Heading into the 2017 season, there were still plenty of question marks surrounding the Dallas Cowboys pass rushers. After just a few weeks into the season, it was easy to see that they were going to be just fine at defensive end. DeMarcus Lawrence was playing like an All-Pro and Tyrone Crawford was still providing quality play. The hype surrounding first-round pick Taco Charlton wasn’t being met yet, but the pass rush was doing well.
After an absolute electric start to the season, people started to realize that fourth-year defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was going to get paid in the offseason if he stayed healthy and kept up the same pace. When you play like an All-Pro you get paid like an All-Pro, and that’s exactly what happened. DeMarcus Lawrence was rewarded with the franchise tag netting him $17,143,000 in 2018. After seeing the number DeMarcus Lawrence was going to get paid in 2018, it made sense to look at how the Cowboys defensive end unit stacked up against other teams in the league when it comes to salary cap. The surprising result was that they were the highest-paid defensive end unit in the NFL.
- The Cowboys currently have 19.67% ($35,002,141) of their 2018 cap allocated to the defensive end position, which ranks first in the NFL, according to Spotrac.com. DeMarcus Lawrence is the highest-paid defensive end for the Cowboys and the second-highest-paid defensive end in the NFL making $17,143,000 in 2018.
- Next is seven-year veteran Tyrone Crawford who is due to make $9,100,000 on 2018. This is a contract that many of Cowboys fans hate, and rightfully so. Crawford is taking up 4.62% of the cap with his $9.1 million cap hit and is the 17th highest-paid defensive end in football.
- Taco Charlton is the third-highest paid pass rusher on the roster making $2,279,179 in 2018. That takes up 1.16% of the cap in 2018. The second-year pass rusher didn’t have the season that most expected from the 2017 first-round pick, but many expect him to make a huge jump in year two.
- Kony Ealy, who was a new addition to the team in 2018, is the fourth-highest cap hit out of the defensive ends on team making $1,234,375 in 2018. Ealy, who is a five-year veteran, is set to play for his fourth team this upcoming season and has a shot to get plenty of playing time if he shows up in a positive way in training camp and preseason. The Cowboys would be more than happy to pay Ealy the number he is owed if he can play an important depth role.
Every other defensive end on the Cowboys roster is due to make under $1,000,000 on the upcoming season. Looking at the numbers above, of course DeMarcus Lawrence’s franchise tag number is a big reason that the Cowboys are sitting at the top of the defensive end salary cap rankings, but the Tyrone Crawford contract also has a lot to do with it. The top ten teams who have allocated the most money to the defensive end position in 2018 are:
- Dallas Cowboys - $35,002,141
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers - $33,566,264
- Jacksonville Jaguars - $28,319,606
- Miami Dolphins - $28,209,486
- Pittsburgh Steelers - $24,167,484
- Detroit Lions - $23,996,296
- New Orleans Saints - $22,830,214
- Philadelphia Eagles - $21,735,027
- New York Giants - $20,951,143
- Houston Texans - $20,432,206
There are currently only four other defensive ends in the NFL who will make over $15,000,000 in 2018: J.J. Watt($15,000,000), Ezekiel Ansah ($17,143,000), Oliver Vernon ($17,000,000), and Calais Campbell ($17,500,000). Out of these four players, Calais Campbell’s Jacksonville Jaguars are the only team in the top five cap hits for the DE position. This stat just goes to show you that you can pay one defensive end big money and still stay out of the top five, if you’re smart with the rest of the contracts at the position.
As it stands now, the Cowboys currently have the most players (12) at the position out of every team in the NFL. Before the season starts, we will likely see a few of these defensive ends get released, so the final number will be a bit lower than it is listed at right now, but in order to be unseated at the top they will need to free up $1,435,877 in cap space at the position.