The Dallas Cowboys are in a figurative mess this offseason. They are currently projected to be more than $20 million over the 2014 salary cap. Because of these financial issues, the Dallas brass needs to make more than a few cost-effective moves before September rolls around.
Big name players will likely be cut or not re-signed. The Cowboys are more likely to be bargain shoppers this free agency period than to make a big splash.
One way or another, changes are coming to Big D this offseason and it will require making tough decisions to get back under the salary cap.
Much of the financial sacrifices the Cowboys will have to make will come at the expense of the defensive line. Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher are both set to hit the free agent market and their former teamJerry Jones cannot afford to re-sign either.
Hatcher said back in December of last year that he's going to test free agency. He had 11 sacks last year and earned a Pro Bowl alternate bid. Spencer was injured all through the 2013 season but he put together a career-year in 2012.
Both players are going to ask for big-time money from whichever team wants to sign them. The Cowboys simply cannot afford to pay the asking price that either of them will have in mind and shouldn't attempt to do so.
It will be sad for Dallas fans to say goodbye to two players who have been productive in the past, but that's what happens when athe team spends frivolously.
Although Tony Romo's $119.5 million contract is not even a full year old just yet, the Cowboys need to ask him to restructure his deal.
Romo is without question the face of the franchise, especially after signing his seven-year extension. With that honor comes the setback of having to be the first guy the team will ask to move money around.
No. 9 is set to count $13.5 million against the cap next year. Moving some of that money for payment down the road would be a huge help for the team.
It's unlikely that Romo would be unwilling to work with the team to create more cap space. Creating more financial wiggle room will ultimately allow the team to surround Romo with better personnel.
Expect Romo's contract restructure to happen sometime over the next few months because it's a forgone conclusion that it will happen.
While owner Jerry Jones might think it's too early to talk about Miles Austin's contract, the writing is on the wall for No. 19.
Jerry Jones said it's too early to discuss the contract status if Miles Austin and DeMarcus Ware.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) January 20, 2014
The veteran receiver is due $5.5 million next season and has missed 11 games in the past three years. In 2013, Austin tallied just 244 yards on 24 receptions and no touchdowns.
With the emergence of Terrance Williams last season, the Cowboys have to feel more comfortable than ever with the idea of moving on from Austin. The Monmouth alum will be 30 years old by the start of the 2014 season.
There's no question Austin proved valuable to Dallas in 2009 and 2010 when he posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. The issue for him is that he hasn't been productive since then and his team needs to cut costs in a bad way.
Unfortunately for Austin, it's likely that 2013 was his last season wearing a star on his helmet.
DeMarcus Ware recently told ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins that he doesn't expect the team that drafted him to show him the door this offseason.
I was also told DeMarcus Ware doesn't expect to get cut. Once again he's not taking a pay cut. He will restructure his deal.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) January 20, 2014
Ware currently counts for $12.25 million against the 2014 cap and the harsh reality is that Dallas could very well choose to cut him. He recorded a career lows in sacks and tackles recorded in his first year as a defensive end.
It was clear throughout last season that Ware was not fully comfortable in Monte Kiffin's 4-3 scheme. He was far less effective in the pass rush and didn't exactly stuff running backs all that much either. Ware will turn 32 this July.
There is no question that Ware is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate and been the face of the Dallas defense for years now. The only way Dallas can cut costs with the veteran besides releasing him would be to restructure his contract.
Ware has stated that he is open to restructuring his deal to help the team. Doing so would move some of the money owed to Ware to later years in his seven-year deal he signed back in 2009.
It would be wise of the Cowboys to keep Ware in the fold for another season and see how he does in Kiffin's system with a year under his belt. He has been too productive in previous seasons to just flat out cut after one bad year.
While it wouldn't be terribly surprising to see Jerry Jones and co. cut Ware, restructuring would be the smartest move.
Given the salary cap woes that the Cowboys are facing, they don't have the ability to spend big money this free agency period. That means that much of this offseason's acquisitions in Dallas will come via the 2014 NFL Draft.
With changes likely looming at defensive line, drafting a tackle or end of the future early has to be priority No. 1. It also wouldn't be a bad idea for the Cowboys to wheel and deal a bit to acquire more picks. Dallas has seven selections in this year's draft with two coming in the seventh round and no pick in the sixth.
Tony Romo is not getting any younger at quarterback, either and it might be time to draft his successor. He has had two recent back surgeries and is about to turn 34 years old in April.
The Cowboys have no shortage of needs to fill despite some solid pieces on the offensive side of the ball already in place. With money tight in Big D this offseason, the most cost-efficient way to bring in new faces is through the draft.