Dallas Cowboys Who Won’t Be in 2014?
With the Cowboys roster being trimmed to 75 on Tuesday, the last chance for players on the bubble to prove their worth is the final preseason game tonight against the Houston Texans. After the game, the team will have less than 48 hours to trim 22 more and get down to the league mandated 53 player limit. While thinking of these players, most fans could pretty much speculate on 45 of the 53 guys who will make the final roster and be correct. While thinking of the 2013 team, my mind also looks to the future of the team as well. With Sean Lee recently being given his hefty contract extension, there are other young talents the Cowboys will need to come to terms with in the near future as well.
With Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter, and DeMarco Murray all on deck for extensions, one has to wonder where the money will come from. Some big salary players already on the roster and taking a significant slice of the salary cap are the following:
With these as the biggest earners who are taking up a majority of the salary cap, some will be able to stay but some will have to go.
Jason Hatcher will turn 32 next summer and will be a free agent at the conclusion of this season. While he loves playing in Dallas, Hatcher has never had a big payday, and will most likely look for the most guaranteed money when looking for his next contract.
Anthony Spencer will be playing on his second consecutive franchise tag ($8.9 million in 2012, $9.6 in 2013) in the 2013 season, and will be turning 30 in January. The Cowboys have delayed giving Spencer a long-term contract as the team knew it would have to address Bryant, Smith, and Carter. The team hopes they have found Spencer’s eventual replacement in Tyrone Crawford, yet that will have to wait to due Crawford’s season ending injury. Regardless, look for the two to part ways as the Cowboys simply cannot afford to give him a big money deal with the salary structure they have in place currently. Due to how the new CBA has wiped out the middle class of the NFL, the two may find a middle ground of 5 yrs $35 million (or less), but it looks unlikely at this point.
Nate Livings looked like a bad signing when he inked his deal in 2012, and it looks even worse today. 5yrs and almost $19 million was too much for a career underachiever. If the team does not cut him in 2013, he certainly won’t be here in 2014.
Jay Ratliff was given an extension of 5 yrs and $40 million in the fall of 2011. He has played sparingly the last few seasons as his body has begun to betray him. With Ratliff turning 32 today, his recent addition to the PUP list (where he misses the first 6 weeks of the season), and the team just not able to depend on him anymore, he will no longer wear the star after this season. He only question is he cut prior to or after June 1st 2014. Cutting him prior to June 1st 2014 allows his salary and cap hit to be entirely gone for the 2015 season. Cutting him after June 1st 2014 allows the team to reduce their cap by over $5 million in 2014, but then pushes this money into 2015.
Miles Austin signed a large extension in the fall of 2010 for 6 yr and $54 million. With Austin turning 30 next summer, the team may look to shake free of the remaining years owed to him to allocate to the young core the team is building through the draft. With the drafting of Dywane Harris and with undrafted free agent Cole Beasley on the roster, they may replace what Austin provides in the slot. If Terrance Williams can hold his own on the outside, this could be a move that may very well occur.
As sad as it is for the team and fans to have to part ways from their beloved Cowboys, the NFL is a business. There will be no splurge on outside free agents in the next year or two, but a hope that the team can find a way to keep its core pieces in blue and silver. The Dline went from a perceived strength to a weakness now with the season ending loss of Crawford and unavailability of Ratliff. This in addition to the loss of Josh Brent is why teams can’t afford to miss in the early rounds of the NFL Draft. The fact that the team used the a second round pick for a 3rd string TE is still puzzling. An average guy like myself can see what is on the horizon for the team, just not sure why they could not. The team could possibly had stood pat in Round 1 and selected Sharrif Floyd, and then grabbed Travis Frederick in Round 2. They might had to surrender a 4th rounder to move back up if they thought Frederick would have been gone, but it’s a move that very well could of worked out and helped the team greatly now and in the future.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH