The Dallas Cowboys are pursuing their usual course of re-signing their own free agents while keeping spending on outside talent at a minimum. Stephen Jones is also watching cap space with an eagle eye, which is given as the justification for the trading Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns and the release of La’el Collins. Although the team started the offseason in one of the worst cap positions in the NFL, moves like that and the restructuring of the contracts of Dak Prescott and Zack Martin, plus the new deal for DeMarcus Lawrence, moved them quickly to one of the best. That has helped fuel the thirst for Dallas to go out and sign players like Bobby Wagner. After all, fans wonder, what is that cap space is for?
Well, we will probably just have to deal with it. The Cowboys probably would have no problem carrying a good bit of space over this year. Even if not, the space is eroding steadily. Just a few days ago, they had around $26 million. Now, after the deals for Dorance Armstrong and Jayron Kearse, the figure is somewhere between $18.6 and $17.8 million, depending on whether you trust Spotrac or OTC more. Neither site includes the contracts for Bryan Anger, James Washington, Luke Gifford, or Carlos Watkins, all of whom are joining or re-joining the roster, and only OTC has updated with Dante Fowler’s numbers. These are all very affordable deals, but they will add up. We know Anger’s is a three year deal worth $3 million per, and with the required base salary, only about $1.5 million can be pushed to the future.
We discussed this idea and more on the latest episode of Ryled Up on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our episodes. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
This still would leave Dallas with enough money to sign a number of outside free agents, but they aren’t going to be anyone that will create excitement. The Cowboys still have needs to address, most glaringly on the offensive line. They are shallow across the board, and that is assuming they are willing to go into the draft with LG Connor McGovern and RT Terence Steele as projected starters. They also could be seeking more help at linebacker (but don’t hope they would pay the cost for Wagner) and safety, there could be a couple of other depth signings, and on radio there were rumors this week that a kicker is soon to be added. But these are almost assured to be the bargain bin deals we have had to become accustomed to. Both the Fowler and James Washington signings are reportedly just that.
That is a big hint. Washington’s deal is reportedly a veteran minimum contract with a very small bonus.
James Washington contract details:— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) March 23, 2022
Base salary: $1.035 million ($895,000 guaranteed)
Cap number: $895,000 (veteran salary benefit)
If they are already that deep into the discount aisle, there is not much hope they are now going to go out and spend any significant amount at this point.
That is not because they are absolutely forced to cut things off at this point. It is because they don’t want to. While the cap situation is tighter than many realize, it is not a major inhibition. Unlike years when they have to hold onto some of the space for emergency signings, they know they will get $10 million more in space after June 1 from the La’el Collins release. The remainder they have now is still room for a decent contract offer or two, and they can certainly come up with more. After all, the Los Angeles Rams, among others, are able to come up with whatever cap space they need. If the Cowboys were willing, it is there.
While some options are less desirable, there is one big opportunity to get a long-term deal worked out with Dalton Schultz, who currently is on the franchise tag at a cap cost of over $10.9 million. If they were to do a three-year deal paying him something like $11 million a year, which his tag makes more or less the floor, they could push $6 million or so into the last two years of his deal. It is much more desirable to do that than use one of the remaining restructures they have available, specifically Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith, or releasing Anthony Brown, the one player that can net them a decent amount as a cut.
However, looking at both the history of the team and how free agency has progressed so far, there is no indication that Dallas is going to want to do more than they can with the cap space on hand. They certainly are not going to go after any free agent that will require outbidding another team. While something can hit at any moment, we might see the staff more or less just sit on their hands for a bit before getting the last few players signed to set things up for the draft. That will allow them to acquire those players at rock bottom prices. They won’t be very good, but Stephen Jones has made it perfectly clear that the Cowboys are not going to look to free agency for significant talent upgrades. It is just plugging holes. They are not at all hesitant to part ways with their free agents signees in training camp. It is in a sense a self-fulfilling prophecy. They don’t have much invested in the players so they don’t sacrifice much if anything by releasing them.
This year has seen the team stick even more with the “we like our own” philosophy, as they have already brought back twelve of their own free agents. Only three have left in free agency. As a result, they had very few holes that they were forced to go outside the team to fill. That is exactly how Jones loves to do things. Free agency has been frustrating and a bit dull for fans so far. In all likelihood, it will not change at all.