Balancing The Budget: It's Okay To Pay

Jerry and Stephen watch intently as BTBers examine their books.

The Cowboys have remained quiet in free agency for quite some time. It's safe to say the team is prepared to enter the draft with what it has. Looking back on the signings that took place, however, one finds a lot of angst over the seeming overpayment for apparent back-up grade talent.

No one will question Jerry and Stephen Jones' business acumen. The two know how to manage money. But, on the other side of the argument, it seems everyone questions their ability to manage the salary cap. Our recent dead money issues have done nothing but add fuel to that fire.

How could an incredibly successful businessman and his son be so fiscally inept when it comes to football? It doesn't compute. So, I did some thinking, and, as it turns out, things might not be so bad.

Follow the jump to see why not...

As we all know, football teams are constrained by the salary cap. As a team that habitually maintains expenditures at the maximum allowable, it has been popular to argue that the Cowboys are fiscally irresponsible. The team that spends the most money should win the most games, right? Well, no. This isn't baseball or basketball. In fact, with the salary cap and salary floor in place, the difference in pay from team to team are negligible.

Considerable discussion has gone into dividing draft picks between offense and defense. With rationality such as "we spent almost our entire draft on offense last year, so we have to do the same for defense this year" populating the common literature, it's easy to see that fans and analysts believe in a division of resources between offensive and defensive needs.

Why not apply this to financial resources, as well? Draft picks are somewhat of an infinite commodity, in that there's no regulation preventing a team from acquiring copious amounts of picks (such as the Browns in last draft's trade) and distributing them as they please. Even more pertinent, draft picks are not the only method for acquiring players. If you only draft on offense, and only sign free agents on defense, you won't necessarily have an unequal division of talent.

Cash is another story. The salary cap figure is the only asset available for securing a player's services. Whether signed, traded for, or drafted, they all count against the cap. So, while a defense composed of 9 draft picks and 2 free agents is not necessarily better or worse than an offense of 2 draft picks and 9 free agents, an $80M offense will typically outperform a $40M defense. As the NFL Players Association will surely tell you, you pay for talent at this level. The free agents that we signed were not overpriced, but rather market price (and markets carry something known as inflation).

So, if we want a balanced team, should we spend about $60M each on offense and defense (lets just assume the punter is part of the defense, and the kicker, the offense)? Such would appear to be the case. The division can't stop there, however.

On the offense, $60M is quite a large sum. The offense can be rather simply divided into two groups: the offensive line and the skill positions. For now, we'll assume that $30M is given to each group. Furthermore, let's divide the skill position salaries: $15M for receivers and tight ends, $10M for quarterbacks, and $5M for running backs and full backs.

For the defense, let's do the same. We have linebackers, defensive linemen, and the secondary--all with similar amounts of personnel. For sake of brevity, we'll give them each $20M.

If that's a balanced team, then how does Dallas compare?

Cowboys_expense_medium

On the left, you see that the Cowboys have very balanced spending. Contrary to what might have been expected, the Cowboys actually spend more on the defensive side of the ball! The chart on the right is a bit more difficult to understand (excuse my inexperience with Excel, I couldn't label the segments). So, from top to bottom, left to right, the positions are:

Center, Guard, Tackle
Quarterback, Full Backs, Running Backs, Tight Ends, Wide Receivers
Defensive End, Defensive Tackle
Outside Linebacker, Inside Linebacker
Corner, Safety

Using this, it's almost possible to gauge expectations for the performance of these core units. You expect the trademark (and incredibly pricey) Dallas Skill Positions to impress. Unfortunately, you can also see that the line is still a position of weakness. On defense, the expense is spread more judiciously. The strength of the defense is definitely the linebacking corps, and the money spent reflects that.

In free agency, the Cowboys appear to have invested money very judiciously. They gave contracts to areas in need. The big spending was recouped with big cuts when necessary. Also, notice that Dallas did not spend on skill positions. Laurent Robinson was allowed to leave, and Tony Fiammetta was replaced with Lawrence Vickers at about the same price point. Had Laurent Robinson stayed, you could add another $6M or so to the skill position column--hardly the direction Dallas needs to go.

Despite the recent signings, the offensive line remains the lowest paid of any group.

So, BTB, what do you think? I've attached the salary cap figures for every player currently on the roster. Enjoy!

Offensive Player # Pos. 2012 Cap Number Defensive Player # Pos. 2012 Cap Number
Phil Costa 67 C 494000 Kenyon Coleman 99 DE 2245000
Kevin Kowalski 60 C 465000 Clifton Geathers 96 DE 540000
Bill Nagy 61 C 476475 Jason Hatcher 97 DE 2100000
All Centers C 1435475 Sean Lissemore 95 DE 552150
David Arkin 62 G 590000 Marcus Spears 98 DE 2700000
Mackenzy Bernadeau - G 1812500 All Defensive Ends DE 8137150
Brandon Carter - G 490000 Josh Brent 92 DT 501875
Nate Livings - G 1000000 Rob Callaway 72 DT 465000
All Guards G 3892500 Jay Ratliff 90 DT 6475000
Doug Free 68 OT 5375000 All Defensive Tackles DT 7441875
Jermey Parnell 78 OT 540000 All D-Line DL 15579025
Tyron Smith 77 OT 2840022 Alex Albright 55 OLB 465000
All Tackles OT 8755022 Baraka Atkins - OLB 390000
All O-Line OL 14082997 Anthony Spencer 93 OLB 8800000
Rudy Carpenter - QB 615000 DeMarcus Ware 94 OLB 10303000
Stephen McGee 7 QB 698000 All Outside Linebackers OLB 20697635
Kyle Orton - QB 2566667 Victor Butler 57 ILB 739635
Tony Romo 9 QB 18905000 Bruce Carter 54 ILB 1053164
All Quarterbacks QB 22784667 Dan Connor - ILB 2150000
Shaun Chapas 45 FB 479213 Isaiah Greenhouse - ILB 465000
Lawrence Vickers - FB 915000 Sean Lee 50 ILB 840000
All Fullbacks FB 1394213 Orie Lemon 58 ILB 390000
Felix Jones 28 RB 1884000 Brashton Satele - ILB 465000
DeMarco Murray 29 RB 675781 All Inside Linebackers ILB 5363164
Phillip Tanner 34 RB 465000 All Linebackers LB 26060799
All Running Backs RB 3024781 Mario Butler 31 CB 390000
John Phillips 89 TE 584562 Brandon Carr - CB 3200000
Jason Witten 82 TE 5841000 Mike Jenkins 21 CB 1672000
All Tight Ends TE 6425562 Orlando Scandrick 32 CB 7700000
Miles Austin 19 WR 2720000 C.J. Wilson 27 CB 700000
Dez Bryant 88 WR 3660000 Justin Taplin-Ross - CB 390000
Dwayne Harris 17 WR 514145 All Corners CB 14052000
Andre Holmes 15 WR 465000 Barry Church 42 S 494000
Kevin Ogletree 85 WR 615000 Danny McCray 40 S 540000
Raymond Radway 86 WR 465000 Brodney Pool - S 1200000
Teddy Williams 10 WR 465000 Gerald Sensabaugh 43 S 1140000
All Wide Receivers WR 8904145 Mana Silva 36 S 465000
All Skill Positions OS 42533368 All Safeties S 3839000
All Defensive Backs DB 17891000
All Offense OFF 56616365 All Defense DEF 59530824
Dan Bailey 5 K 465000 Chris Jones 6 P 465000
Kai Forbath 2 K 465000 L.P. LaDouceur 91 LS 964000
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