In the past few years, the Cowboys managed to avoid some of the traps set by their owner Jerry Jones. We are all familiar with the fact that Jones offered massive contracts to the guys he loved even though that would harm the organization. Because of that, the Cowboys got stuck with aging players who failed to deliver on the field, and when they got released, it hurt the salary cap of the team.
Some of the players who had the bad influence on the Cowboys cap space are Roy Williams with $13.2 million of dead money, Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware with $9.6 and $8.5 million of cap space respectively. These are just some examples, but there were more players such as Leonard Davis, Marion Barber, and Miles Austin.
If a team wants to be competitive, they cannot afford to lose money like this. Even Jones himself defended Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett for having to deal with a difficult financial situation. And Garrett did a good job, putting the Cowboys back on track. Luckily for Dallas, the notion of giving away money to their players who are hitting free agency is changing. Moreover, the front office is not giving too much money to other players who are becoming free agents.
Since they decided to be wise with the money, the results are visible. The Cowboys had the lowest dead money hit compared to any other team in the NFL in 2016 with just $3.24 million. Instead of paying washed-out or injury-prone free agents, the Cowboys have started to build their team through the draft and, so far, that strategy has proven to be beneficial. Some of the players who are good free-agency acquisitions are Jeremy Mincey, Justin Durant, and Terrell McClain.
On the other hand, the America’s team brought Cedric Thornton on a four-year $17 million contract in 2016, and he got cut. Moreover, Nolan Carroll agreed to a three-year $10 million deal and got released. These two players contributed very little, and the dead money will exceed the $10 million mark. Are the Cowboys heading back to the old ways? Only the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers have wasted more money than the Cowboys. Just these two teams are 0-12 combined this season. As you can see, significant money losses equal game losses.
Moreover, the big part of the Cowboys dead money is coming from the contract with former quarterback Tony Romo. Not that the fans can be mad about it since Romo was the franchise-leading QB for a long time. Luckily, the team will get out from under the contract soon whereas the Carroll and Thornton deals could be considered as miscalculations, but the Cowboys could have done so much with $10 million. For instance, Barry Church’s annual cost is $6.5 million, while Brandon Carr and Terrell McClain’s are $5.8 and $5.2 million respectively.
It is clear that you cannot predict what each player is going to do and we cannot criticize the front office for making mistakes. It happens to every team, but if Dallas plans to become a title competitor, then mishaps such as the ones with Thornton and Carroll simply must not happen. Furthermore, the 2017 free agent Stephen Paea has officially retired, leaving Dallas empty-handed in the free agency quest.
Once again, the Cowboys might become the worst dead money team, leading the league with $13.6 million wasted so far. Now, some of that money is still due to Romo’s contract we cannot be mad about, but most of it is on Carroll and Thornton’s deal. Instead of patching up, the Dallas Cowboys are doing the opposite. This year’s draft class is not meeting the expectations so far, which can sometimes happen. Because of that, moves in the free agency need to be smart.