A Closer Look at How the Cowboys Could Be Sacrificing the Future for the Present

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A Closer Look at How the Cowboys Could Be Sacrificing the Future for the Present
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Last Friday, as the Dallas Cowboys were in the midst of a contract restructuring rampage, we wondered if the team was essentially going all in for the short term while potentially committing salary-cap suicide for future seasons. 

Since then, they've only bolstered that argument by reaching deeper into their pockets to enhance the prospects of the immediate future by using the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer

That has my Twitter pal Bo Martin wondering if the Cowboys are jeopardizing their future in order to make a run right now, and after looking at what is likely to be on the team's plate in future offseasons, I can't disagree. 

Another Twitter pal, Jimmy Kempski from Blogging the Beast, collaborated on a post this week with the man behind OvertheCap.com. If you like doom and gloom, it's right up your alley. 

Kempksi and Jason from Over the Cap determined that, simply by restructuring deals for Miles Austin, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Brandon Carr, the Cowboys added nearly $6 million in cap charges and over $23 million in dead money charges to their 2014 tab.

"Those four players will represent four of the top five cap hits on the roster in 2014 once the contract of Tony Romo voids at the end of this season," wrote Kempski. And they're probably stuck with those guys for the long haul, no matter how much their play declines. 

Here's the real scary part: 

Dallas already has $106 million on the 2015 salary cap for just 20 players. Now, it's not fair to sound the alarms for a year that far in the future but they have locked themselves in to a 29-year-old Carr in 2015, while a 33-year-old Witten and a 31-year-old Austin will count for $10.34 million in dead money, compared to just $4.07 million a few days ago. And none of this includes whatever crazy cap cost will likely exist for a 35-year-old Romo.

And keep in mind that, as things currently stand, Tony Romo and Sean Lee will be free agents next offseason, while Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray will have expiring contracts in 2015.

The Cowboys are most definitely gambling here. They're gambling, first, that a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2009 is close enough to being a Super Bowl contender that these moves will tip the scale in their direction. 

To a lesser extent, they're gambling that guys like Austin, Witten, Ware and Carr will age well. That, of course, is impossible to read. We've seen receivers, tight ends and edge-rushers dominate into their mid-30s, but all three of those guys have a lot of wear and tear already. As for Carr, they'd just better hope he doesn't pull a Nnamdi Asomugha as soon as he nears 30.

And finally, they're most certainly gambling—and praying—that the salary cap skyrockets in 2015. There's no reason to believe it'll increase dramatically next offseason, but Dallas will at least be free of league-imposed cap sanctions at that point in time. The real boon could come one year later, when the revenue generated by a 60 percent increase in TV rights fees could cause the pie to become a hell of a lot bigger. Those new deals with CBS, Fox and NBC take effect in 2014 and will impact the bottom line starting in 2015.

You'd think Jerry Jones has that in mind as he operates.

The problem is the new TV deals might not be reflected in the salary cap right away. 

"There is an over-excitement [among players] about the TV deals, which do not start at the higher levels and have to ramp up," former Packers executive Andrew Brandt told Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal last summer. "This is something that players will have to come to grips with, and agents and the union will need to be realistic on, with contract projections that this expected windfall in the rise in revenues is not happening any time soon."

So there's still a decent chance the Cowboys are volunteering for long-term pain in order to take a shot at short-term gains. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing in this "win now" culture, but it's definitely going to infuriate fans if it doesn't pay off. 

If Dallas does come through and wins a sixth Super Bowl this year or next year, nobody will care about the rebuild that will loom in the ensuing seasons. But the odds don't favor that, which means frustrated and spoiled Cowboys fans could be in for a lot more frustration over the next half-decade.

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