Analyzing Dallas Cowboys' Next Big Contract Decisions
Along with many other teams in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys have several important contract decisions to make in the near future. As you learn from watching free agency unfold, smart negotiating of long-term contracts is vital for teams to have lasting success.
The next round of contracts the Cowboys hand out will be of extreme importance because of the caliber of players whose contracts are being renegotiated. Each of these players will be making significantly more than they are currently and will most likely be signing multiyear deals. Dallas must be smart in giving its players what they deserve, while not overextending itself and constricting future signings.
Let’s take a look at the next few big contracts the Cowboys will have to resolve. I’m going to start with the most essential players and the order in which I see Jerry Jones and the front office, and the players, coming to terms in their negotiations.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant is at the head of this list because he’s one of the most important players on this team. He’s entering the last year of his rookie contract and will be cashing in shortly thanks to his superb play.
Bryant has been a monster the last two seasons, becoming Tony Romo’s favorite target. He’ll be looking to have another productive year in 2014 and earn another Pro Bowl invitation.
It’s not a question of if but of how much the Cowboys will be paying their star. Bryant has been among the league leaders in recent years and will be looking to get paid like one too.
Both Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson signed deals worth more than $100 million, so it’s not farfetched to believe Bryant will be getting something similar. He’s got plenty of years left to play, so Dallas can give him as many years as the front office likes.
The big number everyone likes to discuss these days is guaranteed money. I can see Bryant receiving something in the $30 million range because that’s what he deserves, and if he gets that kind of money, he will be second only to Johnson who was guaranteed more than $48 million.
As stated, Dallas has to pay its top performers, but shouldn’t just freely throw a surplus of cash at people. With a few other contracts to negotiate this season, Jones has to find a number that is fair to both the organization and to Bryant.
The next offensive weapon the Cowboys will be sure to lock up is running back DeMarco Murray. The former third-round selection has exceeded his rookie contract to say the least. Last season he was one of the better backs in the league and soon he will be paid as one.
Because Murray wasn’t drafted too high, Dallas was able to sign him to a friendly contract. The Pro Bowl back earned less than $1 million a season in each of his first four years.
Although the running back position has become slightly less important in the passing-dominated NFL, having a quality one should not be taken for granted. Players like Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy are central to their teams’ success, and Murray is nearly on the same level.
Dallas has had short-term success with a few ball-carriers but nothing truly permanent since the days of Emmitt Smith. Murray appears to be the answer, and with his contract expiring at the end of 2014, the Cowboys would be wise to lock him up.
While examining other top contracts at the position, I can see Murray earning something around $7 million a season with a guarantee close to $20 million. That will place him among the elite runners in the league, without surpassing guys like Peterson, McCoy and Arian Foster.
Another key contract Dallas must address is that of its Pro Bowl left tackle. Tyron Smith has been a monster for the Cowboys and is truly one of the most consistent players on the roster.
Like the others on this list, Smith is still playing under his rookie contract. He will only make a base salary of $2 million this year, but the team picked up Smith’s fifth-year option and will receive more than $10 million in 2015.
Now even though he’s signed through the next two seasons, it doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t act quickly to re-sign one of their best players. Left tackle has always been a critical position and Smith is clearly one of the best in the league. Dallas will not allow him to sniff free agency.
Cleveland’s Joe Thomas is the league’s highest paid left tackle, making $11.5 million a year. His total contract is worth more than $80 million. It would be tough to say Smith’s contract will exceed Thomas’, but it’s quite possible.
When Dallas signs Smith, he’ll probably be making around $10 million per season with a guarantee of at least $20 million. Clearly Jones understands the importance of a strong offensive line, so he will not be letting his stud left tackle go anywhere.
The final player on this list is last because his future is the most uncertain. Linebacker Bruce Carter’s rookie deal is up after the year, but it’s hard to tell whether he will warrant a new contract from the Cowboys.
Carter’s had some brilliant moments in his three-year career, but he has fallen short of fulfilling the expectations caused by those flashes of greatness. Like many others on the defense, he’s suffered his fair share of injuries and at times seemed lost last year in Monte Kiffin’s defense.
His second year in the 4-3 scheme should prove to be better than a season ago, despite teammate Sean Lee sidelined again with an injury. The pressure will be on Carter from day one, and his performance will determine what, if any contract he’ll be offered.
There’s no doubt Carter is capable of doing good things for this Cowboys team. When Lee was out of the lineup in the past, Carter stepped up his game and showed a different level of play that what we witnessed for most of 2013.
Even if he’s just mediocre, I can see Dallas offering him some sort of short-term deal. Its depth at linebacker is quite thin. However, if Carter can excel and help the 2014 defense really improve from its dreadful showing a year ago, he could end up netting some decent money.