The Dallas Cowboys will find a way to improve during 2017 NFL free agency. These bold predictions help paint a picture of what’s to come.
With less than a month to go before the start of 2017 NFL Free Agency, the Dallas Cowboys are stuck in a miserable cap situation. As you can probably imagine, that’s going to make life a bit difficult when it comes to reloading this roster.
According to Spotrac.com, the Cowboys are currently about $10 million above the salary cap. They are proud owners of the NFL’s worst cap situation, which will provide them with zero flexibility in terms of making moves in the next month or so. As we all know, though, Jerry Jones is one resilient owner/general manager/headcase.
There will be several opportunities for Dallas to create some cap space this offseason. Tony Romo obviously needs to go—the only problem is figuring out what exactly to do with him. Other potential cap casualties could also get the ax or restructure their deals. One way or another, it’s going to be a busy time for this Cowboys team.
For now, though, all we can do is speculate. So that’s what I’m doing to do. With that in mind, here are my five bold predictions for what the Cowboys will do between now and the early parts of 2017 NFL Free Agency.
Most of what’s been mentioned about Tony Romo recently revolves around the fact that other teams are willing to wait until he hits the open market. It makes sense, especially because a trade would mean absorbing his gaudy contract.
However, I’m sure there’s at least one team desperate enough to take on that cap hit. Yes, I’m talking about the Cleveland Browns. They simply can’t continue to settle for mediocrity under center, and Romo would be the best quarterback they’ve had in some time.
Obviously there are serious concerns about his health and long-term stability as the starter. However, seeing how miserable Cleveland has been when it comes to quarterbacks, trading for Romo may not be the worst idea in the world. Plus, it’s not like they don’t have the cap space to take on his contract.
The Browns know they wouldn’t win Romo over via free agency. They need to stack the deck in their favor, and trading for him guarantees he’ll be taking his talents to Ohio. I’m sure Romo himself won’t like it, but that’s life in the NFL—sometimes you get dealt the bad hand.
I won’t speculate on what the Cowboys receive as compensation, but it probably won’t be the top pick. The Browns will use that to secure Myles Garrett, giving them a legitimate starting quarterback and one of the top up-and-coming edge rushers in the game.
When Alfred Morris signed with the Cowboys last offseason, it was assumed he’d make an impact early and often. Instead, Ezekiel Elliott was drafted and the former Washington Redskins starter quickly became irrelevant. Now, heading into 2017, there’s a good chance he may not even have a place in Dallas. In fact, I’m predicting he’ll be cut loose before the new league year even begins.
Put simply, the Cowboys need all the cap space they can get. With their current situation, even clearing $1,637,500 would be a significant step in the right direction. That’s exactly what Dallas would get from releasing Morris. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a move that may be needed in the near future.
Realistically, it’s not all that crazy. Morris failed to carve out a niche for himself, and Elliott is likely going to be leaned on just as heavily in 2017. That means the Cowboys can find some cheaper backup options to fill the depth chart.
Morris was once seen as one of the NFL’s most reliable running backs. However, as we move through the offseason, it appears he’s already the odd man out in Dallas. The Cowboys should be handing him his walking papers in the very near future.
With Romo out of the picture, the Cowboys need a new backup at quarterback. Instead of spending too much on a notable name, they could simply opt to bring back Mark Sanchez to hold a clipboard. Especially with so little financial wiggle room, Dallas needs a cheap No. 2 to back up Dak Prescott. Sanchez served in that role for only $2 million a year ago, and could probably be convinced to do so again for even less. It’s not like he has a ton of leverage at this point in his NFL career.
Still, it could be worse. Sanchez has had his embarrassing moments, but he’s capable of keeping an NFL offense afloat. He’s familiar with the Cowboys offense and staff, and can continue serving in a mentorship role for Prescott. It seems like an ideal situation for both parties.
Assuming they can get him to agree to a team-friendly deal, this one seems like a no-brainer. The only reason I even classify it as “bold” is because it’s Sanchez—it’s not like he’s a comforting option in the instance Prescott can’t play. I mean, most people remember him mainly for the Butt Fumble.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dallas target a mid-round talent during the 2017 NFL Draft. The incoming rookie can learn behind Prescott, with the potential to develop into a solid backup. Until that time comes, though, Sanchez will serve as an adequate No. 2 quarterback.
2. Dallas Tries (and Fails) to Re-Sign Brandon Carr
For the last five years, Brandon Carr has served as a reliable starter at cornerback for the Cowboys. Bringing him back seems like a smart move, and ESPN’s Todd Archer considers doing so a top priority for Dallas this offseason. Unfortunately, I don’t see it playing out that way.
Put simply, the Cowboys’ cap situation will hinder a re-signing. Although Carr isn’t exactly a star, he’s a dependable starter capable of keeping opposing receivers in check. That type of consistency should warrant several looks during free agency. Some desperate team is going to see that, and throw more money at him than Dallas can match.
That could clear the way for Morris Claiborne to return, especially after injuries derailed what was started as a strong 2016 campaign. Even if that is the case, it’ll leave the Dallas secondary without its only trustworthy starter at cornerback.
The effort will be there. The Cowboys will make every attempt to convince Carr to stay. In the end, though, money talks when it comes to contract negotiations. Dallas simply doesn’t have the spending power to ward off other cornerback-needy clubs.
1. Jabaal Sheard is Signed to Solve Pass-Rush Problem
I’m sure fans are hoping for some blockbuster signing like Jason Pierre-Paul or Nick Fairley. However, with their current cap situation, I find a high-priced signing like that extremely unlikely. So instead of nabbing a big name, the Cowboys aim a little lower for a talent like Jabaal Sheard.
Now don’t get me wrong—Sheard is an impact player off the edge. Although he’s coming off an up-and-down year with the Patriots, he’s still very capable of providing consistent pressure off the edge. He was New England’s sack leader in 2015, but saw a surprising drop down the depth chart in 2016.
What’s better is, since he had a relatively down year in 2016, Sheard shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. He could potentially sign a deal averaging about $4-5 million per year, but that’s much more doable than the figures JPP is likely to command.
Is it the splash signing the Cowboys would love to make? Not really. Luckily for them, the 2017 draft class is deep enough at defensive end that several high-upside options should be available when Dallas is on the clock at 28th overall.