Monday, March 04, 2013

Cowboys E-Mail Bag - 3/4

Real Emails, Real Answers:

It's obvious to hope for help on the Oline, so I'm not going to ask that. 
Instead, what do you think are the chances of drafting Margus Hunt?  He was impressive at the combine and I've seen him play in person a few times.  I know he might be considered a "project", but it seems like a guy with similar metrics as DeMarcus Ware and JPP could be helpful.  
The Seahawks took Bruce Irvin last year at 15 and he was considered a situational type pass rusher/project by some. Not sure Hunt fits in to that category, but I think his addition would add an interesting potential weapon behind Ware and Spencer (if signed).   


I don't disagree with you that Hunt looks like the type of player that can be a useful piece in this league for years to come.  But, here is where we have to bring up the dysfunctional way this roster has been put together.  

When the Cowboys have drafted over the last half-dozen years, they have frequently had more needs than picks.  They have a number of holes that are open right now and must get a player who can contribute right now.  As we right this, there is a great possibility that the Cowboys would love to draft a starter at RT, LG, DT, DE, SLB, and perhaps even FS.  The trouble with all of that is that no team ever is able to find 6 starters in a draft.  In fact, no team is usually able to find 3 starters in a draft for their rookie season, so you can see that the Cowboys are never in a spot where they can sit back, relax, and take the most intriguing talent available.  They need instant impact and they need it now.  

Therefore, when projects and developmental prospects come along, they are seldom in a position to bet on them.  And Margus Hunt is the definition of developmental.  He put on a real show in his bowl game where he was a monster, but there is no question that many NFL scouts see him as a guy who may not have appropriate flexibility to be a dynamic every down NFL stud.  He obviously is an amazing athlete, but that doesn't always mean an amazing football player.

Mostly, I think the team who takes him must already consider their defensive line ready to go - with or without him - so that he can be used in situations that are ideal for him.  The issue here is that the Cowboys don't feel great about their front 4, and not only need a starter, but according to many, may need a starter at the most important position according to Monte Kiffin himself, the 3 technique.  He needs his Warren Sapp to make it all make sense.  Well, that is not going to be easy to find and will likely require pick #18.  Of course, you also might need a starting right tackle or stud guard.  That will require pick #18, too.  But, if you want Margus Hunt, most people think he will be gone before the 2nd round pick of the Cowboys arrives.  So, he would not be high on my board unless he was there at pick #47.  

If you would like a reminder, here is where the Cowboys have all of their selections:

Rd 1#18#18
Rd 2#17#47
Rd 3#18#80
Rd 4#17TBD - Compensatory Picks determine spot.
Rd 5#18TBD - Compensatory Picks determine spot.
Rd 6#17TBD - Compensatory Picks determine spot.
Rd 7-----Traded to Miami for Ryan Cook

I guess my view on Hunt is as follows:  fantastic athlete and human.  But, limited football experience and age issues - born in July of 1987 - puts him a distinct disadvantage with his contemporaries who were mostly born in 1991 or so.  

I think he will help some team, but the Cowboys need a 800 snap guy in the 1st round and likely another one in the 2nd.  I don't see Hunt having a chance if he is being asked to play 800 snaps right away.  But, he can really make a difference for a team with depth as a 300-400 snap guy.


Why wont we go the route of the Ravens when it comes to Romo?  I recognize he is a very good qb, but the thought of extending him for years bothers me for reasons I can't explain other than a sniff test.  And second, I'm wondering at what point do we start extending players like Dez and Sean Lee?  I hate that we wait for young players to play out deals before we can lock them up at a cheaper price. 
Best Wishes
Rashad TaylorMiami, Fl


This one has really been on my mind recently, as well.  This is an issue that the Cowboys ownership and front office and I have our biggest disagreement on.  Why, when there is no performance reason to do so, do you sign up Romo for another 6-year extension?  

The answer falls in the "same as it ever was" bin.  They aren't doing it for performance at all.  The Cowboys are seemingly about to make Romo a rich, rich man (again) because they need to do it.  

Romo is already hitting the cap for approximately $16.8m in 2013 and then would be a free agent at the end of the 2013 season.  So, as you can see, you cannot restructure a player with only 1-year left on his deal, so the only way to move money out of 2013 to facilitate other moves on the roster, they have to extend him.  

Assuming you have read the news all weekend about Joe Flacco's deal (6-years, $120 million), you can see the going rate for a free agent QB of quality.  So, I am guessing, to alleviate the 2013 crush, they just lock him up for 5-years, $90 million, with I would bet $45 guaranteed and put the problem off for down the road.

And if you think that is causing discomfort for a guy who had a most unfortunate 3-interception game in a win-and-you-are-in game in Week 17 in Washington, then we have different definitions of discomfort.

So, basically, what Rashad is proposing is the same thing I have said a time or two.  

