Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones opened his wallet last offseason to improve his team's chances of making the playoffs. Those moves didn't seem to work as the Cowboys are sitting at home watching NFL championship weekend—instead of playing in it.
Jones wrote checks to cornerback Brandon Carr, rookie Morris Claiborne, a couple of offensive lineman and a host of others.
The bank of Jones was wide open in 2012 as he tried his best to improve his team.
It looks like things will be a little different in 2013. As of right now, the Cowboys are about $20 million over the 2013 cap, which is about $121 million.
The Cowboys will dig themselves out of that hole because they have to, but they have to make a couple of moves to get there.
Since I'm not on the payroll for Mr. Jones and just an outside pundit, I'm sure he's waiting for my suggestions as to how they should cut costs. So, here are a few suggestions for the Cowboys to trim their cap number.
If the Cowboys cut Free, it will save them $7 million. It will leave them deficient at right tackle, but Free hasn't produced over the past two seasons.
Jones said that he was going to make Valley Ranch uncomfortable, and he can advance that cause by cutting Free.
I still think Free can be useful if the team moves him to guard. If the Cowboys don't think he's worth keeping at guard or tackle, then they may as well save the money and cut him.
I'm just barely on the north side of this because of the injuries the Cowboys suffered last season. Connor was due to start the season over Bruce Carter, but he was beat out by the young linebacker.
When Carter went down with a dislocated elbow and was lost for the season, Conner helped the team fill the void created by Carter's departure.
But his cap number is a healthy $4.4 million in 2013. As of right now, the Cowboys cannot afford to pay a backup player that type of money.
If he isn't willing to re-work his deal, or Dallas just doesn't want to re-do it, then it is best to cut him and sign a younger linebacker for cheap.
According to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, Spencer is likely to leave, due to the Cowboys defensive scheme change to the 4-3.
Spencer had a career season with 11 sacks and 106 tackles in 2012. He will probably break the Cowboys bank, if they try to re-sign him.
With Dallas being almost $20 million over the cap, it simply cannot afford Spencer.
Allowing Spencer to explore his options will give them more cap space and the ability to sign a young player or use one on the current roster to fill Spencer’s shoes.
Before jumping to conclusions on Romo and the Cowboys keeping him, just look at it from a financial perspective.
Romo will count almost $17 million against the cap in 2013, and if the team signs him to an extension, that number will reduce by about $8 million next season.
If the Cowboys decided to get rid of Romo, the question turns to who would replace him as starter?
Combined, the cap hit for these players would cost the team over $15 million. For two players who have struggled to stay on the field lately, their deals should be re-worked, or the Cowboys need to ask them both to take less money.
I would place more trust in Ratliff than I would Austin because of Ratliff's history. He played in just six games this past season, but that's his lowest total since 2005.
In the case of Austin, he missed six games in 2011, and though he played in all 16 this season, some of those were compromised due to injury.
This is also the second consecutive year that Austin has failed to reach 1,000 yards receiving. He barely eclipsed that number in 2010, so if anyone is to take a paycut, it should be him.
But with the team so far over the cap, both players will probably have to sacrifice some dollars in 2013.