December 30, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones claps while standing on the field prior to the Cowboys game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Salary Cap Deadline Looms in Big D

Does Jerry Jones have some magic star dust hidden somewhere at Valley Ranch that we don’t know about? Maybe he is planning on using an old Jedi mind trick by simply waving his hand and saying , “We are not the overspending Cowboys you are looking for…” In the likely event that neither of those scenarios work, it will be interesting to see how the front office folks in Big D plan on wiggling under the salary cap before the new league year begins on March 12. Dallas is currently about $20 million over said cap and the clock is ticking. Still, both owner and Coach Jason Garrett seem undeterred…or maybe they are just in denial.

 

To the outside observer, a good place to start making a dent in the deficit would be to get a deal done with Tony Romo. The Dallas QB, as it now stands, will count $16.8 million against the cap, including an $11.5 million base salary. Romo is entering the final year of his contract and redoing his deal could save the Cowboys cap room and still  give our signal caller a contract that will assure that he remains a Cowboy for the rest of his career. While Romo has his critics; it isn’t likely that the Cowboys could find any quarterbacks on the open market or in the draft that can step into his shoes and do a better job than he has. This is especially true when we consider the fact that the guys up front for the Cowboys have put the “offense” in offensive line play the past several years.

The sad state of affairs in the Dallas OL is yet another way in which the Cowboys could trim some fat, both literally and figurative, before the bell tolls on March 12. It seems imperative that the Cowboys set Doug free. The experiment has failed miserably and it is time to cut ties and save the $7 million  Doug Free would count toward the 2013 cap. Hopefully the Cowboys will bring in some help for the ailing offensive line with either Alabama’s Barrett Jones or, perhaps even Arkansas Pine Bluff’s Terron Armstead, who ran an unofficial 4.65-second 40-yard dash in the NFL Combine’s testing in Indy.

Yet another way Dallas could save some cash would be to part ways with some of their star players who have had less than stellar performances of late. The most obvious of these has to be wide receiver Miles Austin. After an impressive start to his career in Dallas, including a breakout game against the Kansas City Chiefs in which he recorded 10 receptions and the game winning touchdown, Austin has fallen victim to the injury bug. After being a Pro Bowl selection in 2009 and 2010, he missed six games due to a hamstring injury in 2011. This past season he fell behind both tight-end Jason Witten and wide receiver Dez Bryant in completions. The six-year, $54 million dollar deal that the Cowboys inked with Austin in 2010 has come back to bite them in more ways than one. His base salary of $17 million two seasons ago eventually led to the NFL taking $10 million in salary cap room from Dallas that will be divided over two seasons. Ouch! Still, Jason Garrett was reportedly unwavering in his support for the veteran wideout in his recent press conference at the NFL Combine and didn’t leave any doubt that Austin will be wearing a star on his helmet in the 2013 season.

Whatever Mr. Jones and company plan to do to solve the coming cap conundrum remains to be seen. There is one silver lining to the Cowboys current cloud. The ‘Boys won’t have the luxury of standing pat this off season and that might turn out to be a good thing for those of us who bleed blue.

 

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys Doug Free Miles Austin NFL Combine

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