I've been having a lot of discussions with Cowboys fans lately and there have been some reoccurring themes showing up in the conversations. With the first week of free agency done, some fans are puzzled by the Cowboys moves (or lack thereof) as they try to figure just what the front office is up to. Here are a few of the hot topics that keep coming up.
1. Why haven't the Cowboys cut Brandon Carr?
My expectation was that Brandon Carr wasn't going to be on the Cowboys roster in 2016. For the first time during his tenure with Dallas, his dead-money-hit is somewhat manageable ($7.4 million). He's not getting any better so it's not like the team has this wait-and-see approach in case he's going to take the next step. He'll be 30 years old next month. There is no next step. Seriously, why would they keep him?
Well, the short answer is - lack of other options.
In week one of the free agency frenzy, we have watched all these corners get signed to crazy deals. The New York Giants made Janoris Jenkins rich by giving him $12.5 million a year, the Raiders gave Sean Smith $10 million a year.. If the Cowboys were to go a different direction, what direction would that be exactly? And whatever annual salary that replacement corner would cost, make sure you add $7.4 million to books because that would be your 2016 cost for this alternative option. With Carr a $13.8 million cap hit this season, the Cowboys basically would need to find a cornerback for $6.4 million who can give you what Carr gives you.
The Cowboys might try to work some salary restructure, or they may just bite the bullet and roll with Carr for the final year of his contract. It's time we come to terms with the fact that Carr is a sunk cost and the only thing that matters is - what is the best decision at this given moment. Carr is not a great corner, but he's durable and can still add some depth to the position group.
2. The Cowboys are restructuring contracts, freeing up money. So why aren't they spending money in free agency?
To the surprise of very few, Tyron Smith's 2016 base salary was pushed to a bonus that is now prorated throughout the length of his contract. Last Thursday, Tyrone Crawford did the same thing when he converted his base to a bonus, freeing up more cap space for the Cowboys. Collectively, these two restructures frees up $13.4 million ($9 M from Smith, $4.4 M from Crawford) for the Cowboys this year.
And fans must be thinking that all this extra cash is burning a hole in Jerry's pocket because they are ready to see it being spent. The fact is, the Cowboys are spending money. They've spend $17.5 million so far in free agency. Here are the highlights of those purchases:
- A two-down, run stopping defensive tackle not named Nick Hayden
- A linebacker that is better than a lot of people think
- A key run blocking tight end
- One of the best backup guards in the NFL
- A decent corner on a one-year deal, looking to prove haters wrong
And the Cowboys don't have to blow it all. They can put some in their pocket and carry it over to next year.
2017: T. Frederick likely signs $50M contract— One Cool Customer (@OCC44) March 12, 2016
2018: Z. Martin and/or L. Collins likely gets $60M
That's where your 2016 FA money is going.
Not only that, it's highly unlikely the Cowboys are done dabbling in free agency. More signings are coming. It just won't be the big headline player many fans were hoping for.
3. Should Dallas take Ezekiel Elliott so New York and Philadelphia doesn't get him?
As it stands right now, the Eagles have the eight pick and the Giants have the ten pick. Either of those spots are right about where Ohio States' running back star, Ezekiel Elliott is projected to be drafted. Should the Cowboys draft Elliott just so he won't end up in the wrong hands?
Absolutely not. That cannot happen.
Taking Elliott just so a NFC East rival doesn't land him isn't reason enough to draft him. But taking him because he's the most talented player on the board - is. Would you rather block for him or chase after him?
The Cowboys are going to take someone fantastic with the fourth pick, and as luck would have it, Elliott is fantastic. Come on, say it with me now - if you build it, he will run!