Updating Dallas Cowboys' Salary-Cap Situation After 1st Wave of Free Agency

Chris ImperialeCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2014

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 01:  Henry Melton #69 of the Chicago Bears sacks quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys in the first quarter at Cowboys Stadium on October 1, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Entering the 2014 free-agency period, the Dallas Cowboys appeared to be in a difficult situation, once again over the cap. However, with a few strategic moves and surprising discipline, owner Jerry Jones actually has the team in a solid position.

This offseason has been uncharacteristic of the Cowboys in that they have let go of expensive veterans and haven’t overpaid any free agents. For once, the team has some money to work with.

The biggest way Dallas has saved thus far is by not bringing back guys who didn’t deserve big money. Both Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher left for free agency, while Dallas didn’t blink. The Cowboys knew these guys would be overpaid, and if they weren’t, then they could return to Dallas at a discounted rate.

Hatcher signed a four-year, $27.5 million deal with division foe Washington. Spencer remains unsigned, with a potential return to the Cowboys looming.

Another important, yet bittersweet, maneuver was the releasing of Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. Despite it being difficult to let one of the faces of the franchise go, Dallas made the proper decision knowing Ware’s best years are behind him.

Although the Cowboys had money to spend following these moves, they didn’t do so foolishly. According to Over the Cap, Dallas has $6.4 million currently remaining in cap space. Here’s how it happened.

The Cowboys signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey, defensive tackle Terrell McClain and quarterback Brandon Weeden. The combined cost of the three will be less than $2.7 million for the 2014 season.

Even though all three players likely won’t start too many games, they each add depth at a very affordable price.

Dallas’ biggest move by far was the acquisition of Chicago’s defensive tackle Henry Melton. The 27-year-old made the Pro Bowl in 2012 and is now reunited with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Melton is an immediate starter on a team that was desperate for help along the defensive line.

The Cowboys got their man with Melton, but they didn’t overpay him. They signed him to a four-year deal, with the final three being a part of a player option. Melton’s base salary is only $1.25 million next year, but it would significantly increase the following season.

With his contract structured like this, Dallas has minimal money at risk. If the defensive tackle’s ACL acts up, the Cowboys can release him before he’s owed any considerable money.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Jones has done so well with his spending this offseason that Dallas can still make a few more moves. Despite adding Melton, the defensive line is still thin, especially at end. George Selvie is a consistent starter, but there isn’t much depth or talent behind him.

Using the remaining $6.4 million, the Cowboys should be able to sign a quality player. The guy who makes the most sense to me is Spencer. He’s familiar with the team, still relatively young and would be out to prove something to the front office.

Players like Julius Peppers and Jared Allen are no longer available, so it appears Spencer is the best option. Dallas has plenty of money to add him to a short-term deal and still have funds leftover.