Letters to Mr. Jones No. 2: Forfeiting Cap Space Makes Sense for Dallas Cowboys
Dear Mr. Jones,
I was three-fourths of the way through with a letter to you dealing with free agency when I heard the NFL is going to lower the Cowboys' spending cap.
For anyone who hasn't heard the story, Dallas and Washington spent heavily in 2010 and with the uncapped year, that has generated additional cap space for both teams this year.
It seems other NFL owners consider it a violation of fairness and the league office is responding to their wishes by taking away $10 million of cap space from the Cowboys and $35 million of cap space from the Redskins to balance out the gains your actions in the uncapped year generated. (It seems that due to the short notice of this, they have allowed both teams some flexibility in applying it. It reportedly can be done this year or next.)
According to ESPN's Calvin Watkins, Dallas entered free agency with $12.5 million to spend, but apparently some roster moves and contract tweaking could net the team much more.
According to the article, renegotiating a couple of deals (Doug Free, Orlando Scandrick and Dez Bryant) could get the total up to $21.1 million. If you cut CB Terrence Newman, it suggests you could have as much as $27 million (not the $20 million most reports suggest) to re-sign Tony Fiamatta and Anthony Spencer and to sign free agents.
Now maybe you don't see the value there in free agency to do all that—and that is fine—but it is apparently an option.
Washington will reportedly have something like $40 million in cap space. It seems fairly likely that most teams have much more of a complaint with Washington than the Cowboys, but it would not be seen as fair to punish them and allow you to get away with an added $10 million from your maneuvering in the uncapped season.
Your team released a statement that took a fairly aggressive stance against the action.
“The Dallas Cowboys were in compliance with all league salary cap rules during the uncapped year,” the team said through spokesman Rich Dalrymple. “We look forward to the start of the free agency period where our commitment to improving our team remains unchanged.”
I think there is a compelling argument for you to quickly reverse your stance and settle up this year.
The other owners don't care if you were smart enough to see the obvious loophole in the uncapped season—they aren't going to let the commissioner let you keep the benefits. Therefore, there is no advantage to maintaining your current position that the Cowboys were within their rights.
You will likely want to move around in the draft. Having teams with an unresolved resentment towards you could hinder effective trading.
It is a much stronger position to publicly acknowledge the concerns of the other teams and voluntarily surrender the cap space...and do it this year.
If you were to do so to satisfy any impressions of impropriety in the minds of the other owners, you would effectively bring enormous pressure on the Redskins to settle up this year as well.
Perhaps you could offer to settle this year if the league members insist Dan Snyder also settle this year. If the idea is to not let you have an unfair advantage on the other owners, it should be a compelling argument to the other owners that you likewise do not want to be in an unfair position vs. the Redskins in your division.
Today Snyder can use you as a shield. You are a respected owner and businessman in NFL circles. You are quite a shield. Remove that shield and it's 31 against one.
Like you, Dan Snyder is a swing-for-the-fence owner when it comes to free agency. He also will chase the best talents. There are few owners who will chase high dollar talents in free agency. Snyder, however, will throw silly money at a very good player or elite talent.
According to Nationalfootballpost.com, the Redskins reportedly have an eye on San Diego wide receiver Vincent Jackson. With $40 million to spend, they would be very likely to throw huge money to at least two more elite talents (Mario Williams and Carl Nicks)?
If the Redskins lose $35 million of their $40 million free-agency war chest, they will have to rework their current deals and may top out at landing Jackson and some cheap free agents.
The Giants are pretty much capped out—their improvements will be from young players developing and injured players returning. The Eagles may sign someone, but between the Jekyll and Hyde play of Michael Vick and the distractions of DeSean Jackson, they may not see any gains.
The Redskins have already traded away their draft. If you can eliminate the odds of the Redskins pulling a blind squirrel in free agency, it increases the odds of Dallas making one of the best gains in the division.
Dallas could pick up ground in the division and that should be the bottom line.
That makes it far more likely Dallas will secure an elite talent or two this season with your remaining (potentially) $17 million, although you may have to pass on Brandon Carr. (In a day or two, I'll have suggestions up on how you might optimally stretch that given your reported targets.)
Mr. Jones, I think it is time to cut a deal with your fellow owners.
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