Historic salary cap increase could screw Cowboys out of dream free agent target

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys / Ron Jenkins/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys received uplifting news when the NFL announced an historic increase of the 2024 salary cap. It will jump by an unprecedented $30 million, bringing the total number to $255.4 million per team. This will have a profound impact around the league as it pertains to the upcoming free agent frenzy.

Assuming the Cowboys sign Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb to contract extensions, restructures some contracts and release a player or two, they could have more than $80 million in cap room at their disposal this offseason.

All of a sudden, certain big-ticket free agents may fall into Dallas' budget. They could sign an impact linebacker and wide receiver if they play their cards right. Who knows? Maybe Derrick Henry is now a real possibility.

Conversely, though, the cap surge could push some free agents out of the Cowboys' comfort zone in terms of spending. With that in mind, we can't help but feel that Colts defensive tackle Grover Stewart will be too expensive.

Historic salary cap increase could screw Cowboys out of signing DT Grover Stewart in free agency

Stewart is part of a stacked free agent class at defensive tackle. As much as Cowboys fans want Jerry Jones to splurge on Chris Jones, Justin Madubuike, or Christian Wilkins, it's likely all three linemen sign for $20 million per year.

While the Cowboys will focus on strengthening the spine of their defense this offseason, it's not in their DNA to spend $20 million per year on a defensive tackle. That's what makes Stewart an ideal target. He's part of the second-tier of free agent DTs, including Leonard Williams, D.J. Reader and Sheldon Rankins.

The cap surge could jack up Stewart's price tag. In 2023, Stewart ranked fifth among interior defenders with a 77.2 run-defense grade, per Pro Football Focus. He finished with one fewer defensive stop than Wilkins despite appearing in six fewer games than the Dolphins star.

Additionally, Stewart posted a higher run-stop percentage than Madubuike, Jeffery Simmons, Jonathan Allen, Wilkins, Reader and Aaron Donald. Per PFF, the Colts ranked last in expected points allowed per rush in 2023 with Stewart out of the lineup and in the top half of the league when Stewart played.

Stewart is the exact DT profile the Cowboys desperately need. He clogs up the middle, consumes double teams and frees up pass rushers. He's not a dominant pass rusher, but he flourished playing next to DeForest Buckner, who's one of the best pass-rushing DTs in the league.

Osa Odighizuwa obviously isn't on Buckner's level, but he ranked among the best interior defenders in 2023 in pass-rush win rate.

Odighizuwa and Stewart would be a dream DT pairing for the Cowboys, who should still pursue Stewart with a purpose even if his price tag jumps following the cap surge.

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