The Dallas Cowboys are entering an important offseason in which they must figure out how to get into the playoffs.
Easier said than done.
The Cowboys will enter 2013 with 18 players eligible as free agents and more than $20 million over the cap.
There is plenty of work to be done.
Before we go speculating exactly what the Cowboys should be doing this offseason, who their targets should be in free agency and what they need to do in the draft, we need to know where they stand financially.
This is a business, after all.
If you stick with me I’ll highlight every free agent and assess the Cowboys' current cap situation.
Here we go.
Rushing: 111 attempts, 402 yards and three touchdowns
Receiving: 25 receptions, 262 yards and two touchdowns
Jones is a solid depth running back. He offers a solid change of pace but can’t be counted on as a primary back because of injury concerns. Will likely find a team quickly but won’t be a feature back in his career.
Could be retained in Dallas if he can be had for a low-risk, low-salary contract
2012 stats: 32 receptions, 436 yards and four touchdowns.
Ogletree broke out in Week 1 but has regressed substantially since. Ogletree is an inconsistent receiver who has seen his playing time dwindle to the likes of Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley. He is no better than a deep depth receiver.
I don’t see a situation where Ogletree is retained in Dallas.
2012 stats: Eight receptions, 55 yards and one touchdown.
Unfortunate season for John Phillips, who many thought could emerge as a future replacement to Jason Witten. Phillips can do a little bit of everything is a viable option as a depth tight end.
The emergence of Hannah may allow the Cowboys to move on from Phillips.
Dockery is an aging player whose prime is behind him. Dockery is a liability on the line and doesn’t have the ability to compete consistently at his level.
Dockery may be done in the NFL.
Long snapper who the Cowboys will likely cut ties with.
Cowboys will move forward with Chris Jones. Although, Moorman was brilliant as a late-season addition.
2012 Stats: 25 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery
Butler is a pass-rush specialist that hasn’t lived up to expectations. He’s a decent depth player but won’t be able to succeed in this defense as a starter.
Butler’s ceiling as likely been reached the Cowboys will be ready to move on from him.
2012 stats: 12 tackles
Brad Poppinga is an older free-agent linebacker who was nothing more than a stopgap.
2012 stats: 43 tackles and one sack
Sims played admirably despite the situation he entered. He was brought in because of injury and he proved that he can still play at a decent level. Sims has good athleticism and makes good tackles in space.
Sims is better than Dan Connor in my opinion has a decent chance at being retained.
2012 stats: 95 tackles, two forced fumbles and 11 sacks.
Spencer had a career year when the Cowboys needed him most. He will likely command huge money this offseason because of his dynamic ability against the run and as a decent pass rushing skills.
Cowboys are limited in cap space and will face a big decision when it comes to Spencer. I’m not sure they can retain him if they hope to spend money on the offensive line.
2012 stats: 14 tackles (one with Cowboys)
Coe was another stopgap player. Will not return.
2012 stats: 14 tackles and three passes defended
Jenkins is a decent man-to-man corner who plays hurt. He spent to offseason holding out but has played decent in the absence of Orlando Scandrick.
Jenkins wants a chance to start, an opportunity he won’t get in Dallas.
2012 stats: 30 tackles and two passes defended
Frampton played decently and started in two games at safety. Frampton isn’t a starting caliber player but is a decent depth guy and excellent special teamer.
Frampton has the ability and versatility to stick with this team moving forward.
2012 stats: 11 tackles and one interception
Peprah isn’t the player he was in Green Bay. He is a liability in coverage but players well in the box.
The Cowboys are going to be overloaded at the safety position heading into 2013 and I don’t see them keeping Peprah.
2012 stats: 15 tackles and one forced fumble
Coleman was injured most of the season and put the defensive line at a disadvantage with his absence. Coleman is getting older and injuries are catching up to him. He’s no longer the player he once was and can’t be trusted to last through a 16-game season.
Coleman isn’t coming back unless the Cowboys can get him very cheap with no risk.
For those who are unaware, a restricted free agent is one who is eligible for a qualifying offer from his old team but can also negotiate with other teams during the free agent period. If the player receives an offer from another team and chooses to accept it the original player’s team has the opportunity to match the offer.
Costa was injured most of the season but when he did play I think the offense line looked substantially better. It was clear to me that Tony Romo felt more comfortable with Costa making the adjustments at the line.
Costa is restricted and the Cowboys coaching staff is known to think highly of him. They will likely match any reasonable offer the offensive center.
2012 stats: 71 tackles and one interception
McCray is a masterful special teams ace who didn’t pan out so well when asked start at safety. Nevertheless, you can’t discount his importance to special teams and his impact is crucial to the success of the unit.
McCray is going to stay on this team. Other teams may put out low-feeler offers but the Cowboys will match them.
2012 stats: Three tackles
Schaefering is a big lineman who played decently in minimal work. There is reason to believe that he will be kept at his cheap salary and provide depth to a depleted line.
Projected Total Salary for Players in 2013: $132 million
Projected Dead Money (dead money is money resulting in the termination of contracts such as that of Terrence Newman): Approximately $6.5 million
League Collusion Penalty: $5 million
Projected Total Cap Spent: $143.5 million
NFL Projected Cap Limit in 2013: $121 million
Available Cowboys Cap Space: -$22.5 million
Bad Contracts Cowboys Should Look to Move:
Miles Austin: 7 years, $57,168,000
2013 Cap Hit: $8.3 million
Jay Ratliff: 7 years, $48,625,000
2013 Cap Hit: $7 million
Doug Free: 4 years, $32 million
2013 Cap Hit: $11,150,000
Orlando Scandrick: 6 years, $28.2 million
2013 Cap Hit: $3,780,000
Contracts the Cowboys Can Restructure:
Tony Romo: 6 years, $67.4 million
2013 Cap Hit: $17,228,000 (figure calculated with $5,728,000 option bonus)
Brandon Carr: 5 years, $50.1 million
2013 Cap Hit: $16.3 million
*All research completed courtesy www.spotrac.com