There are things that come every year. The buzzards return to Hinkley. Winter is cold in Minnesota, and summer is broiling in Texas. Roger Goodell gets booed at the NFL Draft. And the Dallas Cowboys are struggling to find salary cap space.
Oh, hold on there a sec. There have been some recent departures from the Cowboys, so they have the cap they need for this year. And next year - wait a sec, let’s check Over the Cap and see what they currently project for cap space in 2019 . . .
No, there’s nothing wrong with your screen. That is over 71 MILLION DOLLARS in cap space for next year. Oh, and that does not have the projected savings from the expected Jason Witten retirement. And if you look at the OTC numbers for effective cap space (which accounts for them having to add contracts to have 51 players for accounting purposes when the league year starts), they still have over $67 million available. The Cowboys’ projection puts them having the tenth most cap space for next year among all NFL teams.
What cap hell?
(I have to confess, I didn’t figure this out on my own. I first saw this mentioned on Twitter, and now I cannot find that specific tweet. So sorry for not properly attributing that.)
Admittedly, these numbers are a projection, with the overall cap being an estimate. But that affects all teams, so anything that adjusts the Cowboys’ total should have the same effect on everyone else.
Remember all those worries about finding cap space to have room for the Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence deals? And what will happen when they get past the window provided by the rookie deals for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott?
While this does not reflect any new free agent signings this year (and there will be some between now and the start of the season) or any contracts that might get worked out in the next few months (Martin would be the most likely one), it is hard to imagine what the team could do to significantly eat into those numbers.
This is the impact of a handful of things. The team will get clear of the dead money hits for Tony Romo, Cedric Thornton, Nolan Carroll, Benson Mayowa, and Dez Bryant this year. (This is why they elected to take the entire dead money hit for Bryant this year, since they had sufficient space to work with now without spreading that out). They have shed the contracts for Bryant, Orlando Scandrick, and the retired James Hanna. And of course, the constantly rising cap is a major factor. While the threat of a lockout or strike still looms after 2020, for the moment the pie just keeps growing in the NFL. And the big ratings that the league just garnered for what was really just three days of slowly reading off a list of names and talking about them certainly indicates that bounty should continue to swell for at least a while.
Most importantly, the Cowboys are finally seeing the benefits of avoiding big-money free agent contracts and focusing on their own players to invest that cap space. And they are actually breaking the cycle of endless restructures to find cap space. At the moment, the only dead money they have projected for 2019 is Scandrick’s $1.6 million.
Ironically, all those years of parsimony in free agency now means that, if they need or desire, they can go after a big money outside talent or two next season, and still have plenty of space left over for just about whatever else they want to do. It has taken years of work and cap manipulation, but for a time, at least, that is all in the past.
Oh, and while most teams show a decent amount of space at the moment, many of them face their own expenditures to handle between now and the 2019 league year. Most teams are at least comfortable right, but there are already two franchises with some big cap management headaches coming their way. The Jacksonville Jaguars are calculated to already be nearly $18.5 million OVER in effective cap next year.
At least they can take solace in not being the absolute worst. That goes to the team that is showing a $21.1 million deficit in effective space for 2019. And who is that incredibly inept team that has done so horribly managing their cap that they surely will be the heir to the “cap hell” title that has haunted the Cowboys for years? What team is weighed down so badly by big free agent deals that they will have to make wholesale adjustments and restructure contracts all over the roster, or part ways with a lot of their talent to clear space?
The Philadelphia Eagles.
(Editorial note: This originally had the Panthers instead of the Jaguars as being over next year. I confused my predatory cats in switching between screens. Apologies.)