Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys tackle Doug Free (68) and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) and center Ryan Cook (63) and guard Nate Livings (71) and tackle Tyron Smith (77) in the huddle during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Examining The Dallas Cowboys Roster (Part Two)

This column is part of a three part series, dissecting the Dallas Cowboys roster as we head into the NFL off-season. In part one, which can be found on my writer’s page on this website,

I broke down the roster by each position in an effort to determine position strength. We also discussed which of the Cowboys’ impending free agents should be back in 2013 and which need to leave. In part two, we will address the possible roster cuts Dallas should contemplate in order to assist the salary cap. We will also look at how those cuts along with their own free agency questions will affect the roster depth.In review of the Dallas Cowboys salary cap situation for 2013, it does not initially look positive but there are possible fixes. First, the bad news. The NFL has projected next year’s cap to be approximately $121 million. Dallas has over $130 million in cap space belonging to 44 players. As many of you know, the game day roster is 53. That’s a problem. Factor in the $5 million penalty from the bogus 2010 ruling that Dallas did not adhere to the rules of the uncapped year and the money needed to sign draft picks and dead money and you can see Dallas being over the cap by over $20 million.

How can the Cowboys fix this and still have some kind of productive dip into free agency?

The Cowboys have eight players who should be released or have contracts that can either be restructured. Let’s start by looking at those who should stay while experiencing changes in their salary.

Tony Romo

Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) throws in the pocket against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

- Romo will be going into the final year of his deal, counting $17.2 million towards the cap. I am sure there are people who would consider re-signing the polarizing quarterback to another deal some sort of cruel and unusual punishment. That is exactly what Dallas should do, however, for two reasons. One. There is no option on the roster or in free agency that is better. Two. The cap hit needs to be reduced. Giving Romo a three year extension that reduces his cap hit in 2013 by $7 million and also allows the Cowboys the ability to find his replacement.

Brandon Carr
- Carr signed a $50.1 million contract last year which included $10 million in signing bonus and $25.5 guaranteed. He has a ridiculous $14.30 salary and $16.3 cap hit. Dallas could reduce his cap hit in half by spreading out $8 million over the final four years of his deal which would give the Cowboys $8 million in relief.

By renegotiating these two contracts, Dallas would get the within $5 million of the cap. With work still needing to be done, here are a few players who should be released…

David Arkin
- There isn’t much to say about Arkin. He’s been a non-factor from day one. Another horrible draft pick, wasting a fourth rounder in the same draft that could have netted Cecil Shorts, Jacquizz Rodgers or Denarius Moore in that same spot. Releasing Arkin would save half a million which basically could be used to bring in anyone else who might actually

Dan Connor
- Connor played pretty well, especially considering he was thrust into the starting lineup after Sean Lee’s season-ending injury however many factors lead to the reasonable consideration of his release. Switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense reduces the number of linebackers needed. Younger, cheaper options such as Alex Albright, Caleb McSurdy and Kyle Wilber need to be given playing time. Since Dallas can save $4.35 million towards the cap with his release, I think it makes fiscal sense to let the veteran go.

Jay Ratliff

Nov 18, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson (33) runs with the ball against Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff (90) in overtime at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Browns 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

- There are plenty of reasons to get rid of Ratliff. He is an injury-prone, soon to be 32 year old, undersized defensive tackle. He just was arrested for a DWI even though this exact issue caused the death of a teammate and the removal from the team of another. Lastly, his cap hit for next year would be $7 million. Even though it would only save $1 million, unless he is cut after June 1, which it then turns to $5 million, it’s more about getting out of the remaining $20 million over three years. The time to move on is now.

Doug Free
- There is no way that Dallas can continue to have Free on the roster in 2013. At best, he is equally as good as his replacement who is two years younger and $13 million cheaper over the next two years. Free represents the classic bad contract that Jerry Jones is well known to hand out all too often. Cutting Doug Free post June 1 would save $7 million towards the 2013 salary cap.

Releasing these four players would take the Cowboys from $5 million over the cap to $12 million under the cap, allowing them to add a few pieces via free agency and sign all of their draft picks. The most positive thing about these moves is that they do not weaken any of the units on the team. In fact, these moves would improve the offensive line and give the  team a chance to see what it has as far as youth in the linebacking corps.

Next week: Possible free agent targets

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Tags: Brandon Carr Dallas Cowboys Doug Free Jay Ratliff Salary Cap Tony Romo

  • californy

    There one element you forgot to discuss, why would Romo resign before 3-12-13. This is when the boys need him to sign by, if not then we are like 36 million over the cap because then Romo Contract is about guarantee. It by this date that all the NFL must be under the cap amount mandated by the NFL

    If I am Romo I need greater assurance he can finish his career in Dallas;. This OL is a career shorting OL. He has no future with this OL.

  • californy

    I am glad you agree on David Arkin, he is part of the dead weight we must move on from. I said this day number one. Boy did I ever get hate from this. I just wish the blogger would remember this. I also said Claiborne is not first rd material.

  • LI Cowboy

    You know what’s gonna happen as soon as we release Ratliff, don’t you? The same thing that always seems to happen with those borderline keep ‘em/let ‘m go guys…he’ll sign a relatively bargain contract with the Eagles, ‘Skins or Giants. He’ll have another solid year or three in him, and be a thorn in our side the whole time! That said, what’s the CBA/NFLPA rules about releasing a player, then re-signing him to a more workable contract? I know, why would Jay want to do that? But, theoretically, could we release him, then re-sign him for more than he might garner on the open market, while reducing that $7M whale of a cap hit? Don’t foresee him getting any huge offers on the free agent market considering his current status. Could be a way to keep him around, if possible, but for cheap. What do you think?

  • ctcowboy1968

    As for part 1 of this series, it is pretty shocking to see how little established talent there is on this roster. I would disagree with you on the following: Don’t want Jenkins back (nor will he be, as he justs wants out), McCray is our best special team tackler and we need him back for ST only, and Bernadeau should be cut. He was a JJ mistake and worst graded OL on a terrible OL. A 2nd stringer for Carolina is not a starter for Dallas.

  • ctcowboy1968

    1. Restructure Tony and Carr, absolutely. Let’s add another, restructure Austin or trade him. He only plays half the season.
    2. Arkin is a bust. Stop with the small school OL (ie, Brewster, Bernadeau, Arkin). They don’t cut it. Busts all. Big time college programs develop big time OL. And draft OL in the first three rounds.
    3. Connor showed nothing special. Sims or Lemon can replace him.
    4. I would like to cut Ratliff. I have been writing for the last year or so that his best years are behind him. His contract sucks, but there is a gaint hold at DT.
    5. Free sucks but can we really trust Parnell? If Free is to be cut, then the Boys have to devote their top pick (or two) to the OL.