The latest move by the Dallas Cowboys has been signing Phil Costa to a two-year, $2.7 million contract. Costa was a restricted free agent, and the team could simply have signed him with a restricted tender for this season worth $1.323 million. If you are quick with math, you might notice that the cost per year is almost identical under the two options. The main reasons for the new deal: The Cowboys save $348,000 in cap costs this year, while having some stability with Costa if he winds up the starting center.
The extra year makes this a good deal for Costa, plus he gets a $450,000 signing bonus no matter what happens to him in the long run. It also is in line with earlier comments from Jerry Jones, indicating that he may be part of the plans for the Dallas offensive line for some time. However, Jones also talked about having to have some better guard play to make this work out. Costa is seen as a scrapper in the middle who doesn't give up, but physically he has rather short arms for an NFL center. This limits his range a bit as a pass protector, and requires having good support flanking him.
This was not always the kind of guard play the Cowboys had last year. While it is always a bit of a risk to try and figure out what Jerry Jones and the team are up to, this might be cause to hope that Dallas may be willing to use an early round draft pick for a guard this year. If you are a pessimist, you might wonder if the Cowboys are satisfied with what they already have on the roster and think they can put together a workable line from those pieces.
Either way, the team has used this opportunity to eke out a little more cap room. While it may seem small in comparison to some of the other restructuring that has been going on, it reflects an ongoing effort to scrape together all the space possible. As for what they will do with that, well, maybe Jeff Sullivan has some valid insight.
Two quick notes: 1) Look for Romo's deal to be finished by this time next week and 2) Cowboys trying to sign Spencer to long-term deal— Jeff Sullivan (@SullyBaldHead) March 2, 2013
There is a belief the team cannot afford to franchise Anthony Spencer again. But if Tony Romo gets a new deal, that is going to free up a lot more cap for this year than the Costa contract, something on the order of $8 million according to estimates. The team would like to keep Spencer at the right price, and a long term deal, with an attractive guarantee, may let them get there. This would reduce the pressure to get another defensive end, and let the team focus more on getting the best player on their draft board regardless of the position he plays.
One player who also has helped with the cap situation is Brandon Carr, who had the adjustment that saved a whopping $10.5 million for the team built into his original contract. Carr spent a good deal of time out of town getting the bad taste of the end of the season out of his mouth, but he made it back to help celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday by reading to some kids (you really should check out this picture of him posted by Jon Machota of the Dallas News). While there, he talked some with Machota about all the changes going on at Valley Ranch and his first meeting with new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. He thinks the team is going in the right direction, and brought up a common theme we keep hearing from people who meet Kiffin.
"He seemed like an old-school ball coach, a no-nonsense guy that makes everyone out there accountable for their actions," Carr said. "The short meeting that we had he gave me a lot of information and insight. He let his enthusiasm rub off on me."
All the jokes about Kiffin's age and the trouble he had at USC seem to be fading memories. Speaking of which, Lane Kiffin, Monte's son and former boss at USC, had some comments also related by Machota about why his dad was not so successful at the college level.
"He sleeps in the office. He doesn't understand what a vacation means. He needs more time with the players because there are so many little rules in his defense to teach the guy."
Machota worries a bit that this might be the same issue that caused issues with Rob Ryan's scheme. I suppose there could be some concern there, but I don't think it is exactly the same. I believe that Kiffin is focused at a more fundamental level, things like how to attack a guard when he goes high hat versus run blocking, what to do when your man pulls, how to execute a line stunt. The fact that the four defensive linemen are to rush the passer every single play (excuse me, my mouth seems to be watering for some strange reason) as our own Coty Saxman has revealed in his excellent series of posts on Kiffin's playbook says to me that there are elements of the Dallas 2 that will be much simpler to execute. And the old Tampa 2 was not, in my memory, considered a simplistic defense by any means. But it was very, very effective.