A report this week from ESPN.com's Calvin Watkins stated that the once cap-broke Dallas Cowboys now actually have approximately $8.5 million in salary-cap space, which according to Watkins is better than NFC East rivals New York and Washington.
And that jives with numbers provided by Over the Cap, which estimates the 'Boys are slightly above the league median with $8.3 million in space.
|NFC teams with over $7 million in cap space as of June 25|
|1. Philadelphia Eagles||$19,428,064|
|2. Green Bay Packers||$13,644,119|
|3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||$10,395,967|
|4. Atlanta Falcons||$9,161,024|
|5. Arizona Cardinals||$8,486,757|
|6. Dallas Cowboys||$8,334,372|
|7. Seattle Seahawks||$7,960,981|
|8. Minnesota Vikings||$7,720,258|
Naturally, because the Cowboys have some glaring needs on defense and haven't been able to spend much on the open market the last few years, fans and the media are curious to see if Jerry Jones and Co. will take advantage of the space they now have—Miles Austin only came off the books a few weeks ago—by making some pre-training camp moves.
But the Cowboys have to resist that temptation. They have to maintain the status quo and avoid splurging on any of the recycled veterans still lingering on the free-agent market. If we're beyond the June solstice and you're still available, there's a reason for that.
Sure, the Cowboys have benefited from summer or even fall additions in recent years. In 2011, Laurent Robinson wasn't signed until September, but he put together an 858-yard, 11-touchdown campaign. And George Selvie had seven sacks in 16 starts last year despite not being added to the roster until late-July.
But first of all, those were bargain-basement deals, just like the one they probably gave to guard Uche Nwaneri on Tuesday. Proven players like Jason Babin, Brian Urlacher, Pat Angerer and Jonathan Vilma wouldn't be as cheap or easy to bring in.
But more importantly, the Cowboys have already done their bargain shopping this year. They've gone out and identified players who they think can be Selvie-type contributors, and they've signed those guys. That's why Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey and Henry Melton are now on the roster.
Rod Marinelli is a magician when it comes to coaching up defensive linemen, and the offense is already secure. The linebacking corps could use help, especially with Sean Lee out, but that's why quality draft picks have been used in four consecutive years on Bruce Carter, Kyle Wilber, DeVonte Holloman and Anthony Hitchens. And as Watkins notes, Dallas leads the league in cap space devoted to cornerbacks at $22.7 million, so any more investments there would be silly.
Keep in mind that cap space can now be carried over from year to year with no penalty. So this isn't a case in which they'd lose it if they didn't use it. And the reality is that the Cowboys are going to need every penny they currently have in order to keep this roster in good shape while remaining fiscally healthy next spring.
Only the Pittsburgh Steelers will enter next year with more dead money than Dallas, which is one reason why Over the Cap projects that they'll kick off the 2015 offseason with the eighth-highest team salary total in the NFL.
|Estimated top team salary totals entering 2015|
|1. New England Patriots||$147,801,462|
|2. Miami Dolphins||$145,261,299|
|3. Arizona Cardinals||$145,032,732|
|4. New Orleans Saints||$142,322,277|
|5. San Francisco 49ers||$143,289,670|
|6. Baltimore Ravens||$138,563,896|
|7. Philadelphia Eagles||$136,549,320|
|8. Dallas Cowboys||$140,707,542|
|9. Carolina Panthers||$134,114,137|
|10. Washington Redskins||$128,853,335|
And while there remains some wiggle room in Tony Romo's contract, the quarterback's projected cap hit for the 2015 campaign is $27.7 million, which according to Spotrac is the highest number in the league.
|Highest projected 2015 cap hits, league-wide|
|1. Tony Romo||Cowboys||$27,773,000|
|2. Drew Brees||Saints||$26,400,000|
|3. Darrelle Revis||Patriots||$25,000,000|
|4. Larry Fitzgerald||Cardinals||$23,600,000|
|5. Peyton Manning||Broncos||$21,500,000|
On top of that, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Bruce Carter are slated to become unrestricted free agents next March. With another big season, precedents indicate Bryant could cost upwards of $14 million per year, and Murray would also be quite costly if he were to deliver in 2014. Carter is a wild card, but he's a starter nonetheless, and stud left tackle Tyron Smith will also be entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2015.
|Cowboys: Projected free agents over the next two years|
|Player||Position||Final year of contract|
If the Cowboys are going to shore up this roster for years to come, they can't afford to splurge on pieces of scrap metal right now.
The Eagles won the division title last year with a roster built almost entirely in-house. Homegrown guys like Nick Foles, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Riley Cooper, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Trent Cole, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Boykin led the way.
The Cowboys have been forced to stay away in recent years, but you get the feeling the organization is finally beginning to realize that the best way to get back to where they once were is to trust in their own guys—that includes the players, the coaches and the talent evaluators.
This team has shown a lot of maturity this offseason. Letting DeMarcus Ware go wasn't a popular move, but it was the right one, and they knew not to overspend in order to keep Jason Hatcher on the wrong side of 30.
Now they have to be disciplined and remain confident in what they've built in recent drafts by limiting their spending. They'll thank themselves when the check comes for Bryant and others next March.