Key Additions: Henry Melton ($6.9M per year), Jeremy Mincey ($1.5M), Terrell McClain ($1M)
Key Re-Signings: None
Key Losses: Jason Hatcher (Redskins)
Major Cuts: DeMarcus Ware ($7.4M cap savings), Miles Austin ($5.5M- June 1)
Free Agency Thoughts:
While it was a relatively quiet offseason for Dallas, at the same time I think it proved to be a smart one. Dallas came into 2014 with the worst salary cap situation in the NFL but was able to begin the process of turning that around when they released DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware. It was a difficult decision to part ways with Ware and one that I don’t think many expected Dallas to make. My contention has been that the decisions made on Ware were the most important to the long term health of their roster and they gained significantly over the long term with the release.
The team only touched the contracts of Tony Romo and Sean Lee for cap relief, both of which were moves that were essentially built into the contracts when they were signed last year. Importantly they did not touch the deals of Brandon Carr or Jason Witten. Miles Austin was designated a June 1 release, which will give the Cowboys ample breathing room during the season to function and potentially work out an extension with WR Dez Bryant. Starting G Mackenzy Bernadeau also took a pay cut to remain a Cowboy.
The tradeoff of Jason Hatcher for Henry Melton was an excellent decision. Melton is coming off injury but is five years younger and has been much more consistent than Hatcher, who had a career season in 2013. Hatcher signed for ridiculous money in Washington while the Cowboys crafted a contract with Melton that can be escaped after one season if Melton does not play at a high level.
The remainder of the signings are what could be expected with the salary cap constraints as they added players who may be rotational players. The Cowboys also signed QB Brandon Weeden as an insurance policy if Kyle Orton was to opt for retirement. Weeden only costs the minimum.
Overall Grade: C
Nobody expected much but I think the Cowboys come out of this in a good enough position. The release of Ware and lack of renegotiated deals was a big positive for Dallas and should begin the process of freeing their salary cap up over the next two years so that they can add more in free agency. I can’t say the Cowboys are any better this year following the loss of Ware but they should be much better off long term and that’s a successful offseason.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.