Dallas Cowboys

Breaking Down Dallas Cowboys' Salary-Cap Situation Heading into Free Agency

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 22:  DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a sack against Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams with  George Selvie #99 (left) and Jason Hatcher #97 at AT&T Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Alex HallCorrespondent IIIMarch 4, 2014

The 2014 salary cap has been set at $133 million and Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com indicated that the Dallas Cowboys were a projected $20-25 million over the cap before the new figure was even released.

Big D is in need of shaving some money off its books, which will likely mean a fairly quiet free agency in Dallas.

Between DeMarcus Ware and Tony Romo alone, the Cowboys have more than $37 million tied up in just two players. Because of this, owner Jerry Jones publicly stated on ESPN's SportsCenter (h/t The Dallas Morning News) that cutting the veteran defensive end must be considered.

"You can't have it all," Jones said.

Due to all the money Dallas has tied up at the moment, the boss couldn't have put it any better. Even after cutting four players on Feb. 28, the 'Boys cleared only a little more than $1 million in cap space.

According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telgram, the Cowboys made another money-saving move on March 3 when Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee agreed to restructure their contracts. The move will save the team roughly $7 million.

Here's a look at all of the Cowboys' impending free agents, with cap hits courtesy of Spotrac.com:

PlayerPositionStatus2013 Salary Cap Hit
Anthony SpencerDEUFA$10.6 million
Jason HatcherDTUFA$2.6 million
Brian WatersGUFA$1.5 million
Ryan CookCUFA$1.25 million
Danny McCraySUFA$730,000
Phillip TannerRBRFA$555,500
Ernie SimsLBUFA$555,000
Brandon CarterGUFA$565,500
Jarius WynnDEUFA$359,118

Other impending free agents include center Phil Costa, linebacker Edgar Jones and quarterback Jon Kitna. Clarence Hill, among others, has reported that the team might release Costa as well. Cutting the former starter would save Dallas $1.5 million in cap space.

Considering the fact that cutting Miles Austin after June 1 would save the team $5.5 million, it's likely the wide receiver is gone as well. The eight-year veteran has missed 11 games in the past three seasons and hasn't recorded a 1,000-yard receiving season since 2010.

The Cowboys are looking to cut costs and therefore won't exactly be in the market to back a truckload of money onto the front lawn of many big-name free agents.

Jones needs to call in his cabinet and make sure the work he does to clear money isn't just used to frivolously sign veterans this offseason. If that means letting names like Anthony Spencer or Jason Hatcher go, don't think he will hesitate.

Dallas will get under the 2014 salary cap, but no matter what, it is going to come at the cost of losing some big-name talent. There is almost no chance that Hatcher, Spencer and Ware will all have stars on their helmets next year.

The best-case scenario for Dallas is that the organization clears enough money off the books to bring in a few mid-level veterans. If the team can clear a good chunk of change off, maybe, just maybe, it can land a big fish like Jared Allen.

Dec 29, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (69) reacts against the Detroit Lions in the second quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings win 14-13. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sp
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys are going to need some serious help on the defensive front line and Allen is the obvious way to fix that problem. He has recorded 45.5 sacks over the last three seasons for Minnesota and is a Dallas native on top of being a defensive force.

Allen is the Cowboys' white whale this free agency and won't be easy to reel in. Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton might be a more affordable option and would be a fine replacement for Hatcher.

He totaled 13 sacks over the 2011 and 2012 seasons and sat out most of 2013 due to a torn ACL. The injury will force Melton to bring down his asking price and Dallas has a way of persuading players to sign on the dotted line.

There are plenty of questions swirling around Valley Ranch leading into free agency. The Cowboys will surely have to part ways with some fan favorites this offseason.

If they play their cards right, though, they might be able to get their financial situation in a better place and bring in a top-level free agent.

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