Since the cap is set at $120.4 million and Dallas is about $18.5 million above that, the Boys are in a bit of a rough spot. Nothing that can't be dealt with IMO. So I will play out a scenario, but I am going to stick to two rules.
Rule 1. Since the salary floor is at 89% there wont be a lot of money the Cowboys can use to compensate for bad decisions. FA signings will have to be consistently solid, otherwise the little extra money we do spend will be wasted. Older vet signings will have to be less frequent and we may have to take chances with our draftees and youth more often.
Rule 2. Since the cap is going to increase significantly as revenues are projected to double in the next 5 years, I am not going to be afraid to move dead money to other years. Signings this year, while there is a large supply and a low cap, will come cheaper than those 2 to 3 years from now. This strategy can work for about the next five years IMO but will put us in a bind if our FA signings and drafts are poor. At that point we would probably see our window close and have to enter a few years of rebuilding anyway.
As OCC pointed out in this post the boys can cut some players to make space. The cuts I'd make would be: Newman, Igor, and Barber. These cuts net $6 million in savings right off the bat and by using the June 1st rule, $10 million of salary acceleration could be deferred to next year, so in total about $16 million would be saved.
The Cowboys could also create $17.5 million in cap space by restructuring the contracts of Romo, Miles, and Ware. This brings the 'Boys to $15 million under the cap. In addition to these moves, the new CBA also allows for $3.5 million in credits to discourage release of vets and encourage signing of free agents, and Dallas can borrow up to $3 million from next year's cap. All in all, the 'Boys could get to $21.5 million under the cap by cutting Newman, Igor, and Barber, and by renegotiating with some quality core players in their prime (Romo, Austin, and Ware).
I estimate Doug Free will sign a deal that will be close to 5 years for $45 million and his cap number should be around $6 million for this season. Dallas could do about 4 years and $20 million for Stephen Bowen, with a cap hit of about $3 million this year. The rookie cap hit should be around $6 million, which leaves $6.5 million left to spend at this point.
IMO we still need a CB, DE, and S. With the cut of Newman, we are hurting at CB and since the pool of young CBs is formidable, I think that is where Dallas should commit most of the remaining cap. We will have to hope we can get one of Brent Grimes, Brandon Carr, Chris Houston, or Richard Marshall at CB. I can see one coming in at a cost of about $3 to $4 mil against the cap. Unfortunately, Dallas financially seems to have no chance to land the premiere CBs and even Grimes may not even be in their range. The upside is that all these CBs are young and underrated. With one of these CBs added to the mix of Scandrick and Jenkins, I would feel pretty good about our CBs.
At safety we will have to look for a S like Abram Elam or Quintin Mikell to come in for around $2 million. They are older and not elite, but with only about $3 million left to spend, Weddle and Huff are out of the question. Hatcher or another bargain DE will be all we can muster with what is left. This forces us to look to youth on our roster to pick up the slack at FS and DE. IMO Dallas doesn't depend on their draftees enough, but it seems they may be forced to.
More room can be made under the cap by releasing Davis, Holland, Colombo, James, and Brooking, but I would rather keep these players for the depth they provide. We will also benefit from allowing the youth at those positions to season one more year anyway. Carter, Lee, Arkin and Smith could all be very ready in 2012. Yes, releasing a few of these players could mean the addition of a Weddle or Huff, but I don't see Weddle or Huff as enough of a difference maker to take that kind of risk. Keeping these players also allows for some more flexibility in 2012 as well. Cutting these players and Roy Williams in 2012 will allow us to be buyers again in 2012. We will have the chance to again spend wisely before the cap really skyrockets in 2013 and 2014, and players thus become much more expensive.
These moves mostly fill the holes without bringing forth salary cap hell. We are solid along the OL and at the skill positions. Defense has more problems but with the FA signings proposed we at least have: 3 young and talented CBs competing for playing time, a DL with warts but potential, a solid set of LBs, and a veteran S to guide the youth at that position. At the very least there is talent in what I believe are the most important pieces of a 3-4, the CBs and the LBs. The future isn't mortgaged and the Cowboys have a reasonable shot at the playoff is they can stay healthy.
Thats the best I can do, but I wonder what you all think could have been done better?