To cut or not to cut: Which Cowboys have played their last snap?
I think we all took kicker Dan Bailey for granted. Since his injury and eventual release after the 2017 season, Dallas has yet to find a reliable replacement. I thought Greg Zuerlein could be that guy, but the 2021 season proved otherwise. Extra-point attempts are usually a no-brainer. That was until 2015 when the NFL moved the kick from the two-yard line to the 15. But even then, extra points were almost always successful except for the odd miss in terrible weather.
Zuerlein has an 89.3 percent success rate kicking extra points for the Cowboys. That’s 7.8 percent lower than his rate with the Los Angeles Rams from 2015 to 2019. The 34-year-old missed nine kicks in two seasons with Dallas, but only six in eight seasons with the Rams.
The drop in production is very disappointing. While missing only one point may not seem like a lot, it can be the difference between a one and two-score game. His inconsistency was a constant liability for the team.
His work hitting field goals is concerning as well, but it’s worth noting the bulk of his misses were from 50+ yards out like most kickers. His success rate inside 50 yards is 93.5 percent, which isn’t bad, but still isn’t great. However, it’s sadly better than his extra-point percentage.
Cutting the Lincoln, Nebraska native would save the Cowboys $2.49 million. While that’s not a ton of money in the grand scheme of things, it is when you celebrate making a kick from 15 yards out. Dallas needs to stop counting on this guy to get better when he hasn’t proven himself. America’s Team is better off giving another kicker a shot at a lower cap hit. Let’s say someone that can make a 15-yard kick more than 90 percent of the time.
Okay, listen I know exactly what you’re thinking. Just bear with me here. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is a supremely talented player, but sometimes you need to make tough decisions to make things work. Lawrence was at one point one of the top edge rushers in the NFL but has since seen his praise decline. His 2017 and 2018 seasons consisted of elite pass-rushing and run-stopping play. He remains a lethal lineman against the run but has lost his magic touch rushing the passer.
That’s not to say he isn’t effective in getting to the quarterback. He is not as efficient as he once was, but still better than most. Unfortunately, his contract pays him as if he is still a top-notch talent. Tank Lawrence will cost the Cowboys $27 million against the cap this upcoming season. Cutting the end before June would save the team $8 million. If the Cowboys wait until after June, they will save $19 million for this year, but the Cowboys would eventually lose that money in the future. The Cowboys asked the DE to take a pay cut, but he declined.
If the Boise State product gets released from the team, that will leave a sizeable hole along the left side of the defensive line. It also doesn’t help that Randy Gregory is a free agent.
However, Lawrence’s injury history is a red flag regarding holding onto the player. He missed ten games this past season and has been playing through injuries the last couple of years. That may lead the Cowboys to look for a different option. Restructuring Lawrence’s contract would save the team $11.9 million, but they are already on the hook for $29 million next season and $3 million the following season, which is after his contract ends.
With the cap savings retained from cutting Lawrence, Dallas can re-sign Gregory and sign either a linebacker or another pass-rusher. Acquiring a linebacker will allow the hybrid Micah Parsons to switch to a full-time pass-rusher.
I love D-Law. It is not an easy decision, but it is a necessary one. While he played very well on the field, it’s not enough to explain a $25+ million cap hit.