First of all, I in no way claim to know the specifics about every contract situation or how to run an NFL franchise from an economic standpoint. This post is an attempt to highlight just a few areas of concern that must be taken into account when dealing w/ an off-season. And, given that this is my 1st fan post, bear with me please.Ok, according to several sources, the Dallas Cowboys were #1 in the league in highest salary cap going into the 2011 season with $136.6 million. Since then, there have been additions and deletions to the team and the specific impacts to the cap are unknown but I'm sure the team figures to be one of the higher paying teams in 2012.
What that translates to for the off-season is the lack of ability to sign premium free agents. Mario Williams - forget about it. Cortland Finnegan - probably out of reach. Carl Nicks - likewise. Kyle Orton - maybe, maybe not. It may be even a stretch to re-sign Spencer. Other guys like Stephen Tulloch (who would make bring a strong veteran pressence to the ILB position), Terrell Thomas or Daniel Sepulveda might be obtainable. Point being, Dallas has needs for veteran players with experience and that can offer leadership, they just can't afford premium guys. The bulk of the team needs to come from second or third tier free agents and the draft as they are cheaper. If they are going to seriously compete for a Superbowl while Ware and Romo are still primary contributors (let's say the next 2-4 years), it's important that they get this one right!.
Draft strategy is a whole different discussion but part of it spills over into finance. The 14th overall pick can expect to receive something like 5 years - $10 million w/ a bonus around 4-5 million. Chump change really when compared to what free agents get (by comparison, Doug Free received a 4 yr - $32 million). The value of the 14th overall pick is tremendous given the expectation that whomever is drafted is expected to win a starting job somewhere on the team in their rookie season. There are several players that have been mentioned with respect to the 14th overall pick for Dallas - most being OLBs or DBs. However, with the expectation mentioned above, the best value would be David DeCastro. He's the safest in terms of non-bust factor and he has the greatest projection from elite play. The only "knock" on him (if you can consider it a knock), is that he plays interior line and usually OGs and Cs aren't drafted that high.
David DeCastro NFL Draft Analysis - 2010 Season (via TMBDraft)
In my opinion, this is a historical or legacy mindset in that the amount of money that a 14th overall pick USED to garner was much higher than now. Paying $2 million a year for an OG that projects to be a pro-bowler in 2 years is, again, chump change. Keep in mind that at 6'5" and 310, DeCastro could play OT and was thought of to be a fairly decent prospect for C while at Stanford.
Given the usual draft patterns of the Dallas Cowboys, I'd expect an OLB or CB to be drafted there. Why - finances? Besides winning a championship, Jerry Jones is VERY interested in making money and OLBs and DBs sell jerseys and tickets. They are sexier picks. They offer greater water-cooler discussion while at work. And, if they end up being worthy of the pick, offer highlight film with every sack and interception. All to the glory which is the Dallas Cowboys. Nevermind that interior lineman are cheaper in their 2nd contract than both OLBs and DBs. Forget about the career life expectancy of an OG is about 1.5 times longer than both OLBs and DBs. And, last but not least, don't even consider that a better offensive line means greater time for your QB to throw and bigger holes for your RBs to run through and produce Packer and Saints type offensive like numbers.
Make no mistake, I'm a Cowboys fan. I'm a season ticket holder and trust me when I mention the seats, although they're in the upper section, are not cheap for me. I love my team and hope for the best. But, if I'm a true fan - one who can think objectively/rationally and leave emotion out - then the smartest pick for the Dallas Cowboys at pick #14 is David DeCastro.