Well folks, that’s it. The 2007 NFL season is officially over and we now face the long road ahead, one without the Dallas Cowboys and the great sport of football. Sure, we have the Arena League and this new mysterious spring football league, but there is no way it even comes close to filling that void left inside of us by the departure of the NFL from our lives. We all have various activities and time consumers we turn to in the offseason be it backgammon, rock climbing, culinary school, working on your romantic life (since we all know that is what truly suffers during the season), or in my case the NHL and the Dallas Stars. But even with all these distracters, we will all at one time or another obsessively come back to this blog and other websites to get our requisite fix of anything Dallas Cowboys. And to cater to all of you with the offseason blues, we here at the BTB joyously kick off our offseason regimen.
As the Cowboys head into free agency, which officially starts at 11 pm EST, February 28, they are faced with tough decisions to make. At first glance it might seem that the Cowboys are sitting pretty and have plenty of room to maneuver in the draft as well as signing their own free agents, while at the same time eyeing potential big name signings from the free agent pool in the league. Several factors are going to play into how Jerry and Stephen attack this offseason, as the Cowboys enter free agency unofficially $20.6 million under the salary cap.
Two First Round draft picks. While having two 1st round picks is a nice luxury to have, they are relatively high (22 and 28) and those picks will still have to get paid first round money, which is becoming more and more expensive each year. Now depending on which positions are picked, the Cowboys could see a 2008 salary cap hit of $4-8 million alone in salary and signing bonuses between the two picks. That doesn’t take into account the possibility of moving up or down in the draft with these picks.
2009 Free Agents The Cowboys will have three major players entering 2009 as UFA’s, Terrell Owens, Marc Columbo, and Terence Newman. Now Owens and Newman could most likely reach a contract extension this year, which might help alleviate the hit on future cap space by prorating the extension into 2008. All of which is just speculation, but any room left in 2008’s cap space would help clear up room in 2009. This factor is most likely the least of our worries.
2008 NFL Free Agents. If Jerry Jones is looking to make a splash in the free agent market it may cost him a good amount of cash to do so. The Cowboys are only in the middle of the pack when it comes to cap room and free agent contracts are skyrocketing as a result. A lot of fans are looking for the Cowboys to nab a top CB free agent, but a signing like that might end up costing upwards of $10 million against the cap this year if the Nate Clements contract is the standard to go by. I will go into further detail on the free agency field , and who the Cowboys might target in a later post
The Dallas Cowboys Free Agents This of course, is the biggest factor in the salary cap. Not every player will be signed but most players entering free agency for the Cowboys this year are a major piece of the puzzle that made this team the number one seed in the NFC. A lot of decisions will have to be made, most rely on the players themselves and how much they believe they are worth.
Over the next week, I will dive into the free agency pool, and attempt to make sense of what direction the Cowboys might head. To start off the post-season, here are the 2008 Dallas Cowboys Restricted Free Agents:
Marion Barber III – MB3 had a career year in 2007, coming just shy of his first 1000 yard season and earning his first Pro Bowl invitation. In his first three seasons Barber distinguished himself as one of the premier young running backs in the league, showing a nose for the endzone and a punishing stiff arm to opposing players that dared get in his way. Steadily he earned more and more playing time as the season went on, proving himself to be a vital asset in the passing game as well as he improved his pass blocking and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. There are numerous teams in the NFL just itching to get their chance to nab Barber and the Cowboys would be smart to never allow them the opportunity to do so. Jerry is on the record as saying there is absolutely no validity to the notion the team might trade MB3 away as part of a monster draft day package and Cowboys fans are hoping a long term deal is in the works. But there is the temptation there to tender him the highest figure for 2008, which if matched by an opposing team the Cowboys would acquire a first and third round draft pick as compensation. This is a monster deal that would be hard to pass up, with the possibility of three first round draft picks in this year’s draft. Of course the Cowboys would have the option of matching any offer he is tendered yet the hesitation will be there. I would prefer locking him up with a nice contract but I foresee the Cowboys fitting him with the highest tender of $2.56 Million.
Chris Canty - In 2008 Canty stepped up and delivered as he filled the need of a big play defensive end. Powered by a monstrous and athletic build, Canty very quickly established himself as a force on the inside in the 3-4 system. With four sacks and a huge blocked field goal that lead to a touchdown, Canty has cemented himself as a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. After falling in the draft due to injury concerns, Canty has silenced all critics and distanced himself from first round pick Marcus Spears as the team’s number one defensive end. Expect a first and third round, $2.56 million tender which would be a huge accomplishment for a late fourth round draft pick.
L.P Ladouceur - If anyone remembers the state of the longsnapper before LP’s arrival, then you understand how valuable he is to the team. Easily one of the most consistent and athletic longsnappers in the league, Ladouceur is almost certain to be resigned by the Cowboys. Coming to the team as an undrafted free agent, expect LP to be signed to a modest deal that locks him up for the near future.
Tyson Thompson - After showing so much promise last year before his broken leg, Thompson spent the latter half of the season on the inactive list following a disappointing start to the season as the team’s primary kick returner. Seemingly unable to overcome his injury, I expect the Cowboys to offer him the lowest tender possible, if not actually letting him walk. I could be wrong, especially with the possibility of Julius Jones’ departure. Thompson, however, has never fully shown the ability to progress as a running back and could be passed over this offseason by the Cowboys.
Nate Jones - Jones was given the chance multiple times this season to establish himself as a legitimate 3rd down corner and was a disappointment to say the least. Expect a low round tender on Jones but don’t be surprised if Jones is let go, especially with Alan Ball waiting in the wings and the likely scenario of the Cowboys drafting a cornerback in the first round.
Joe Berger - An offensive line backup who has yet to turn the corner into being a serious threat for a starting job, his value as a reserve lineman could keep him on the team. Expect a low round tender.