Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick and Tony Romo all reportedly converted their 2014 base salaries into prorated bonuses. These moves clear up cap space in the present but increase the cap number of each player for the future. Yet with the start of the 2014 league year just one week away (at which time all teams must be under the salary cap), Dallas wasn’t left with much of a choice.
Ego is often a major deterrent in a persons ability to make rational decisions. When a decision-maker seems to have made a poor investment, it’s only natural that they’ll want to give the situation time to recuperate. After all, admitting you’re wrong is not always easy.
In regards to the decision-making process of NFL front office executives, most aren’t afforded the liberty of seeing their poor decisions potentially materialize—A few bad moves gets a GM fired in today’s NFL. But when the GM also happens to be the owner—as in the case of Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys—different rules apply.
Jones’ perpetual practice of restructuring contracts is largely due to his inability to admit his past decisions were wrong. It’s also due to the superfluous faith he rewards his guys when he thinks he’s made a correct decision. But ultimately, the NFL’s hard salary cap has rendered the explanation for Jones’ poor decision-making irrelevant; his penchant for restructuring contracts is now just a part of a vicious cycle that has the Cowboys franchise in a serious bind.
It was just last offseason that Jones signed franchise QB Tony Romo to an extension. To stay under the 2013 cap he restructured the deals of Scandrick (a player he drafted in the 5th round), Cowboys-lifer Jason Witten, Doug Free (also a Jones draft pick), Miles Austin (an undrafted WR who Jones overpaid), and Jay Ratliff (another Cowboy-lifer, at the time). He restructured the deals of Brandon Carr, Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeu and Ryan Cook out of cap necessity. And, oh yeah, he reworked DeMarcus Ware’s deal for the third time in three offseason’s.
Romo, whose extension was restructured less than a year after he signed it, now holds a 2015 cap hit of almost $28 million—a staggering amount. The Cowboys will undoubtedly have to restructure Romo’s deal again next offseason, and probably again the year after that.
Stating it might be time for Jerry Jones to change the way he conducts business is no revelation. This change must start now (or sometime this week) with DeMarcus Ware—the only Cowboy who’s worth cutting outright from a salary cap perspective. Not only would shedding Ware’s $16 million 2014 cap hit save the Cowboys $7.4 million in immediate cap space, but Ware’s a declining talent who turns 32 in July.
The Cowboys could of course keep Ware. The Lee, Scandrick and Romo restructures leave Dallas right around the $133 million salary cap. Miles Austin’s inevitable designation as a June 1st cut will provide the Cowboys with cap space to sign their rookie class, so keeping Ware—even if he refuses to take a pay cut—is feasible.
But keeping Ware, a prototypical Jones move, would be a decision founded on emotion rather than logic.
It was the great Albert Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. For a Cowboys franchise that’s won just one playoff game in 18 years, even the thought of keeping Ware is insane.