It’s not a secret that the Dallas Cowboys are in a tough spot with their current salary cap situation. They won’t be very active in the free agency market and without some significant changes they won’t be too much of a player in the near future. So, where is most of the money going? With the help of the website Spotrac.com, Jon Machota takes a look at the 15 Cowboys who will count the most against the cap in 2014.
1.) Tony Romo, QB, $21.7 million. If you want a franchise quarterback you’re going to have to pay him a lot of money. That’s just how today’s NFL works. If Romo stays healthy for the duration of the deal then it’s not a terrible contract for the Cowboys. But two back surgeries in two years isn’t great news for a QB that will be 34 in April.
2.) DeMarcus Ware, DE, $16 million. Coming off the worst statistical season of his nine-year career, a lot of folks are starting to think Ware’s best days are behind him. Well, if that’s true, the Cowboys need him to take a pay cut. Ware is on the books through the 2017 season and the cap hits remain between $14-$17 million each year.
3.) Brandon Carr, CB, $12.2 million. The Cowboys wanted the top free agent corner in 2012 and they paid five years, $50 million to get him. It would be difficult for most corners to live up to such a huge deal. After all, good days and bad days simply come with the position. But Carr needs to return to being one of the league’s top cornerbacks to make this cap hit worth it.
4.) Jason Witten, TE, $8.4 million. How many more years of Pro Bowl ball does this guy have left in him? Witten, 31, made his ninth Pro Bowl this season. He’s signed through the 2017 season.
5.) Miles Austin, WR, $8.2 million. The Cowboys just can’t continue paying a No. 3 wide receiver this kind of money. Austin, who had 24 catches for 244 yards and no touchdowns in 2013, is due to make this kind of money for the next three seasons. That’s a salary cap disaster.
6.) Sean Lee, MLB, $7.5 million. Lee signed a six-year, $42 million contract extension in August. If he’s healthy, the contract should be a very good investment. But that’s the problem, Lee has missed 15 games over the last two years.
7.) Jeremiah Ratliff, DT, $6.9 million. This one hurts the most because it’s dead money. Ratliff is costing the Cowboys’ on the books and he’s not even on the team.
8.) Orlando Scandrick, CB, $6.6 million. Scandrick went from reserve to starter to the Cowboys’ top cornerback in 2013. He signed a two-year extension in December, which gave the 26-year-old more guaranteed money and helped the Cowboys create future cap space.
9.) Doug Free, RT, $6.5 million. Free had one of his best seasons after taking a significant pay cut in the offseason. Free has suddenly become a bargain for the Cowboys, especially considering the 30-year-old hasn’t missed a start since 2009.
10.) Morris Claiborne, CB, $4.4 million. Claiborne, who has two years remaining on his rookie deal, will need to have a breakout year to prove he’s worth his $16 million contract. Claiborne has started 22 games his first two seasons, recording two interceptions and breaking up 13 passes in that time.
11.) Kyle Orton, QB, $4.3 million. Jerry Jones wants to win so badly right now that instead of drafting his backup quarterbacks he continues to pay significant money to a player that might not take a meaningful snap in 2014.
12.) Mackenzy Bernadeau, RG, $4 million. One of nine offensive players on this list. Bernadeau had a solid season in 2013, starting 11 of 16 games. The 28-year-old is signed through 2015.
13.) Tyron Smith, LT, $3.9 million. One of the biggest bargains in the bunch. But that will change. Smith is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and it’s highly unlikely the Cowboys would let him walk.
14.) Dez Bryant, WR, $3.8 million. Another huge bargain, that like Smith, is a free agent at the end of the season. It would be a huge shock to see Bryant not playing for the Cowboys for the foreseeable future.
15.) Nate Livings, G, $2.1 million. Another player like Ratliff. Dead money. No longer on the team.