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Putting The Cowboys Events Of April 1st In Context

The news came fast on April Fool's Day in Dallas, but there were no jokes involved as the team got some real issues resolved and picked up an obscure but physically impressive unknown.

A big restructure of Tony Romo's contract paves the way for the Cowboys.
A big restructure of Tony Romo's contract paves the way for the Cowboys.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Looks like I picked a bad day to be away from Twitter and my laptop. The Dallas Cowboys found a funny way to celebrate April Fool's Day. Instead of pulling pranks, they made some major moves and one minor deal that sounded like a joke, but really wasn't. The various moves may not seem like it at first, but the strategy of the Cowboys remains consistent, weaving throughout them all.

The first big news to break was the re-signing of Rolando McClain. Since the end of the 2014 season, the fan base was generally upset by the delay in bringing the linebacker into the fold. After the loss of Sean Lee during the opening practice of the OTAs last spring, Dallas had a major problem. The original signing of McClain was greeted with a good deal of skepticism, but it turned out to be a tremendous move. McClain was a true impact player on the field and had a great deal to do with the fact that the Cowboys' defense was not the train wreck that almost all predicted before the beginning of the season. But as free agency wore on and there was still no sign of a deal being worked out, concerns mounted that Dallas might be moving on. While so many felt that the Cowboys really would be unwise to not bring McClain back, allowing the team to shift a hopefully healthy Lee to the WILL position, there were reports that the team had a lack of trust in McClain, arising from some issues with getting him to practice and onto the field as the season wore on.

It turned out that both schools of thought turned out to be largely right. The team got him re-signed after he found out that he did not have a higher price on the market than the Cowboys were offering him.

Given that the Cowboys' offer turned out to be much like the one they made to Greg Hardy, with only a $745K base salary, and the rest of the potentially $4 million (including incentives) based on performance, there clearly were trust issues driving things. In essence, he got a second "prove-it" deal in a row, and the team is able to walk away from him with almost no cost, just as they can with Hardy. And if he does earn all or most of the bonus and incentive money, then the Cowboys have the force in the middle of the defense that they need. Suddenly the prospects for stopping the other team seem very good for Dallas in 2015. And the frugal use of money continues for the Cowboys.

But the new deal left the Cowboys hard up on cap space. They already faced the possibility of having to pay most of Hardy's deal if he works out, they had to find space for the draftees, and they needed more if they were to need to sign other free agents, for instance if they had an injury problem during the season. So the team has once again restructured Tony Romo, and now has enough cap space (nearly $13 million) to handle their needs going into the season. And while the team has incurred additional cap hits in future years, they still are able to part ways with Romo if necessary any time after 2016 and save cap money (all cap numbers from Over the Cap.) This means that the team does not have to depend on working out a long-term deal with Dez Bryant (which is looking unlikely at this time) or be in a renegotiate-or-cut situation with Brandon Carr. While the team has lost the opportunity to cut down on the potential dead money for the future by leaving Romo's deal alone this year, they make up some of that by not having to move on Carr if he is not willing to agree to a lower deal. The fan expectations that football players should be willing to sacrifice millions of dollars to help their team are unrealistic at best. Carr is certainly overpaid in relation to his contributions, but Dallas offered him the deal, and given the lack of options in the secondary, they probably would be unwise to part ways with the veteran just to open up cap space.

While the Cowboys have now answered all the immediate salary cap questions, one thing that the Romo restructure does not mean is that Dallas is looking to figure out a way to acquire Adrian Peterson. While the thought of a healthy and productive AD operating behind the Dallas offensive line is intoxicating, it is also extremely unrealistic. The costs are simply prohibitive. Even if you disregard the repeated assertions from the Minnesota Vikings that they have no intention of parting ways with Peterson, despite his apparent discontent, the team would almost certainly not simply cut him if they did give up on having him play. They would demand draft picks, which is not something that the current brain trust in Dallas would seem likely to go for. And Peterson has shown absolutely no willingness to take a lower deal than the $43 million that he is now scheduled to earn over the next three seasons. With the way Dallas has handled things financially so far, it is hard to imagine them committing those kinds of resources for a running back, not matter how superb he has been in the past. And despite his remarkable durability, Peterson is 30. Even he is going to lose a step at some point, and it would be a stupid bet that he would not do so on that kind of a contract.

Along with the two big moves, the Cowboys also signed another player on Wednesday. Efe Obada is a very inexperienced defensive end from the awkwardly named British American Football Association, who also has some insanely good physical traits.

That is some incredible raw material for Rod Marinelli, Ben Bloom and Leon Lett to work with. The emphasis here is on raw, however. But if the team can get the league to go along, they can essentially get him on the practice squad for free, without even having to use a spot for him (the following quote from the CBA is courtesy of our Miami Dolphins sister site The Phinsider).

The League may elect to allow some or all Clubs to add to their Practice Squads one additional player, who shall not count against the (practice squad) limit above, whose citizenship and principal place of residence are outside the United States and its Territories ("International Player"). The League's election in any one season shall not determine or affect its election in any subsequent season. Such International Players shall be subject to the same terms and conditions of employment that apply to other Practice Squad players except that they (1) may not, during the term of their Practice Squad Contract, negotiate or sign an NFL Player Contract with any Club; and (2) may not practice with any Club following the last Conference Championship Game unless both Conference Champion-ship teams have such a player. In addition, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 4 below, such International Player shall be eligible to serve on a Practice Squad for three additional seasons after the completion of the player's year(s) as an International Player. As set forth in Section 3 below, the weekly salary for such International Players shall not be included in the employing Club's Team Salary and shall instead be deducted from the calculation of the Salary Cap in the same manner as any Player Benefit Cost.

An extra practice squad player who is not able to be poached by another team. Why not bring him in and see what he may have to contribute? This is the ultimate low risk, low cost move to try to find talent.

It was a remarkable day for the Cowboys. The moves are full of upside and almost totally lacking in negative impact. Beats lame April Fool's jokes any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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