What would be so bad about not doing anything for Romo's deal and let him play out 2013?  The NFL has put the franchise tag in place for just this situation and the Saints and Ravens have just used it on their Quarterbacks.  

Why wouldn't the Cowboys even consider making Romo play for his cash with a great 2013 and to draft a QB in the 3rd round to cover themselves if he has a poor 2013?  

Because they need him to take the extension.  This will allow them to be players in free agency if they can roll his cap number back from $16.8 in year one to $6m or $7m like Flacco just did.  Get a huge bonus that is evenly pro-rated and the team has another $10m in cap space.  

Make no mistake about this.  They are not doing Romo a favor here - they are trying to once again fix their own issues.  

It is beyond backwards thinking that keeps the Cowboys in this perpetual state of salary cap credit card chaos.


Hi Bob, 
I wanted to get your take on restructuring underachieving, overpaid players like Austin Ratliff livings bernadeu scandrick cook (cook?!?!) and increasing their cap hits down the road. 
Shouldn't these names be looked as cuts and not a "bigger" commitment.
Is this Jerry's way of saying look at how much I spend on this team, I expect results. 
Dipesh Shroff 
This is the mess that has been made.  Many teams make cuts at this time of year for underperforming players.  You might notice that this hasn't happened here in Dallas for yet another year.  

The reason this doesn't happen is because other teams structure contracts in a way where each year the player must play at a performance level that makes his contract the following year make sense.  If he does, they keep him.  If he doesn't, they either restructure or waive him.  It is the harsh economics of the NFL CBA that has been set up to benefit the team.  In the most violent sport in the world, the owners actually have most of the players on a year-to-year deal.

Dallas, in this generation, does not really work that way.

When they signed Tony Romo in 2007, they fully expected to restructure him just about every year.  And they did.  2008, 2009, 2011 each were "restructure years".  This, simply defined, is to give a guy his money by re-labeling it as "signing bonus" rather than salary.  Easy, right?

Well, no.  What happens is that when it gets converted to bonus, it is easier to handle at the moment, but becomes guaranteed in the future.  This hurts the cap for years down the road.  And you slowly lose all of your leverage as an owner over your players.  You have given up any "earn it or lose it" leverage and suddenly, they are playing with what amounts to guaranteed deals.

And that is why guys like Jay Ratliff are not even being considered to be cut, despite clear signs that their body is breaking down.  If they cut him, he still eats up $6m in bonus money that is outlayed through 2015.  If he is kept, he counts $7m.  So, 7 to keep, 6 to cut.  For a difference of $1m, you still have the player.  The team has no leverage.

Miles Austin teased his salary down from almost $7m to $2.7m.  This savings is converted to guaranteed income for a player who basically has insured that he will be a member of the roster in 2014 for sure, or they will be upside down in payments to him, too.

And on and on it goes.  You don't see guys cut because they can't be.   Jason Witten is another player who is guaranteed a spot in 2014 and likely 2015 because the fact that his remaining bonus will be higher than his base in those seasons.

But, don't worry.  That likely won't matter either, because in 2014 and 2015, they will just restructure everyone again.

At some point, the bubble will burst.  Perhaps when DeMarcus Ware counts $16.6 and $18.1 against the cap in 2014 and 2015.  But, since the cap hit for releasing Ware would be nearly $9m, look for another giant extension for him - whether he is still elite or not.

Meanwhile, Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, and Tyron Smith will all need their own elite-level contracts soon, too.  And with $100m on the books already for 2015, there is no relief in sight.


I hear a lot of talk about Anthony Spencer's departure, how the 4-3 fits Ratliff's style, and potentially drafting another DT. How does Jason Hatcher fit in to this defensive line? He was one of the best 3-4 ends last year. Thanks!
Matt Williams Youth MinisterRiver Hills Baptist Church
 I actually think that this might be the plan for 2013 - to gamble that they cannot afford Anthony Spencer's deal and to allow Jason Hatcher/Tyrone Crawford to attempt to fill that void at DE opposite Ware.  Then, with Ratliff and either Hatcher or Sean Lissemore inside until we see what they do at #18.

At #18, I would very much like one of these fantastic defensive tackles in the draft, but given the needs on the offensive line, too, it might make more sense to go that direction.

Hatcher was actually quite good in 2012, by my estimation.  I think they can get by with him as a player that offers versatility.  But, probably the big issue with him comes back to the idea that he is also a free agent next winter and must quickly decide his future.  As a holdover from the Bill Parcells era, he is likely looking to find some big money, too, for the first time in his career, so prepare for that.  


There is no doubt that they need more reinforcements.  They need a big draft and they also need more young players to fill these holes with cheaper talent to get around these cap complications.

As you can see, there is no rest for the weary in this crucial Cowboys offseason.

Today is the final day that they can use their franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, and it seems rather clear that they are out of that bidding.  If they get an extension with him, it is both good news for the present and more stress on the cap for down the road.

Stay tuned - with this front office, anything is possible.

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