With salary cap issues looming in 2022, the Dallas Cowboys need to win now – Dallas Cowboys Blog

October 26, 2021

FRISCO, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys (5-1) have a comfortable lead in the NFC East, look like a contender in the conference and have a chance of reaching the franchise’s first Super Bowl since 1995.

A word to the wise: Enjoy this run because it might be difficult to replicate beyond 2021.

There is already talk of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore becoming head coach in 2022, especially as former quarterback Tony Romo is calling the Cowboys games for CBS. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn could return to the head coaching mix considering how he has restructured Dallas’ defense. And there are several assistants who could theoretically move to bigger venues, like secondary coach / passing game coordinator Joe Whitt.

But the biggest problem the Cowboys will face is related to the salary cap.

The cap for next year is set at $ 208 million. Currently, the Cowboys can transfer roughly $ 3.5 million from space in the 2021 cap to their 2022 cap, raising their figure to $ 211.5 million.

According to the Roster Management System, the maximum value for the Cowboys next year is already $ 217.7 million with 43 players under contract. They will also have at least $ 6.86 million in dead money, representing players who are no longer on the list. The top 10 salary cap figures on the Cowboys list for next year total $ 171.96 million, led by quarterback Dak Prescott’s $ 34.45 million cap number.

Nothing is impossible when it comes to the cap with restructurings, renegotiations and releases, but the three options do not give the Cowboys an absolute “Get out of jail free” card.

“It will be a challenge for us to figure out how we handle the limit,” said Executive Vice President Stephen Jones. “It’s always going to be difficult to speculate what the cap will be until we get past a full season of normal capabilities or just normality away from the pandemic. We will start to get a better idea of ​​how we manage and project the salary cap. “

Prescott’s contract restructuring will open up the most space, perhaps up to $ 15 million. That’s the simplest decision for the Cowboys and why they signed him to a six-year contract that voids four last March.

They would like to avoid restructuring the contracts of running back Ezekiel Elliott, guard Zack Martin and offensive tackle Tyron Smith due to a combination of age, injuries and future salary cap ramifications.

Offensive tackle La’el Collins’s five-game suspension cost him a $ 6.48 million guarantee of his $ 10 million base salary in 2022. With how well Terence Steele has performed in his absence, at a much lower cost, the Cowboys could opt for Collins’ pass after this season to save some space, either $ 1.3 million as a direct cut or $ 10 million as a post-June 1 pitch.

By releasing wide receiver Amari Cooper and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys can open at least $ 24 million in cap space.

So the question is: How do the Cowboys replace Cooper and Lawrence? Would they be better off without them and Collins?

Keeping their own free agents is always a Cowboys priority.

As a wide receiver, they’d keep Michael Gallup in this scenario, but what about Cedrick Wilson, whose pay should increase based on his productivity (14 receptions, 168 yards, 2 TDs) in Gallup’s absence due to a calf strain ?

As a defensive end, they would keep Randy Gregory, who has four sacks and is playing his best football. Perhaps the Cowboys’ patience with the 2015 second-round pick through multiple suspensions that cost him 54 games would pay off in the negotiations. And if it’s not that way? Putting the franchise or transition label on it should be a possibility.

Now look at the rest of the starters or regulars scheduled to reach unrestricted free agency in 2022 who play important roles in offense, defense or special teams.

Tight end Dalton Schultz’s production over the past two seasons – 94 catches, seven TDs in 2020-21 combined – has him ready to capitalize. If the New England Patriots paid Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry more than $ 12 million per year, then Schultz will be in that neighborhood. Can the Cowboys afford that? If so, they would probably have to do something with Blake Jarwin, who is under contract until 2023.

The Cowboys refused to choose linebacker Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option for 2022, making him a free agent. But coaches have liked his level of play so far, credited with 29 tackles and two tackles per loss. Do you give Jabril Cox, a fourth-round player this year, a bigger role?

Connor Williams has started all but three games as left guard since 2018. Offensive linemen are hard to find, and despite their weaknesses (seven accepted penalties), another team could pay him more than the Cowboys can afford. Plus, the Cowboys can turn to Connor McGovern as a starter if necessary.

This year, the Cowboys were able to hit on their cheap free agent signings like linebacker Keanu Neal, safeties Damontae Kazee, Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker, and defensive ends Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban. Regardless of whether the Cowboys should bring any of them in 2022, can they? And if they don’t, can they be as successful again in 2022 with cheaper, short-term free agent signings?

Finding answers by the end of October for problems due next March is difficult, but Jones and his staff have a broader view of the salary cap and the future.

Jones acknowledged the upcoming challenge, but he won’t force the Cowboys to go all-in by next week’s trade deadline.

“We always manage not only for the moment but also for the long term,” Jones said. “We would never just say, ‘Hey, we’re all in one season,’ especially with this young soccer team.”