Cowboys Salary Cap Fear Is Overblown


With an accord on a new CBA just on the horizon, many — including myself — have made a big deal over the Cowboys’ prospective salary cap issues. Right now, the ‘Boys have roughly $136 million committed to the current roster and the new cap will be around $120 million. That $136 million doesn’t include draft picks, Doug Free, or any of the other free agents they will have to sign before this season starts. On the surface, it seems like the Cowboys are going to have to make some hard cuts. However, as it turns out, things aren’t as dire as they may seem. In fact, the ‘Boys actually have quite a bit of flexibility under the cap and should be able to address their needs whenever the free agency period begins.

First of all, according to numerous reports, this $120 million figure will likely be a soft cap that will feel more like $130 million. Specific details on the exceptions are not known, but this will likely include the ability to make a few cuts without taking a hit and/or signing veteran players at drastically reduced salaries. Whatever the specifics wind up being, it’s a smart move to make the cap soft. The owners and players would only be hurting themselves by not allowing financial flexibility, especially considering that no one was able to prepare for the restrictions in this new labor agreement.

However, as much as the soft cap will help, the biggest tool the Cowboys have at their disposal is the ability to restructure the deals of numerous high dollar stars. Basically, what the Cowboys would do is take a large portion of the current year’s salary and turn it into a signing bonus. That’s a very simplistic explanation, but you get the idea. The chances of them doing this with guys like Romo, Austin, Ware, and Witten are extremely high. Actually, they may not have a choice. But, ultimately, this is all just a shift of money. The Cowboys aren’t going to save an actual dollar amount and their core group of players aren’t going to make any less.

There will also be some cuts. Marion Barber will not be a Cowboy this year. That writing has been on the wall for some time. He’s overpaid, underproductive, and his departure provides the Cowboys with some cap room. They can also save some money by parting ways with Leonard Davis and/or Marc Colombo.

Realistically, they can and will easily reduce their cap figure to $100 million or even lower. That kind of space will allow them to do anything they want. They can re-sign Free and Sensabaugh, that is if they want to re-sign Sensabaugh. It will also make signing Tyron Smith a much easier task. Under the new rookie pay scale, Smith’s salary will be in the top ten percent of salaries for NFL tackles. Considering Free is likely to make a similar amount as Smith, if not more, the ‘Boys are going to have an expensive set of tackles. I’m perfectly fine with that.

This brings us to Kyle Kosier. He is an unrestricted free agent whenever these negotiations are wrapped up and if the Cowboys cut Leonard Davis, they pretty much have to re-sign Kosier. Considering the issues they’ve faced with o-line depth over the last few years, they should probably re-sign Kosier even if they keep Davis. Kyle has been an important part of the Cowboys’ line, as evidenced by how much they have missed him when he’s been hurt.

The other need that must be addressed is the team’s secondary. If they want to have any chance of having a decent defense, they’re going to need a couple of safeties. More than likely, Sensabaugh will be re-signed, so that will take care of strong safety. But, more than anything, they really need to upgrade the free safety position. In fact, I’d much rather see them throw a little money at a Michael Huff than throw a lot of money at Nnamdi Asomugha. Say what you will about Newman, Scandrick, and Jenkins, they are at least serviceable at the position. Right now, they have no one at free safety. What good will it do them to sign another corner while remaining garbage at safety? Plus, signing Asomugha would eat up about half of the cap space they’ll create in the next couple of weeks. That’s an inefficient use of money. Not to mention, as a general rule, it’s probably not a good idea to go after the most expensive free agent on the market. That rarely turns out to be a good deal for the team. Just ask the Redskins.

Regardless of who they cut and who they sign, the team’s salary cap woes are being overstated. They may not be able to go hog wild in the free agent market, but they won’t have to field a shell of a team either. If they don’t address their needs, it won’t be because they are strapped financially; it will be because they made the wrong moves.