Buying or Selling Latest Cowboys Buzz on the Free-Agency Mill
The most popular buzz swirling around the Dallas Cowboys' free agency mill is that the team doesn't have enough salary cap space to sign any noteworthy free agents.
However, after restructuring players like quarterback Tony Romo and cornerback Orlando Scandrick, the Cowboys currently sit under the 2014 salary cap, according to Over the Cap. Further, the team is going to create more than enough cap space by either cutting or restructuring the deal for defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who currently holds a $16 million cap charge.
The Cowboys might not be big spenders in this free-agency period, but they aren't going to be inactive, either. Let's take a look at some of the buzz coming from Valley Ranch and whether or not we should buy or sell the hype.
WR Nate Burleson Makes Sense for Dallas
Wide receiver Nate Burleson has been linked to Dallas by multiple outlets, including ESPN Dallas. The rumor that the Cowboys could have interest in Burleson was likely perpetuated by the fact that he played under new Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
Dallas does indeed need another playmaking wide receiver, but Burleson isn't the guy. During his 11-year NFL career, Burleson has averaged 42 catches for 512 yards and 3.5 touchdowns per year. It's very unclear what Burleson could give Dallas that they don't already have.
With such a deep wide receiver draft class, the Burleson-to-Dallas rumors don't hold up.
DT Henry Melton Could Replace Jason Hatcher
The Cowboys are in desperate need of defensive linemen, particular inside at defensive tackle. Jason Hatcher had a career year there in 2013, but he's unlikely to remain in Dallas.
Former Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton is one of the top players available in free agency, and he's one of the only medium-to-high-priced players being linked to Dallas, most notably by Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com:
Melton is hitting free agency after a torn ACL and an arrest. That's poor timing. But he's also hitting free agency in the same year that his former defensive coordinator (Rod Marinelli) and former head coach (Lovie Smith) get new jobs. That should help. Melton is more likely to follow Marinelli to Dallas. The Cowboys' defensive line is thin, and Melton makes for a perfect replacement for Jason Hatcher, who looks likely to leave via free agency. Dallas always finds a way out of their cap issues, and Melton's rough year should help keep his price down.
"Dallas always finds a way out of their cap issues" is an important line, because it's very true that if the Cowboys want Melton, they'll be able to afford him. While their long-term plans aren't always the smartest, the Cowboys are really good at turning salary cap water into wine.
DE Anthony Spencer Could Sign a One-Year Deal with Dallas
There's been a lot of speculation about defensive end Anthony Spencer's future in Dallas. It originally appeared as though the Cowboys wouldn't re-sign him, but many outlets, including ESPN Dallas, have suggested the 'Boys could hang onto Spencer because he won't have a ton of interest on the open market.
Star Magazine writers Josh Ellis and Jeff Sullivan, both connected to the team, reiterated that idea during Thursday's "On Air" podcast. Said Ellis, "We're on board with a one-year, incentive-laden deal for Spencer."
There's been so much speculation about Spencer returning to Dallas that I'm buying it as a possibility. In terms of if it's a smart move, that really depends on the deal. Ellis was right in pointing out that Spencer's contract should pay him for quality play after the fact, meaning anything that isn't primarily incentive-based is going to be a problem.
DE DeMarcus Ware Doesn't Want to Take a Pay Cut
Per Clarence Hill of Star-Telegram, defensive end DeMarcus Ware isn't too happy about the idea of taking a pay cut to remain in Dallas. Ware reportedly thinks he'll have a lot of interest on the free-agent market and wants a quick resolution with his situation in Dallas.
Regardless of what's going to make Ware happy, there's next to no chance that he'll be back in Dallas in 2014 without a reduction in pay or a restructuring of his deal. Ware's current cap number is over $16 million, according to Over the Cap. Dallas would have to eat over $8 million in dead money if they let go of Ware, but they'd still save well over $7 million against the 2014 cap.
In short, the Cowboys have all of the leverage in this situation. You might argue that a player of Ware's caliber shouldn't take a pay cut, but it's definitely in his best interest to do so. The Cowboys simply aren't going to let him play out his current deal, so Ware could reduce his 2014 salary and still make more than he would on the open market. Even if Ware reduced his 2014 base salary by, say, $4 million, it would benefit both him and the team.
The 'Boys Could Sign a Free Agent Running Back
There's perhaps no worse proposition in all of football than signing a veteran running back, but that hasn't stopped many from speculating that the Cowboys could bring one in. Dallas Morning News listed Ben Tate, Rashad Jennings and Donald Brown as possibilities.
The problem with running backs is that, outside of a few special talents like Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, they're extremely replaceable. Part of the reason for that is because they're so dependent on their offensive lines for production. If the majority of running back success is due to factors outside of his control, why pay for one?
Another reason is that running backs enter the league at near-peak efficiency. If the Cowboys want another running back, which isn't a bad idea with DeMarco Murray's contract set to expire after the 2014 season, they should spend a mid-round pick on one—just not a back who runs a 4.63 40-yard dash at 198 pounds.