Dez Bryant is only oneÂ member of a 53 piece puzzle that when fully assembled, is a championship team. Football is and always will be a team sport. All I keep hearing is the Dallas Cowboys need to sign him to a long term deal or use the franchise tag on him. But….. how will that effect completing the puzzle?
I love Dez Bryant as much as the next fan, but as an analyst I don’t have the luxury of allowing my personal feelings to override sound football logic. Most fans don’t understand the concept of salary cap and/or the fact that the Cowboys currently have 23 free agents: many of which are starters on defense, major role players, or starters on the recently rebuilt offensive line.
Â How important is defense to a championship team?
Tony Romo completed 78.9% of his passes and had zero interceptions for a passer rating of 143.6 against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the 2014-15 NFL playoffs and the Cowboys lost because the defense couldn’t get off the field on third and long. Why? Because Aaron Rodgers had all day in the pocket for plays to develop down the field. I don’t care if you have Revis and Sherman back there, if a QB has that much time, someone is going to getÂ open. Pass Rush Matters!
Â It’s easy for fans to grasp at straws and blame the entire outcome of the game on the overturned catch by Dez Bryant, but nothing could be further from the truth. Russsell Wilson completed 48.3% of his passes, threw a staggering four interceptions and ended up with a passer rating of 44.3. The Seahawks had a total of five turnovers in the game and Wilson still walked away with a win because their defense kept the Packers out of the endzone. Sorry folks, defense does matter.
Cowboys Key Defensive Free Agents:
- CB Sterling Moore, Starter
- ILB Bruce Carter, Starter
- OLB Justin Durant, Starter
- DT Nick Hayden, Starter
- DT Henry Melton, Starter
- ILB Rolando McClain, Starter
- DE Anthony Spencer, Starter
- DE George Selvie, Starter
- OLB Cameron Lawrence, Backup/special teams ace
Granted, only one of the above mentioned players is a pro bowler, but the front office needs to make a decision as to whether they want to resign them, or upgrade their position. The reality is, if the Cowboys want to have a reputable pass rush, they are going to have to not only get a stud in the draft, but go out and spend some money in free agency to sign a proven pass rusher like Justin Houston or JPP. Then there is the matter of pretty much the entire LB staff being free agents.
Rolando McClain came on to the scene as a high risk high reward player and played like a high first round pick was expected to play when the Raiders drafted him top 10. Unfortunately, the tape is out and he will have some suitors. The price will go up. With the question marks surrounding whether or not Sean Lee will ever be able to stay healthy or not, McClain has become a must to resign. The same question marks surround Henry Melton who has also been injury laden of late and the only Pro Bowler on the list. The Cowboys may need to spend some money to replace him as well. The point I am trying to make here is, a lot of these guys came off of the street and at the time were cheap, but with the excellent coaching they have received from Rod Marinelli, there are teams who will be willing to pay them more than their current league minimum salaries.
Key Offensive Free Agents:
- WR Dez Bryant, Starter
- RB DeMarco Murray, Starter
- LG Ronald Leary, Starter
- RT Doug Free, Starter
- OT Jeremy Parnell, Swing Tackle
- FB Tyler Clutts, Starter
- WR Cole Beasley, #3 receiver
The Dallas Cowboys are already spending approximately $10 million more on offense than defense which creates a serious imbalance. One of the keys to the Cowboys success in 2015 has been the emergence of the offensive line. Again the front office has a decision to make. Despite being suspect in pass protection, Leary has been a dominant run blocker. He is currently on a rookie undrafted players salary. If they want to retain his services he is going to command a starting left guards salary which will be a substantial pay raise for him adding to the cap space allotted to the offense. Doug Free has also been suspect in pass protection and had some injury issues lately. Parnell is a serviceable backup, but even Free, who has been average at best, is a better RT. Which leads me to believe that the Cowboys need to decide which one they let walk and will then be faced with the decision as to whether to draft a RT or sign a veteran in FA. Tyler Clutts has proven to be the best FB the Cowboys had in years and played a major role in the recent success of the running game. It is a must to retain his services. Lets take a look at the Cowboys current cap situation.
The 2015 salary cap is expected to be around $142 million. Currently about $64 million of that is designated to only 8 players. That equates to 45.1% of the cap space allowed for 53 players. This means 15.1% of the players are taking up almost half of the salary cap. Dez Bryant’sÂ 2014 salary only accounted for $2.36 million of the total cap. If the Cowboys use the franchise tag of about $12 million on Dez Bryant, 52.1% of the cap will be used up on 17% of the players and there will be $20 million more designated to the offense than the defense. This will not do.
At the end of the day Cowboys Nation, you have to decide whether you are a fan of Dez Bryant, or a fan of the “TEAM” because football is won in the trenches. One piece of the puzzle isn’t worth sacrificing 3-4 other pieces. The Cowboys have had a top ranked offense every year, but continue to watch the Super Bowl from the couch. Whether you want to accept it or not, defense wins championships. If the Cowboys continue to put all of their resources in to the offense and neglect the defense, it will be another 20 years without a championship.
The only way I would use the franchise tag on Dez Bryant, would be with the plan of trading him for a 1st and at least a third round pick to team like the Raiders who are way below the cap, have a high first round pick, and are desperate for a weapon for their young QB. In that scenario the Cowboys could draft a decent pass rusher and a top WR in the first round while saving $10 million in valuable cap space. This would give them an added bonus of an extra day two pick. When Jerry Jones made the decision to trade Hershel Walker, most thought he was mad, but it was brilliant. The window is closing for the Cowboys veterans and it will take too long waiting for the picks to fall. Trading Dez Bryant affords the Cowboys the opportunity to complete the puzzle much sooner.