Recapping and analyzing the Cowboys’ moves in free agency

Just restructure, baby.

Jason Garrett was on NFL Network this morning talking about free agency. When he was asked about how the Cowboys have been spectators this offseason, here was his response:

“Well sometimes it can be challenging. You kind of want to get in the game, but salary caps and finances are realities of this league, so we had to get our salary cap structure in place. I think our organization has done a great job reworking some contracts, and hopefully we can rework a couple more here to allow us to get into a position to get in the game a little bit to address some needs we have on our team.”

Jason Garrett would have liked to have improved his team. The Cowboys, however, can’t get in the game this offseason, despite a significant number of glaring holes on their roster. That is especially unfortunate this year, since 2013 free agency has universally been considered a buyer’s market. And there’s a good chance they’ll be spectators during free agency for the foreseeable future. Let’s look at what they did:

• Restructured the contract of OLB DeMarcus Ware.

• Restructured the contract of TE Jason Witten.

• Restructured the contract of WR Miles Austin.

• Restructured the contract of CB Brandon Carr.

• Restructured the contract of C Ryan Cook.

• Restructured the contract of DT Jay Ratliff.

• Restructured the contract of CB Orlando Scandrick.

• Restructured the contract of OG Mackenzy Bernadeau.

• Restructured the contract of OG Nate Livings.

• Cut Gerald Sensabaugh. That move saved around $1.4 million. Sensabaugh was an unspectacular safety, but an argument could be made that he was one of the 2 best safeties in the division in 2012. The Cowboys are now headed into 2013 with Barry Church and Matt Johnson as the projected starters, with of course the draft still to occur.

• Cut Dan Connor. That move saved $3 million. No-brainer. Connor was a disappointment in 2012.

• Cut Marcus Spears, 3 years too late.

• Signed Phil Costa to a 2-year deal. Costa was a restricted free agent who was set to make $1.323 million. The 2-year deal saved the Cowboys a mere $350,000 in 2013. When you’re re-upping RFAs to save $350K, that’s when you know your books are a mess.

• Franchise tagged Anthony Spencer. Spencer’s cap number will be $10,627,200 in 2013, or 8.64% of their cap. Spencer had a breakout season of sorts in 2012, although a lot of people thought he had a breakout “2nd half of the season” in 2009, before a couple of lackluster seasons in 2010 and 2011. Add in a positional switch that will make Spencer significantly undersized, and you begin to wonder if he can maintain his level of play from 2012.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that Spencer thrives in the 4-3, here’s the rub… He’ll be a free agent again in 2014.  Wanna tag him for a third time?  You can, but it’ll cost you the QB tag rate, which in 2013 was just shy of $15 million. That’s not happening. So the Cowboys will want to get a long term deal done with Spencer, presumably.

If I’m Anthony Spencer, I’m looking at the deal Paul Kruger got from Cleveland, which was for 5 years, $40.5 million, and $20 guaranteed. Anything short of that, and I’d just be inclined to take my $10.6 guaranteed this year and test the market in 2014.

Is Anthony Spencer worth 8.64% of the cap? Emphatically, no. Is he worth the 5 year, $40.5 deal Kruger received from the Browns? Emphatically, no. (Kruger isn’t either, for the record). I can understand wanting to keep Spencer aboard, but when your books are as disastrous as the Cowboys’, this is one of those difficult decisions the Cowboys probably should have exercised.

• Re-signed Ernie Sims. Depth. Or at least that’s all he should be. Signed for the veteran minimum, so it’s a nice deal for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys did virtually nothing so far this offseason to improve their team, because… well, they can’t. Instead, all they did was push guaranteed money into future years, which will inhibit their ability to get better during free agency in 2014 and 2015. They also guaranteed that they’ll be stuck with a number of players who are already in decline, and others whose play could begin to fall off.

The Cowboys’ strategy of keeping this core intact at the expense of the future is emblematic of team that has recently either won a title, or has come very close, for one last run. Their view of how good the current roster really is borders on delusion. It’s all explained in better detail here.

Jerry Jones is a successful businessman, but he’s an unbridled disaster of a GM.

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24 Comments

  1. YOU STUPID FUCK!!! says:

    COW DUNG POST!!!

  2. BULL SH*T!!! says:

    Pile of sh*t post, as usual.

  3. Blue Eyed Devil says:

    Yeah this team is looking like a mediocre mess. I’m sure this core has one more 10-6 season left in them but how many teams go from 6-10, 8-8, 8-8, SUPEROWL, 8-8…

    Most superbowl teams work their way up then achieve the pinnacle, it seems very suspicious to believe that in the 1 or 2 years left with the window open they’re all of a sudden going to vault from 3 years of average to the best in the NFL.

