t win… I’ve been in secret talks with the City of Mesquite, Texas to build another stadium there. New stadiums always help teams win. Trust me, I’m a football guy and I know this business.