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?
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
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|