Over the Salary Cap: How the Cowboys Will Fix Their Mess (Part 2)

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) runs after a reception against Philadelphia Eagles safety Patrick Chung (23) and linebacker Brandon Graham (55) at AT

Welcome to Part 2 of, Over the Salary Cap. In Part 1 we looked at the Cowboys financial situation and saw, even by the most optimistic estimates, the Cowboys will likely be at least $21M over the cap in 2014. But the Cowboys will need to clear even more than that if they want to build in 2014. Here in Part 2 we are looking at Demarcus Ware, Jason Witten, Brandon Carr, Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick, and more, in order to see their impact on the Cap and what the Cowboys can/will do to adjust.

Clearing $31 million from the Cap

To make the minimum amount of offseason signings (including draft picks) the Cowboys need to cut close to $31M from the books. With $15M of that taken care of from the Romo restructuring and the expelling of Austin (discussed in Part 1), the Cowboys must still find a way to cut another $12M-$17M from the Cap.

Dec 8, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (12) is tackled by Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) during the second half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Demarcus Ware

I’ve already touched on this last week but Demarcus Ware has been the best player on the Dallas Cowboys for years. He’s a role model, a class act, and a potential Hall of Famer. The decision on Ware will all come down to the medical staff and their recommendations.

Was it injuries that slowed Ware in 2013 or did he just lose a step or two? If he lost a step too many, the Cowboys will need to cut the man. If it’s injuries, he deserves another chance. It’s as simple as that.

Ware will count $16M against the Cap in 2014. Designating him as a June 1st cut will save the Cowboys $13M next season. This is a substantial amount of money so the Cowboys must  put aside sentiment and objectively analyze the situation. If Ware can be a double-digit sack-man in 2014 then he’s worth keeping. If he indeed lost a few steps too many and can’t become an effective rusher again, he must be cut.

Coming off his worst season and playing under his current contract, Demarcus Ware is untradeable. The Cowboys would love get something for him but he has no value under his current deal. If the Cowboys choose to cut Ware, suitors will be lined up for blocks because Ware is extremely desirable…under the right deal.

Nov 28, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) walks on the field during a NFL football game on Thanksgiving against the Oakland Raiders at AT

And keep dreaming about a pay cut. Only in extreme circumstances do players actually take pay cuts and even then, they do not give up guaranteed money. I mentioned before, Doug Free is an extreme circumstance who took less money for a shot at re-proving himself. Keep in mind, he still didn’t give up any guaranteed cash, he just spread it out. The move worked out for him too. Free should feel fairly secure in his job heading into the offseason.

Ware has already come out and said he will restructure but will not take a paycut. He earned his deal and it’s up to the Cowboys to decide if last season was a fluke or if it is just a sign of things to come.

At the end of the day, we all must admit Ware has lost a step (or two), but what coaches and medical staff must decide is can he still be effective even with the lost step(s).

Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick

Nov 3, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) is tackled by Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Sean Lee (50) in the game at AT

Both players are working off new deals and 99% likely to restructure to help the cap situation. Restructuring could save the Cowboys roughly $8M (depending how they restructure). This move is pretty obvious and relatively painless considering the other tough decisions the Cowboys must make regarding the Cap and personnel.

Jason Witten

Wit is signed through 2017 and still has a little wiggle left in his contract. In 2014 he is expected to count $8,412,000 against the cap. Much like the other gentlemen, he can push some of that into later years. It makes more sense for Witten to do this than Ware or Carr, considering Witten is still performing at a high level, and he’s only 31 years old. He’s not nearly as dynamic as he once was but his blocking has improved and he can still make the tough catch at crucial situations.

Dec 15, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Green Bay Packers receiver James Jones (89) tries to make a catch in the first quarter against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (39) at AT

Brandon Carr

If anyone should give money back it’s Brandon Carr. He has been nothing short of terrible in 2013, and back in 2012 he was merely OK. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – If Carr was only making $5M a season I would be able to accept his poor performance given the difficult situation he’s facing on this defense.

But at $10M a season, more is expected of him. At $10M, more is NEEDED of him!

Carr can push the money back one more time on his deal before it’s back-loaded to the max. Doing so will save the team a few million more but it would also lock the Cowboys in on a poor-performing player. Every time the Cowboys push the money back, they dig their hole a little deeper. If a player with a back-loaded deal falls apart, he will be difficult to cut. Very difficult discussions will take place about Carr and Ware this next month.

 Additional Moves

Phil Costa and Jermey Parnell’s future will most likely be decided after the draft. Cutting them would save a couple million but doing such a move without replacements on hand would be out of character for the Dallas Cowboys.

You can probably add Kyle Orton to the list of possible low-level casualties since he is scheduled to make $4.375M in the last year of his deal. With the uncertainty of Romo and his return from back surgery the Cowboys may have no choice but to extend Orton’s contract to save money and to cover themselves.

Do you have questions or comments regarding Dallas area sports? Email Reid at [email protected]. You may be included in the next weekly mailbag. Follow Reid on twitter @ReidDHanson

Topics: Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Cowboys Salary Cap, Demarcus Ware, Jason Witten

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  • SmartThinking

    As we all know, Cowboys management has overpaid and over extended overpaid contracts on its key players well past their prime years. The results have only placed this team deeper into debt against the cap and kept once very good players on the team well past their due date.

    The teams that are younger are faster and stronger. Dallas is showing its age and, because of cap mis-management, is stocked at many key positions with guys who’ve grown quite rich off the personnel judgment errors of Jerry Jones.

  • Earl Robertson

    This is why cowboys needs a GM to clear the books and start spending the right way but that is like hoping the sun doesn’t come up so you can sleep all day!

  • Chesney Blair

    Regarding Ware you mentioned that he earned his contract, yet he massively underperformed in the last two years and was oft-injured. So how can he earn his contract if he is not playing up to it?

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