Dallas Cowboys: Contract Extensions vs Cap Space

Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

There is a difference in spending and wasting cap space, and the Dallas Cowboys are looking to spend, not waste their money.

There has been a growing trend of fans not wanting to sign DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, and even Ezekiel Elliott. The prime reasons for their sentiment is that none of them are worth the cap space, and they would rather have cap space. Here is the simple question, if you aren’t going to spend it on players like Lawrence, who will you spend it on? There is a line between spending and wasting cap space.

Looking back a few seasons ago, the Cowboys had almost no pass rush. Fans were clamoring for a pass rusher in the worst of ways. Fast forward to 2019, and the Cowboys have arguably one of the top 3 free agents in Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence has been a force teams have had to game plan for. The time has come for a new contract, and all of a sudden fans are flinching at resigning him. If the Cowboys don’t pay him, someone will and the Cowboys will lose their best pass rusher.

Signing Lawrence is not a waste of cap space, unlike the previous seasons where the Cowboys got into bug contracts for average players. Lawrence is not an average player. Before you say to me, “Look at the Rams game,” I am going to tell you if that is your argument, please tell me how Aaron Donald did in the same game, go ahead, we will wait until you come back with both stat lines. Lawrence is someone you build with and around, without him the pass rush is anemic.

This brings us to Dak Prescott. I am not the biggest Dak fan on the planet, but finding a starting quarterback who can win games is not easy. If it were easy, then every season we would not see teams scrambling to find a recycle in free agency, or consistently grabbing ones in the draft. Just ask the Browns or Broncos how easy it is. The answer to who you start if Prescott isn’t here is not an easy answer. It isn’t the backup, it isn’t a guy off the streets, it isn’t a rookie in a mediocre class.

However, the Cowboys have another season to decide to resign Prescott. They could wait to see how he looks under a different offensive coordinator. If he performs, then the price tag will go up. Signing him now, is not a waste of cap space. He may not sign for the paltry sums many fans have thrown out, but he also won’t sign for what he could sign for next offseason.

Of the three names above, those against signing Elliott has the most valid argument. The league seems to be able to roll through running backs easier than some positions. Running backs tend to wear down faster than many positions simply due to the physical toll they take. However, players like Elliott do not come along often. You aren’t easily replacing Elliott with a guy in the third round, or through a committee. Not yet at least.

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An extension of Elliott, if done correctly, is a smart cap move. He is a workhorse, and should be for a few more years into an extension. Front load the contract and give yourself a chance on the back end to get out of it. Smart cap management is better than just keeping cash around. You need the players, money does you no good if you aren’t investing it. In football the investment is players.

The Cowboys have plenty of cap space to make the moves they need to. A restructure here, a smart signing there, an incentive laden contract here, or a front loaded contract there will allow flexibility over the next few years and keep the Cowboys competitive. You need to add to good and great players, not just look for cheaper options all the time.

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So the Cowboys have money, they need to spend money, collecting more money does no good if you aren’t willing to sign players. Finding replacements just because you don’t want to spend money is poor talent management. Lawrence, Prescott, and Elliott will all probably get contracts soon, some fans may not love the amount spent, but it is the right move, the smart move.

  • Published on 02/26/2019 at 12:00 PM
  • Last updated at 02/26/2019 at 07:01 AM