Every one and their dog knows that Dallas is in cap hell, that Jerry Jones has run this team into the ground and all the restructures are destined to bite us in the proverbial donkey in 2014. Everyone says so. It's common knowledge. Besides, Dallas has over $144m dollars committed to the 2014 cap RIGHT NOW, without even considering re-signing Sean Lee, Anthony Spencer, Dez Bryant, and Bruce Carter.
Allow me to burst that bubble for you. My analysis presumes three things:
- that overthecap.com has accurate numbers
- that the roster builder has accurate numbers
- that Romo and Ware will restructure in 2014 (both their contracts are clearly designed for it)
That last may have you on edge, but bear with me and you'll see that the only reason it's there is to show you that we can, indeed, give big contract extensions to Dez and Carter as well as take care of Lee this year.
The first step towards Freedom 2014 is the 2013 roster. I have my own version of this which runs a little differently, but it's not too far afoul of what many are already projecting. Here's my 53 (with asterisks where I have a non-standard move):
- S* - Church, Allen, Johnson, Wilcox, Hamilton
- CB - Carr, Claiborne, Scandrick, Webb, Moore
- LB - Durant, Lee, Carter, Holloman, Magee, McSurdy, Albright
- DL- Ware, Ratliff, Hatcher, Spencer, Crawford, Bass, Lissemore, Wilber, Hayden
- QB - Romo, Orton
- RB - Murray, Randle, Dunbar, Tanner (replace one of the last 2 with Lawrence saves us a little more)
- WR - Bryant, Austin, Harris, Williams, Beasley, Coale
- TE - Witten, Hanna, Escobar, Rosario
- OL* - Free, Bernadeau, Frederick, Leary, Smith, Kowalski, Arkin, Parnell
(maybe cut a RB to make room for one more OL, but that should be a cap savings as well)
Now there should be only one real surprise out of that whole list and that is the absence of one Phil Costa from the team. I am betting, too, on Hamilton playing well enough on Special Teams that we can afford to let McCray go, but I don't think anyone would find that a terrible stretch. Costa, though, recently named best center in the division? can we really afford to let him go?
That depends on Kevin Kowalski. Many of us liked what we saw from him as a rookie. Last year, much like Costa, he simply wasn't around. Is it that far fetched to think Kowalski could play near Costa-level? Because if he can, we can save about $2.25m. Now, it *is* true that I'm a little light in the o-line with 8, but I believe the extreme position flexibility there makes this possible, with Kowalski, Parnell, Arkin, and Bernadeau able to play multiple positions.
Here's how my numbers shake out:
- 2013 salary (according to Roster Builder): $108,482,280
- 2013 cap space (according to Roster Builder): $11,012,876
- 2014 dead money (according to Roster Builder): $3,725,000
but here's the real clincher: According to overthecap.com, here's the 2014 Salary no longer on the books with my 53 man roster (still including practice squad players as "on the books" for 2014): 11.785m
Now, let's assume we use half our remaining 2013 cap space on emergency pickups and extending Sean Lee.
That lets us roll roughly $5.5m into next years cap, as well as saving $11.785m, then add in the $3.725m in dead money which, in total, brings our effective cap number for 2014 down from $144,214,491 to a much more manageable $130,654,491. Now, as some of the practice squad players will either be cut or replace some vets next summer, we can expect that number to go down a little more, and if any LB or interior o-line development happens, we can probably get rid of Bernadeau and Durant, saving a significant additional chunk. All told, we should be nearing the $125m range at that point-- only a few million $ over the cap (even assuming it doesn't go up from this year at all).
NOW we restructure Ware and Romo, as their contracts were designed to do, and start talking to Dez and Bruce Carter about whether they'd like to spend the next 5-7 years as Cowboys...
So rest easy, fans. All is not what it seems. Everyone focuses on the huge numbers at the top, but there is a significant amount of 2014 cap space devoted to guys that are merely camp bodies. Go read the names yourself, if you don't believe me. There are 8 guys on next year's cap for $495k and 4 more at $570k that I don't even have on my practice squad. That's $6.2m that is not likely to be here next year. Add in $645k for Brandon Underwood, have Leary beat Livings out, trade Costa, and eliminate McCray, Vickers, and Cook's salaries this year so the savings can be passed on to next year, and... we're there.