Posted March 10, 2013 on
AP on Fox
One thing is certain with the Dallas Cowboys in free agency: They won't be nearly as busy as they were a year ago.
That's not to say there aren't immediate needs for a team with consecutive 8-8 finishes, three straight seasons without a playoff trip and a .500 record going back 16 years. The Cowboys need more defensive linemen for a switch to the 4-3, and they are thin at safety after releasing Gerald Sensabaugh to clear room under the salary cap.
The biggest question for the Cowboys entering free agency, which starts Tuesday, was whether to keep one of their own. They've already answered it by putting the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer for the second straight year, making it unlikely he will sign elsewhere.
Last year, Dallas signed seven free agents, highlighted by four starters in cornerback Brandon Carr, fullback Lawrence Vickers, offensive linemen Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings. Linebacker Dan Connor ended up starting most of the season after Sean Lee and Bruce Carter were lost to season-ending injuries.
This year, the Cowboys have been restructuring contracts to get under the salary cap and still have work to do to make room for Spencer and anyone else they want to add. Dallas is operating with a $5 million cap penalty for the second straight year over the NFL's interpretation of a contract for receiver Miles Austin that was signed during the year without a cap.
''We've had years when we've played free agency and some years when we don't sign anyone because of the cap situation,'' executive vice president Stephen Jones said in an interview for the team's website. ''But obviously last year we went hard. If you have a salary cap, you can't do that every year.''
If Spencer doesn't agree to a long-term deal, he will make $10.6 million, or 120 percent of the $8.8 million he earned under the franchise tag last season. His salary is based in part on the average of the top five salaries at linebacker even though he's likely to switch to defensive end with the Cowboys abandoning the 3-4 after eight years.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones hinted at the NFL scouting combine that the team couldn't afford to keep Spencer. But he was a defensive end in the 4-3 at Purdue, and Dallas needs all the options it can get as it makes the transition.
Additionally, coach Jason Garrett couldn't say enough good things during the season about Spencer, who led the Cowboys with the first double-digit sack total of his career (11).
''He's just a good football player,'' coach Jason Garrett said at the combine. ''He showed us that this year and the last four or five years that he can do a lot of different things.''
Garrett said the Cowboys were ''absolutely'' planning to keep defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, who was arrested for drunken driving just a few weeks after teammate Josh Brent was jailed on intoxication manslaughter charges in an accident that killed practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown. Brent would have been a factor in the switch to the 4-3, but his career is on hold while his case is in the courts.
Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears and Sean Lissemore are among the veterans likely to land on the interior of the defensive front. But the Cowboys don't have any natural pass-rushing ends beyond DeMarcus Ware and Spencer.
''When you go from a 3-4 style of defense, you talk about what you want from the three defensive linemen and what you want from the linebackers and you go through it,'' Garrett said. ''You just have to kind of rework those and say, `OK, now we're talking about a defensive end in a 4-3 defense and you go through those parameters. We're in the process of doing that right now, and that will certainly help our evaluation of these players (in the draft) and the free agents that might be available to us.''
If the Cowboys add other free agents, the cap room is likely to come from an extension for Tony Romo, who is entering the final year of his contract. Jerry Jones and his son have been clear that they want a new deal for Romo, who turns 33 next month.
Any additions by Dallas are likely to be inexpensive, although that could be a fit at safety, with several veterans getting released for cap relief. The list got longer in recent days with Jacksonville dumping Dawan Landry and Arizona getting rid of Adrian Wilson after 12 seasons with the Cardinals.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lschuylerd
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
According to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have their work cut out for them.
As they continue to re-work deals, the Cowboys find themselves $7 million over the cap and time is running out.
All NFL teams must comply with the new salary cap by 4:00pm Tuesday, or be penalized, something the Cowboys could ill afford.
Former Dallas Cowboys great Deion Sanders has been in court these past few days with his estranged wife Pilar for a trial to determine who will have custody of the couple’s three children.
It been a nasty fight between these two, with the latest jab coming from Pilar, who accused Deion of using steroids in court the other day.
Deion, who says he doesn’t even drink, smoke or do...
Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas reports that the Cowboys are currently sitting $6.8 million over the salary cap.
Dallas will have until Tuesday to get their cap situation in order, which means moves will be made in the near future.
According to Watkins, the Cowboys have a few options to consider.
1 . They could release LB Dan Connor or possibly even ask him to take a pay cut. ...
The Dallas Cowboys have released linebacker Dan Connor and restructured the contracts of three more players, moves expected to get the team under the salary cap.
Dallas had already redone the contracts of four other players before adding guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and cornerback Orlando Scandrick to the list Monday. Teams have to be under the NFL salary...
IRVING, Texas The Dallas Cowboys have until 3 p.m. Tuesday to get below the NFL salary-cap ceiling of 123 million and are on Monday taking steps to do so with the release of backup linebacker Dan Connor (saving 3 million) and the restructuring of the contract of defensive back Orlando Scandrick.
The major focus at Valley Ranch is the extension of quarterback Tony Romo, which would...
The Dallas Cowboys have restructured the contract of both defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and cornerback Orlando Scandrick as they continue to work on getting under the salary cap with the new league year starting tomorrow at 4 PM.
I wouldn’t expect the Cowboys to be very active in free agency as they work on getting under the cap. They’ll also need to create room to sign any...
According to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, the Dallas Cowboys have released linebacker Dan Connor.
The Cowboys released former Penn State LB Dan Connor today
— Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherCSN) March 11, 2013
The Cowboys just signed Connor last offseason, but couldn’t afford to keep him going into next season, since they’re still over the cap and need to get under by 4 PM tomorrow...
Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have been trying to get back to the Super Bowl since they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 in Super Bowl XXX. Since that great day for Cowboys Nation, the Steelers have gone on to win two Super Bowls while the Cowboys have gone through one coach and player after another trying to return to those glorious days of the 90's dynasty.Jones and...
Of the many decisions that should've gotten the Dallas Cowboys' GM fired, trading for former Lions wide receiver Roy Williams during the '08 season has to rank near the top. Troy Aikman said the trade had the potential to be one of the biggest busts in NFL history and he wasn't far off.
This is an organization that has been undermined by men named Roy Williams for...
Season Summary2012 Record: 8-8, 3rd in the NFC EastThe Cowboys used the 2012 offseason to upgrade their blocking, and make it almost good enough for the NFL. They finished the season by once again losing a de facto division championship to fall to third in the division. A week 1 win against the defending league champion New York Giants provided a spark of hope that quickly faded...
IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Dallas linebacker Anthony Spencer has signed a 10.6 million one-year tender, securing his return to the Cowboys while he seeks a long-term deal.
The Cowboys put the franchise tag on Spencer for the second straight year, guaranteeing him a raise from the 8.8 million he made as the team's leading tackler in 2012. Spencer is moving to defensive end with Dallas...