Alright I’m no capologist but I’m going to pretend to be. There is a lot of concern over the Cowboys being able to afford Lee and Bryant in 2014; and Carter, Murray, and Smith in 2015. I wanted to see how the ‘Boys might go about fitting them in.
So let’s start at the beginning and our Cap situation right now. Currently we are $5.5 million under the cap and will be $7.5 mil under after June 1 due to Spears being a June 1 cuts. Sensa and Connor were straight up cuts, so we won’t be getting any additional funds from them. Feel free to correct me on any of these numbers. Also, I’m going to ignore the Spencer situation since it’s in flux, I may update this later to account for him.
With rookie contracts I figure we will be about $1.5 under going into the season, if there are no further changes. We still have $2.1 million worth of dead money from Spears to account for next year so we pretty much wash out any carryover money from this year due to that dead money. So things are a wash heading into 2014.
Looking at 2014’s contracts we already have $143.4 million committed. If we assume a cap increase of $5 million to $128 million, that puts us $15 mil over with $6 million needed for rookies. To estimate new contracts for Bryant and Lee I used some recent contract numbers. Using Dannell Ellerbe’s 5 year $35 mil contract as an example we will need $2.5 and $7.5 mil in cap space in 2014 and 2015 respectively to retain Lee. Using Mike Wallace’s 5 year $60 mil contract we will need $3.2 and $17.2 mil in cap space in 2014 and 2015 respectively to retain Bryant. That’s $26.7 total that will need to be found in order to be under the cap when considering money we were already over, rookie salaries, and new contracts.
It’s surprising how easily we can find this $26.7 million. A restructure by Romo and Ware alone would get us there but for simplicity purposes I am only going to move forward $10 mil each over 4 years. This saves $15 mil in 2014 but creates an extra $5 mil in dead money in 2015 . By cutting Doug Free on June 1 we save another $8 million this year but we will have to account for another $4 million in dead money in 2015. To get us to our target of $26.7 mil we will also need to renegotiate $5 mil of Carr’s contract. This adds another $1.25 mil in dead money to 2015.
So with the moves above we are good for 2014 but 2015 is a little more complicated. We need to consider the 2nd and 3rd year obligations of the draft classes of 2013 and 2014 along with the new contracts and dead money created in 2014. I estimate the total extra obligations in 2015 below, they total about $50 million.
15 mil – 2nd and 3rd year obligations for class of 2013 and 2014 (estimation)
7.5 mil – Lee’s 2nd year obligation
17.2 mil – Bryant’s 2nd year obligation
5 mil – Romo and Ware restructure
4 mil – Last of Free’s dead money
1.25 mil – Carr's restructure
In 2015 we already have $129 mil in contract obligations according to Sportrac, but we can remove Doug Free’s obligation ($11 mil) because I already accounted for his dead money. If we subtract the Free contract and add our estimated extra obligations from above we are at $169 mil (129 + 50). If I estimate another $5 mil increase in the Cap we are probably looking at a Cap of $133 mil. Thus we are $36 mil over and will need to sign Murray, Carter, Smith and rookies. Using Chris Johnson’s 6 year $55 mil contract as an example we will need about $5.5 mil in cap space in 2015 to retain Murray. Using Dannell Ellerbe’s 5 year $35 mil contract as an example we will need about $2.5 mil in cap space in 2015 to retain Carter. For Smith I wanted to use Ware’s contract as an example. It is higher than the OTs in the league and I think it is a better example of what the Boys could do 2 years from now. So using Ware’s 7 year $78 mil contract as an example we will need about $6.5 mil in cap space in 2015 to retain Smith. The $36 mil over to begin with, plus 3 new contracts, plus 7 mil for 2015 rookies, comes to about $57.5 mil that needs to be cut.
Romo and Bryant would restructure $16 mil and $14 mil respectively over 4 years for a savings of $22.5 mil. June 1 cuts of Ratliff, Austin, and Orton save $7 mil, $6.8 mil, and $3.5 mil respectively. A straight up cut of Livings and Bernadu saves $3 mil and $2.5 mil. Ware and Carr would need to restructure over 3 years for $12 and $7 mil respectively for a savings of $14.3 mil. This totals out to $59.4 mil worth of savings and puts us 2 mil under the cap. Whew!
So it looks like it can be done but the Cowboys need to continue to sign low ticket guys and stop spending money. The elephants in the room are Spencer, Free and the Cap. Spence could help the situation in 2013, be benign in 2014, but would really throw a wrench in things in 2015. Free could take a pay cut and really help things out or be cut this year. Either way, he should not play out 2013 under his current contract. The cost to retain him under this contract for even one year handcuffs the team greatly in the future. Lastly, this assumes our players play well and is a little conservative. If Murray warrants a contract like Chris Johnson and Bryant makes Wallace money, that means our offense performed well. I wanted to err on the side of caution because I’d rather be exposed to a more difficult truth than a softened one.
In conclusion, check my numbers, many are probably wrong and I’d love to improve the estimation.