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Heading into the offseason, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys knew they had to restructure multiple players contracts to clear $20 million to get under the leagues 2013 salary cap of $123 million.
After restructuring the contracts of cornerback Brandon Carr, receiver Miles Austin, center Ryan Cook, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and tight end Jason Witten, the Cowboys got under the cap, but the decision to place the franchise tag on linebacker Anthony Spencer, guaranteeing him a salary of $10.6 million next season, has put them back in a muscle-tussle situation as we near the free agent signing period that will begin on March 12th.
After Tagging Spencer, the Cowboys are roughly $6 million over the cap and must get back to the restructuring again to clear room to get under the cap so they can tender contracts to their restricted free agents by the time the free agent shopping spree begins.
The best way to get out of this mess would be extending quarterback Tony Romo’s contract to a long term deal that would lower his cap figure of $16.8 million for next season and create more room in the cap, but Jerry Jones and the Cowboys front office appear to be in no rush to do so. Why? They’re looking at going to back to what they did first hand when they adjusted the deals of Ware, Witten, Cook, Carr and Austin to clear more than $20 million in cap space. The team has verbal agreements in place with nose tackle Jay Ratliff, guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings and cornerback Orlando Scandrick to adjust their contracts to free up money. They can also turn to backup quarterback Kyle Orton in the process.
They can do that, but by all means, don’t expect Jerry Jones to make a big splash this offseason in free agency like he did last year when he went out a signed cornerback Brandon Carr to a blockbuster contract. Signing Carr was a major upgrade at cornerback, a position the team was lacking heavily as they sent veteran cornerback Terence Newman packing for a much more talent and youth with Carr. Jerry Jones also made a big splash in the NFL Draft by trading up to the 6th pick to acquire Morris Claiborne giving the Cowboys a potential solid one-two punch at cornerback for the future. The moves made sense, but the matters of dollars and cents continue to haunt this team.
Extending Romo is a must to clear cap room, but what about a position that is the biggest mess on the team, the offensive line. With the teams current cap situation, you can forget about improving the offensive line in free agency, a free agent market that will feature two top studs at tackle, New Orleans Jermon Bushrod and Miami’s Jake Long. Having enough money to spend on a position of serious need would be a much better outlook for this team. I understand Romo has the ability to improvise and elude the rush, but the bottom line is when your offensive line is vulnerable, the better the chance for any quarterback to get injured.
The money Jerry Jones has dished out has been mostly on the skilled positions, and time and time again, the need to address the offensive line continues to be ignored. Take a good look around the leagues most successful and super bowl winning teams and you’d notice all of them have one of the better offensive lines in the league. Protecting Romo should be the top priority if you’re going to extend him, but what about a young talented running back like DeMarco Murray that’s yet to stay healthy? You need to improve the offensive line for him as well or any other running back the team has in mind to bring along in 2013.
This organization needs to start looking into what really made that team of the 90’s the team of the decade, and that’s a dominant offensive line and defense. Apparently, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys haven’t been doing enough with their money pool so that they could sign a top tier lineman, a necessity to win big. They won’t be able to sign any top free agent to improve the team instantly at any position. What was the whole point of restructuring contracts in the first place? Brandon Carr gave his two cents on adjusting his.
“I restructured my contract basically just to free up some money to get some more players in,” Carr said after a United Way event where he read to children at Edward Titche Elementary School in Dallas. “I’m a team player. I believe in getting as many guys as possible that can help us get to our goal, and that’s to win a championship.
“This is another step in the right direction, not only myself, but other guys restructured as well. That’s a good sign that guys are willing to restructure their contracts in order to get new guys in or get better guys in to help us, hopefully, get a Super Bowl.”
Well, the team is still sitting over the cap and that’s not good. In my opinion, the outlook doesn’t look good and you can’t bank on Jerry Jones to do what he should do with that 18th pick come April’s draft, and that’s draft the best lineman period. Jones has been known to always go after skill position guys first, a big reason why this team has never put everything in place. They do it in the wrong order. You build from the inside first, not outside. Spend your money right. It’s that simple. When you spend your money on things you want instead of need, you’ll come to find out that you don’t have money for what you really do need.