    1. Tim says:

      Actually a decent number of recent Super Bowl teams have seen the record fluctuations you list above leading into their Super Bowl seasons. I’m not saying it’s the norm, but…

      -The Giants went 8-8 in 2006 and then won the SB in 2007

      -The Saints went 7-9 in 2007, 8-8 in 2008, and then won the Super Bowl in 2009

      -The Cardinals went 5-11 in 2006, 8-8 in 2007, and then made the Super Bowl in 2008

  4. Juz Saying says:

    Cowboys board ;1st Jarvis Jones 2nd Sheldon Richardson 3rd Kenny Vaccaro & who cares about what the Boys did in FA, picking up a bunch of nobodies is meanless (Benn,Connor,Dixon)now the draft is were u build your team!

  5. cowboys just f*cked them self’s for the next 3 yrs.

    1. DerfDiggy says:

      I’m convinced 90% of you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about and you’re just parroting articles you’ve read.

      Seriously.

      1. Jeff says:

        People are skeptical and cynical about a team run by Jerry Jones and Co. Who can blame them.

  6. Tim says:

    I understand your overall theme of bashing Jerry Jones’ GMing recently, with the focus being on his bad cap management in the hopes of preserving an aging core for another playoff run.

    That said, I don’t think it’s fair to lump all the Cowboys’ moves into that category. The Costa one is the one that stands out to me. He was a RFA, so they signed him to a new contract for close to the veteran minimum in guaranteed money. He’s the best center on the roster, and played extremely well at points last year, when he was able to get on the field (the Ravens game is a good example). If he’s healthy, he’s got a chance to be a decent player there for you for the next couple years at a very cheap number. If he’s not healthy, well, your financial risk is minimal.

    To me that move was not about saving the $350K (although that was a minor bonus), it was about cheaply extending a decent player with some upside.

    1. SteveH says:

      Well I think thats kind of the point, when extending Phil Costa (who in addition to playing well at times, has also played terrible at times) is the bright spot of your pre-draft offseason, its probably been a really rough offseason for you.

      1. Tim says:

        Yeeeeeeeeeeah….it hasn’t exactly been the Herschel Walker Trade Part II in Valley Ranch this offseason, that is true.

  7. Steve says:

    it feels like Jerry doesn’t want to let a “good” thing go with Spencer. Although, that’d be the smart thing to do

  8. ct17 says:

    The Cowboys made a mess by pushing cap hits into the future. Too many big contracts that they can’t get out of now. I started a mock last night, got stalled at Dallas. Every player worth the spot would have a guy with a big contract in front of him.

    Spencer was a mistake. They spent a 4th last year on Crawford, a prototype LDE. They could have added Bennett or Abraham for less.

    1. Tim says:

      You can draft Vaccaro without having a guy with a big contract in front of him. And a DT is certainly in play, with Ratliff likely getting cut in 2014 and Hatcher not a huge money guy.

      I tend to think “best available pass rusher” is in play for the Cowboys in the draft, again. Victor Butler didn’t pan out and Spencer and Ware are aging. Plus Spencer is (at the moment) on a one-year deal.

      1. deg0ey says:

        Seems like most mocks agree with you here. Star, Richardson and Hankins are the names I’ve seen most frequently to the Cowboys. Vaccaro would be a good fit, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him go to St Louis at 16.

        1. Tim says:

          Hoping St. Louis decides to address the apocalypse occurring in their WR corps instead. There are some first-rounded rated wideouts who could be there at 16.

      2. how can they cut Ratliff when they just restructured him?

      3. ct17 says:

        Ratliff has a dead money hit of $8 million in 2014. That is a big loss to take. And Dallas news sources are reporting they are negotiating a multi year deal for Spencer.

        I don’t have a first round grade on Vaccaro or any other safety at this point.

        1. David_Does_Dallas says:

          Who are you and why would your grade on Vacarro matter?

            1. David_Does_Dallas says:

              Ah. Well most have Vacarro as a first round grade and you could easily draft a DT without having the inconvenience of “a guy with a big contract in front of him”. This doesn’t even mention guards, but I’ll just assume that his mock had all the good guards off the board.

              1. That’s what’s great about the NFL draft. There is so much info out there, and so many resources (game tape, etc.) that there can be so many varying opinions of prospects by people who have actually done some homework and know what they’re talking about. Although I happen to disagree with CT on Vaccaro. Love him.

          1. ct17 says:

            It only matters to me. But it explains why I see a problem between players available at #18 and chances for them to play.

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