Cowboys "Scared To Death" About Losing Free & Bowen To Free Agency

Josh Ellis, staff writer for the Cowboys official internet site at Dallascowboys.com, just published an article in which he writes that the Cowboys are 'scared to death' of losing their premier free agents to competitors with bigger wallets:

Another Valley Ranch official said he was 'scared to death' about Free and defensive end Stephen Bowen hitting the open market, as many clubs are in much more flexible situations than the Cowboys and for the first time will be required to spend up to 95 percent of the $120.4 million salary cap.

The Cowboys had met briefly with Doug Free this morning, and while it's not clear what the situation is relative to Doug Free, it is clear that the Cowboys are hedging their bets: Marc Colombo has not been officially released although it appears that there is an understanding that a release would be contingent upon on the 'Doug Free Situation'.

Many commentators had chided the Cowboys earlier in the year for not franchising Doug Free when they had the opportunity. That Free now wants to test the free agency market before potentially re-signing shouldn't come as a big surprise, and neither is the fact that Stephen Bowen could draw a lot of attention from other teams.

What does come as a surprise are two sentences that Josh Ellis adds to his article, almost as an afterthought:

By all accounts, the front office was not anticipating the cap being quite so low for 2011. While releasing veterans and restructuring other contracts this week will create room for the Cowboys to operate in 2011, some of the cap hits they will take in 2012 will be very restrictive.

The Cowboys were surprised by how low the cap turned out to be? Mercy me! Everybody and their aunt assumed that the cap would return at roughly the 2009 levels.

If the Cowboys were truly surprised by how low the cap turned out to be, that could explain some of the (hasty?) personnel decisions we've seen today. Or could all of this be an elaborate ruse or negotiating ploy by the Joneses to gain some kind of leverage in the free agency game?

I hope it's the latter and worry it's the former.

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