Go shopping now or save it for a rainy day?
The Cowboys gained an extra $10 million in salary cap space on Wednesday when the release of La’el Collins officially hit the books. That brings them to $22.5 million in available cap space for this year, an almost unimaginably large sum for the Cowboys, who many observers and one front office executive continue to insist are in cap hell.
The Cowboys went into the offseason about $23.5 million over the cap, the third worst value in the NFL. Just 12 weeks later the Cowboys are sitting pretty with $22.5 million in available cap space, the fourth highest value in the league. That’s a swing of $46 million! Still buying what cap truther Stephen Jones is selling you?
The final cap figure will change slightly for technical reasons over the next months (Rule of 51, rookie pool, etc.), but the Cowboys find themselves suddenly flush with cash.
So what, if anything, should they do with all that cap space? Here are five options.
Sign TE Dalton Schultz to a long-term contract extension
The Dallas Cowboys have until mid-July to sign Schultz to a long-term deal. Otherwise, he will play the 2022 NFL season under the franchise tag, which currently runs at $10.8 million.
With a continuously rising salary cap, it always makes sense to re-sign players early, as their price will inevitably increase a year later. If you want to re-sign a guy, waiting an extra year to do so is pretty much the dumbest thing you can do from a cap perspective.
But the Cowboys have yet to read the memo about this. They whiffed badly on Dak Prescott’s contract extension, and they did the same again with Schultz. Because between the time they could have re-signed him and the time that they will re-sign him, fellow tight end David Njoku signed a four-year contract extension in Cleveland worth $56.8 million. Consider that the new floor for any negotiation with Schultz’s agents.
Sign a big-name free agent (or any other free agent for that matter)
Frankly, the time to sign free agents is long gone, unless you’re willing to pick up the scraps left over after the free agency party in March. But maybe there’s a journeyman nobody has ever heard of that can be had on the cheap, Cowboys style.
There are also a couple of “big-name” free agents left (ESPN for example likes LB Anthony Barr for the Cowboys) unsigned. Such a signing would be a guaranteed crowd pleaser for that part of the Cowboys fan base that has been clamoring for a big-name addition to the team for years, regardless of whether such a move would make any sense. In any case, the players left on the market now are not going to be particularly expensive, so if the Cowboys had been interested in any of the remaining free agents, they’d have likely already signed one of them.
Trade for WR N’Keal Harry
The Patriots declined Harry’s fifth-year option, they traded for WR DeVante Parker from Miami, and Harry himself had previously requested a trade. Harry would count $1.9 million against the cap for the Cowboys, and in Dallas he could be a stopgap until Michael Gallup is healthy again and might conceivably show some upside beyond that.
Go shopping at the trade deadline
Depending on how the season goes, the Cowboys could be looking for a late addition to bolster their post-season chances. Such a move would not be without precedent in Dallas.
- The Cowboys traded for WR Roy E. Williams in October 2008, a move that backfired spectacularly but shouldn’t rule out all future trades on principle.
- The last big move the Cowboys made close to the trade deadline was the Amari Cooper trade in late October 2018.
The issue here will likely be the high price in terms of draft picks for a quality addition, not so much the cap impact.
Roll over the money to next season
Last year, teams averaged around $4 million in rollover cap space. The Cowboys carried over exactly $3,961,260 but that number could likely be a lot bigger next year.
Rolling over the money into next season would allow the Cowboys to be more active in free agency than they’ve been in the past – though their reluctance to spend big in free agency doesn’t have much to do with the cap in the first place.
For once though, they could try to get ahead of the curve and re-sign two of their draft picks to early (and therefore ostensibly cheaper) extensions: 2020 draftees became eligible to sign extensions after the 2022 season ends and the Cowboys have both CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs that qualify for an early extension.
The Cowboys could also invest in Eagles and Packers logos that they could place in the urinals at AT&T Stadium, but unfortunately, they can’t use their cap space for this and other similarly brilliant ideas.
Over to you: What should the Cowboys do with all their cap space? Let us know in the comments and in the attached poll.