The Dallas Cowboys season came to an abrupt end after losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card round. The decision to run a quarterback draw with 14 seconds left and no timeouts will likely live in Dallas’ heads until the beginning of next season. The fact that the Cowboys didn’t even have the opportunity to take a final shot into the endzone remains haunting.
As Dak Prescott slid with nine seconds remaining, he got downs at the 49ers’ 25-yard-line and handed the ball to the center Tyler Biadasz to get off another play. Dallas was ready to spike the ball with about four seconds left.
But, the rule is that the referee has to spot/touch the ball before the offense can snap it. So, the referee came running from behind, bumping Prescott, who’s trying to snap it, and before you know it, the clock hits zero, sending the Cowboys home without taking a shot.
It’s a heartbreaking way to lose after such an encouraging season.
After losing opening night to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cowboys managed to win six straight games, cruising high and mighty. After Week 9, they were ranked as the second-best team in the league. But, it was too good to be true right? The franchise that hasn’t made a championship game since 1996, surely wasn’t going to get over the hump.
Cowboys fans sure thought so.
However, after starting the season 6-1, the Cowboys then lost three of their next four games. In those games, they lost to the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, and Las Vegas Raiders.This group would bounce back though by going 5-1 to end the season and finish with a record of 12-5. They won the NFC East and finished as the third seed in the NFC playoffs.
Nevertheless, the 12-5 record meant nothing as the Cowboys came up short once again. They had the star power on both offense and defense to make a serious run at the Lombardi Trophy. Even with the disappointing season, Dallas should be in a good spot next year to make the postseason in consecutive seasons. They also have the potential to make the Super Bowl next year if anything goes as planned.
Most importantly though, owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones has to be active this offseason if they want any chance to play in Super Bowl LVII in Arizona, the place they last won in 1996.
What needs to happen this offseason for the Dallas Cowboys to get further in 2022?
The Cowboys fell short once again in the postseason. With this playoff loss, America’s Team has now gone 11 straight postseasons without a championship appearance, the longest streak in NFL history. And, it doesn’t get easier for the team. That’s because their current cap space situation is a living nightmare.
According to Spotrac, the Cowboys go into the 2022 offseason with a cap space of -$21,164,940. Essentially, they are going into the season with negative money, meaning they need to clear up at least over $21 million. The team only needs to account for the top-51 players, according to NFL rules.
The Cowboys’ front office will surely be up all-night during the offseason crunching the numbers. On top of the negative cap space, they have to re-sign/sign some players as well and try to create more money. As a result, Dallas is going to have to make some big decisions that they might regret. Here are some players who may be cap casualties this year.
4 current Cowboys players who Dallas should cut, and if cutting them is realistic based on cap space
4. Ezekiel Eliott (RB)
The number one player that most people would imagine the Cowboys to cut is running back Ezekiel Elliott. The former Ohio State star is coming off his second consecutive poor season. In 2020, the 26-year-old running back ran for just 979 yards on 4.0 yards per carry and six touchdowns – all career lows.
Then, in 2021, he followed it up with 1,002 yards on 4.2 yards per carry while averaging 58.9 yards per game. His 58.9 yards per game were a career-low, and he needed all 17 games to just eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.
Elliott was also dealing with a knee injury throughout the season, which was later confirmed to be a partially torn PCL, but he isn’t the same back he once was. Additionally, his successor, running back Tony Pollard, looks far more efficient on the field.
Pollard finished with 5.5 yards per carry, tied with Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor and Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb for the second-best yards per carry among other running backs. That’s pretty good company.
If Pollard, who only had 130 rush attempts, had Elliott’s workload (237 attempts) on 5.5 yards per carry, the third-year player would have finished the season with 1,308 rush yards. His adjusted rush total would be the third-most in the NFL in 2021 behind Taylor (1,811) and Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (1,467). Keeping up with his 5.5 yards per carry would have likely been hard to do, but even if that drops to 5.0 with those touches, he still finishes top three in rushing.
However, Eliott has to stay with the team for another year. It’s like that brother that you kinda love, but also kinda hate. You just want them to leave you alone, but you can’t get rid of them.
When the Cowboys signed Elliott to that massive six-year, $90 million contract extension in 2019, they would have never thought that this would come to bite them back. In 2022, his cap hit is listed at $18.2 million which makes up 8.59 percent of Dallas’ total cap space, and the team is stuck with that.
Trading away/releasing Elliott would actually lose the Cowboys’ money. Below is his salary cap situation if Dallas would trade or release him.
Dead cap is referred to as the amount of money that is still counted towards the team’s salary cap. From this chart, releasing Elliott at all during this offseason won’t happen. If they were to release him prior to June 1, they would have to pay an additional $11.8 million, losing out on over $41 million in cap space. Even releasing him after June 1 does nothing as the team would save $0.
The best-case scenario for the Cowboys would be to find a trade post-June 1. They would only take a $5.8 million cap hit this season while saving $12.4 million. But, then again, no one is going to trade for Elliott’s outrageous contract.
So, he’s stuck in Dallas for another year. While he may deserve to be cut, it just isn’t a reality based on cap space.