Your Card Has Been Declined! Anatomy of a Cap Problem

Since the advent of the modern free agency system, Jerry Jones has proven season after season to be an abject failure at managing the salary cap. Jones penchant for overpaying players on the downside of their career is the stuff of legend. The 2012 version of the Cowboys will be proof positive of this legend.

Jerry Jones has approximately 35 million, nearly 1/3 of the team’s 120 million dollar salary cap, committed to players who will not start for the team in 2012 (see breakdown below). So when you go to sleep each night with visions of Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch, Chris Myers, and Ben Grubbs dancing around in your head, don’t be surprised when your credit card is declined at checkout.

Yesterday marked the 23rd anniversary of Jerry Jones hostile takeover of the most hallowed franchise in the National Football League. In his first 7 years as owner of the Cowboys, Jones hoisted the Lombardi Trophy 3 times. Since 1995, the team has been consistently and painfully average, posting a 130-126 record over the last 16 years with only 2 playoff wins during that period.

While meeting with reporters at the NFL combine, Jones disclosed that he has no intention of stepping down as general manager. In spite of his failed leadership during one of the darkest eras in the history of the team, Jones remains steadfast to his “socks to jocks” involvement in the organization.

There is a growing chorus of Cowboys fans who seem to believe that Jerry Jones has recovered from his over-spending, cap destroying, Cowboys killing ways. Time and again, I read fan posts suggesting that Jerry is taking backseat to his son, and that Jason Garrett has helped Jerry recognize the errors of his past ways.

I submit to you that Jerry Jones is incorrigible. No matter how much fans want to believe that Jerry is evolving and improving as a general manager, this belief is pure fantasy. You need only look at the contract extensions Jerry Jones masterminded prior to the 2011 season as proof that he is the same guy who has mismanaged the team’s salary cap in years past.

Exhibit #1: Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears contracts.

In spite of the fact that Sean Lissemore and Jason Hatcher are younger and more talented defensive ends than Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears, Jerry stayed true to his failed model of overpaying aging players on the wrong side of their career. As a result, Dallas has 5 million in cap money committed to Coleman and Spears, two players who I predict will not be starters in 2012.

Exhibit #2: Orlando Scandrick contract.

In spite never having started, Scandrick’s performance during training camp was rewarded with a 5 year 27 million dollar contract. As a sign of his gratitude, Scandrick turned in his worst season as a Cowboy. Among players who were on the field for at least 25 percent of their team's snaps, Scandrick was rated the 83rd-best cornerback in the NFL, according to Quarterbacks completed 69.4 percent of the 62 passes they directed toward Scandrick, who yielded 540 passing yards and two touchdowns. Jerry Jones took one of the most average cornerbacks in the league and made him the 14th highest paid player at his position. So you tell me, does Jerry Jones look a changed man?

The coup de gras to the Cowboys salary cap situation is that Jerry Jones has 20.9 million of the team’s 2012 cap space committed to 4 players who aren’t even on the team- Roy Williams, Marc Columbo, Leonard Davis, and Marion Barber.

Cap Numbers for Players Who Will not be Starting in 2012

Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears 5 million against cap
Orlando Scandrick 7.7 million against cap
Williams, Columbo, Barber, Davis 21 million against cap
David Buehler 1.3 million against cap

Total of 35 million against cap

The core group of elite players on the Cowboys: Romo, Witten, Ware, and Austin are not getting younger. The window for these players to deliver a championship is closing. Jerry Jones acknowledged as much at the combine when he stated, “Every decision I’m making is about now.”

The holes on this team are numerous, and thanks to the same ole’ Jerry the GM, the team’s budget is quite limited. So as we prepare to enter free agency, get a bottle of aspirin and a bottle of whiskey ready, because while Jerry might not deliver any of the big names on your free agent wish list, he never fails to deliver a few headaches, and is guaranteed to drive fans to drink.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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