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Free agency focus: Could any of the recent cap casualties be of interest to the Cowboys?

Several teams unloaded inflated contracts to save money on the cap. Could any be of interest to the Cowboys?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve already seen tons of pre-free agency action with trades and cap casualties. In today’s NFL, teams are always structuring contracts with cost-cutting language on the back end of the deals. It doesn’t necessarily mean that these players are washed up as many of them are still performing quite well. Many of the players that were released this week still have good football ahead and are finding themselves a product of the inflated market value it took to sign them a few years ago. It’s the circle of life for an NFL player where it’s almost impossible to reach every incentive and see the full earnings of their contracts.

Within the last week, 19 players were released, saving a combined total of $93M. Out of the 19 guys that were cap casualties this week, here are 12 that at the very least, fit a positional interest of the Cowboys.

Name Position Age 2018 Salary 2018 Snap % Cap Savings
Jamie Collins 34OLB 28 $11,150,000 91% $9,250,000
Andre Branch 43DE 29 $8,000,000 51% $7,000,000
Malik Jackson DT 29 $14,250,000 61% $11,000,000
Tashaun Gipson FS 28 $6,250,000 98% $7,450,000
Antoine Bethea FS 34 $4,500,000 99% $4,750,000
Glover Quinn FS 33 $4,850,000 84% $6,250,000
Darian Stewart FS 30 $4,500,000 81% $3,560,000
Jahleel Addae SS 29 $5,000,000 98% $5,000,000
John Cyprien SS 28 $5,812,000 55% $5,812,500
Jermey Parnell OT 32 $5,000,000 84% $6,000,000
Mike Glennon QB 29 $5,000,000 33% $1,000,000
Danny Amendola WR 33 $6,000,000 74% $6,000,000

The plethora of recently released players should help all potential buyers in this year’s free agency because the supply of quality players is bountiful at many key positions.

Teams like the Cowboys for instance, who would like to add quality contributors as well as depth can afford to be patient while the market sorts itself out. Not only can a team like the Cowboys benefit from an overcrowded free agent market, they also could find relatively favorable prices as supply could outweigh some of the demand. The Cowboys would be wise to take a hard look at these cap casualties, they just might be able to snag a deal or two.

Last year, the Jaguars cut Allen Hurns to save $7M on the cap. Dallas signed Hurns to a two-year, $12M deal, with only $2.5M guaranteed. Now, we can debate about Hurns’ underwhelming performance contributing to the Cowboys trading for Amari Cooper at the bye week. However, when you follow the money, it shows that Dallas wasn’t paying Hurns anywhere close to suggest he was the go-to receiver. Hurns’ contract ranked 39th among NFL receivers.

We can already cut a couple of players off that list. Malik Jackson has reportedly already reached an agreement with the Eagles, and Danny Amendola is reported to be heading to the Lions.

Some of the players listed above still have quite a bit of earning power like OLB Jamie Collins. He could possibly play 4-3 right end but Collins seems more comfortable rushing as an outside linebacker in the 3-4. He just has too much name recognition and production and should receive a nice payday. Andre Branch has been a productive utility man but he’s a rotational pass rusher player at best.

The safety market is going to be the most exciting to watch because nobody knows what will happen until the first domino falls. Some analysts predict the position to see huge mega-deals while others are hesitant after last year’s standstill at the position. It seems like teams are starting to undervalue the position similar to what happened years ago with running backs. Now we must wait to see if that’s a trend. Think about how many good safeties were paid far below market value for the position and a lot of them re-entered this year’s pool.

The flirtation between the Cowboys and Earl Thomas has raged on with new rumors everyday. The Cowboys would love to have Earl Thomas but he has too many recent injury concerns that are going to affect his ability to get what he desires without concessions. The Cowboys don’t want to be the team that sets the safety market but they also shouldn’t just sit on their hands. There are other options, lots of them, six more candidates just joined the campaign trail.

Here is a peek at last year’s production for the six safeties that were released this week:

Name Position Tackles Sacks TFL FUM INT
Tashaun Gipson FS 44 0 1 0 1
Antoine Bethea FS 100 3 5 1 0
Glover Quinn FS 58 1 1 0 0
Darian Stewart FS 46 1 0 1 2
Jahleel Addae SS 52 1 1 1 1
John Cyprien SS IR IR IR IR IR

Out of these names, Tashaun Gipson is the best fit for a single-high safety role. He still has several good productive seasons in him and has 20 career interceptions, which is fourth among free agent safeties.

Antoine Bethea made a crazy amount of tackles in the Cardinals’ defense last season. Bethea is a man of many hats, he was their hybrid safety playing both in the box and deep but also dabbled at linebacker. In the Cowboys scheme, his true fit is down in the box and then there is age to consider. At 34, he is not going to get much more than a one-year offer from most clubs. At the same time, if you can reduce snaps for Jeff Heath by getting one solid year of production out of Bethea, that’s an upgrade for this defense.

John Cyprien had the Cowboys interest in the draft several years ago but he hasn’t played since 2017 and it wasn’t a good year at all. It doesn’t help his cause that he doesn’t have much versatility.

Why not get more production, better instincts, and less injury concerns from a guy like Jahleel Addae? Or get Darian Stewart or Glover Quin, two well-known names from solid secondaries in Detroit and Denver. Not only should you be cautious about paying aging players but also keep in mind that both the Lions and Broncos were talent rich in the secondary.

A quick aside to wrap up with an offensive player on this list. The most realistic possibility from these cuts is former Cowboy and most recent Jaguars’ right tackle, Jermey Parnell.

The Cowboys like guys that they have familiarity with and there is plenty of familiarity here. Parnell spent four seasons in Dallas, backing up the now retired Doug Free. During his Dallas days, Parnell played in 54 games with seven starts.

Since signing with the Jaguars in 2014, Parnell has added 57 starts to the résumé. He has also earned $26M of the total $32M on his four-year deal. Parnell is 32 years old but his interest to the Cowboys is at swing tackle if they don’t decide to re-sign Cameron Fleming. The Cowboys also raised Parnell from the time he was a basketball playing pup. Does he want to finish up where it started or is he looking to be a starter for a team in need?

Cameron Fleming is the younger player and that could mean a little more money. Looking at this past season’s performances for both Parnell and Fleming, it’s hard to imagine a huge market for either of them.

For comparisons, here’s how each tackle graded out with PFF:

Name Snaps PFF Grade Pass Block Run Block QB Pressures Sacks
Jermey Parnell 868 65.3 67.9 62.3 39 5
Cameron Fleming 240 55.8 56.3 58.2 9 2

Parnell had more exposure, starting 13 games to Fleming’s three games but if you multiply Fleming’s pressures over 13 starts, you get 39 pressures, the same as Parnell. These two players are very comparable and very capable of being the Cowboys swing tackle, take the guy you can get for less and call it a day.

Though many of us are starved to see the Cowboys go out there and add big name talents, this might be a good year to be patient. The Cowboys have so many of their own players up for extensions but they should pounce if an opportunity presents itself. You never know when one team’s cap savings could be just the player your team needs to reach that next level.