Winning Formula - the Financial Part of Building for a Superbowl

The NFL salary cap is $120.6 million dollars for 2012. It's expected to be $121 million next year. According to, the Cowboys are under the 2012 mark (including the penalty for violating NFL "rules" during the uncapped year) by a few million. The 8 guys with the highest cap hit are: Anthony Spencer - $8.856 mil Tony Romo - $8.059 mil Demarcus Ware - $7.546 mil Jason Witten - &7.141 mil Jay Ratliff - $5.6 mil Doug Free - $5.375 mil Dez Bryant - $3.66 mil Brandon Carr - $3.2 mil With just this information, it looks as if the team is structured well where, for the most part, the best players are earning the most money. But that's not the whole story...
What's missing, or better, WHO's missing is Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Morris Claiborne. When a little deeper look is conducted, it's apparent that the Boys' front office has been "creative" in structuring contracts.

For example, Miles Austin was paid $1.15 in base salary and a signing bonus of $1.57 for a total cap hit of $2.72 this year - which seems extremely cheap for him. However, Miles' total contract is worth $57.168 of which $17.078 was paid in the 1st year of the contract (2010). That seems smart - pay the most for a player in the year he produces the most. The only problem is that the cap hit on the contract for years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are $8.302, $7.07, $8.458 and $11.38 million, respectively.

That's somewhat of a scary thought . . . Miles Austin's cap hit is basically $7 mil / yr for the next 3 years and will be $11 mil when Miles is his 11th NFL season (when he'll be 32/33 years old). Miles has played in all 16 games in only 1 of his 7 seasons so far. Along that same vain, Ware's cap hit is $16.471 in 2015 (he'll be 33), Ratliff's cap hit in 2017 is $10 mil (36) and Tony Romo has vested option cap hits of more than $16.5 per season from 2013-2016.

With those sorts of contracts to pay for in the next few years, the need to replace guys who probably won't be resigned (Jenkins, Spencer, Jones, etc.) and the need to resign rising talents like Lee, Carter and Claiborne to what will probably be elite level contracts, how can this team fill out a roster that will compete at the highest levels?

Dallas needs to do 4 things: trade high priced players who are just past their prime, sign up and coming players early (after 2 years of elite play) to modest but cheaper contracts, don't resign RBs to contracts beyond their rookie contracts and draft players who won't complain about being underpaid while on their rookie contract.

First - trade high priced players. This is probably the most difficult to do given that higher priced players, of course, tend to be the better players and fan favorites. But, Miles Austin should be traded. If not, he will have to not only stay healthy enough to play in most/all of the games each season but also produce along the lines of the top 10 WRs in the league to justify the pay. If he's traded after the season, perhaps he can be pawned off for a 2nd round pick or a better offensive lineman in the off-season. Dallas has several prospects that may be able to fill in as a quality #2; Cole Beasley easily could be the team's slot WR for a while. It's a tough decision, but I think a worthwhile one.

Second, Sean Lee should be signed to a modest multi-year deal now. This is risky given Sean's injury history but contracts can be written to mitigate that risk by providing bonuses for playing in all the games of the season, making certain # of tackles, etc. If the front office waits until Sean's rookie contract ends, they might possibly have to overpay just to keep him from leaving via free agency. 7 years and $45-50 million is cheap right now. It's risky but cheap. Do the same thing for Bruce Carter once he demonstrates the same level of play next year. Same for Claiborne.

Bill Parcells was known for saying not to draft a RB in the 1st round unless he's a franchise back. I agree. There are simply too many later round picks to be used on RBs who can fulfill the necessary roles within the Dallas offense. The most important aspect of a RB for the Cowboys (besides running, of course) is pass blocking. There are a # of backs coming out of the college ranks that can fulfill the need; there really is no need to ever use one beyond his rookie contract. Just use a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th round pick on one every 3-5 years.

Lastly, the Right King of Guy concept is necessary. Maurice Jones-Drew just held out for a better contract when he was already on a contract. Wrong Kind of Guy. What MJD did was not good for his team, not good for the Jacksonville fans and not good for the NFL. RKGs honor their word and play out their contracts without complaint. With a salary cap around $121 million, a 53 man roster would relegate $2.3 million per player. If the elite players of the team require upwards of $50-60 million collectively, the remaining amount of funds must be spent frugally on players with talent who will contribute, put the team before self, and don't mind being underpaid as long as they can be a part of something special. RKGs aren't less talented, just better people.

Given that, the Superbowl is just a few practices away...

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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