The Dallas Cowboys exercised a built-in restructure on quarterback Tony Romo‘s contract Wednesday, freeing up over $12 million in cap space for the 2015 season. Despite rampant speculation from respected media outlets, here are two things the Cowboys absolutely will NOT do with that cap space:
Trade for Adrian Peterson
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built a very poor reputation in this league making player personnel decisions like a wide-eyed fan, instead of like a ruthless general manager. He “rewarded” guys like Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware with rich contracts late in their careers. He was dazzled by guys like Joey Galloway and Roy Williams, trading away premium draft assets to acquire them.
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He loved those guys. He made player evaluations from the heart. That’s what fans do. Jerry Jones fell in love with players and threw cap space at them. Jerry Jones ran his team like a fan. Ironically, that’s why all you fans hated him. Turns out a fan makes for a garbage general manager.
The NFL’s reigning Executive of the Year is not going to trade any draft picks for disgruntled Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. He is not going to saddle the franchise with more than $45 million in cap space over the next three seasons for a 30-year-old running back.
Whatever you think Peterson is, or will be for the next three years, the Cowboys do not value him more than they valued DeMarco Murray. They know Murray. They trust him. He’s one of their guys. My guess is because of that they valued Murray more than any other running back in the league.
If they didn’t pay Murray market value, they aren’t paying Peterson. Or any other back, for that matter.
Yes, Peterson has Texas roots and sexy speculative ties to Jerry Jones. But it’s been at least three years since the Cowboys did business like a fan. That’s not who they are any more. I’ll be relieved when good writers stop click-whoring this fantasy, and get back to giving us some real insight.
Extend Dez Bryant
The cap is not and never has been a serious impediment to signing wide receiver Dez Bryant long term. The Cowboys didn’t need to restructure Romo to re-sign Bryant. They could have done that any time they wanted over the past year or so.
The problem is the price tag. Bryant believes he merits top-of-the-market value, and the Cowboys believe the top of the market for wide receivers is nuts. They’re right, too.
I’ve written extensively over the past year – here, here, and here again, and goodness gracious I’ve apparently been obsessed with this – about why I believe Bryant won’t get the deal he wants from the Jason Garrett-Stephen Jones-Will McClay Cowboys. The Cowboys love Bryant. The old Jerry Jones overpaid players he loves. The new Cowboys don’t.
If Bryant finishes his meaningful playing days in Dallas, it will be on a deal the team can live with. That means a deal in which they can cut him after a few years without destroying future caps with Miles Austin/Marion Barber-style dead money. Bryant and his agents know his market is higher than that. Enjoy 2015, as it is very likely Bryant’s last with a star on his helmet.
The Romo restructure was necessary in part because the 2015 cap is weighted down with dead money from bad contracts given in years past. More than $11 million in dead money is tied to three such contracts: Austin counts more than $5.1 million. Right tackle Doug Free tallies nearly $4 million in dead money (yes, his voluntary pay cut helped last season’s cap, but it didn’t wipe out the prorating of his original $17 million in guarantees). The temperamentally retired Kyle Orton will count more than $2.2 million.
Romo’s restructure in 2015 wouldn’t be necessary if the team hadn’t paid Austin in 2010, paid Free in 2011, and took out a luxury insurance policy against injury to their starting quarterback in 2012. Bad contracts have far-reaching implications. The Cowboys aren’t about to act as enablers to the Minnesota Vikings overpaying Peterson, and they aren’t likely to make the same mistake with Bryant that they made with so many other home-grown stars.
This cap space will be used to sign the 2015 draftees and rookie free agents, pay for the practice squad, and churn the bottom third of the roster once teams start culling from 90 players to 53. Dallas hopes the bulk of it will be allocated to a miraculously unsuspended Greg Hardy for wrecking quarterbacks at an All Pro rate. Time will tell on that.
But Bryant and Peterson won’t see a dime.