Dallas Cowboys: Dan Connor

Cowboys holding their line in free agency

March, 18, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Last week, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was praised for making the difficult decision to release DeMarcus Ware.

For all that Ware accomplished (team's all-time sack leader) and for all that he meant to Jones, the owner stuck to the disciplined outline the Cowboys are operating under in 2014.

So now that Henry Melton and Jared Allen have come and gone from Valley Ranch, you can't blame Jones for not being willing to spend big bucks on somebody he just met.

If he was "right" in deciding to part ways with Ware -- for the record, I think it was the wrong move and would have signed him to a re-worked deal although not at the level the Denver Broncos paid Ware -- then at least he is being consistent by not giving into the contractual demands of Melton and Allen.

At least for now.

We'll find out this season if Jones was "right" in holding strong if they don't end up joining the Cowboys and go to another team and either play well or they don't play well.

Melton is off to his fourth team on his free-agency tour with the St. Louis Rams. He also met with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. Allen has also met with the Seahawks.

Generally speaking, the more visits a player makes the more it means he is not getting the deal he wants. It is well within the player's rights to shop for the best deal on the open market. Jason Hatcher met with the Seahawks, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans. The one team he didn't meet with face to face, the Washington Redskins, made the best offer that even Hatcher said blew the other offers out of the water.

At the NFL scouting combine, executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys would be efficient spenders in free agency. Giving Melton, who is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the moon, and Allen, who turns 32 next month, the stars would not be efficient spending.

When a team acts desperately in free agency, they tend to make a mistake. One of the best free-agent signings the Cowboys made was inking La'Roi Glover in 2002. One of the least productive was signing Marcellus Wiley to a four-year, $16 million deal in 2004. He produced three sacks, but the Cowboys had to have him.

In 2012, the Cowboys recruited Brandon Carr, Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Dan Connor and Kyle Orton in free agency. They were closers. They used the digital board to show the team's history and most of the players' highlights to help close the deal. They also paid an awful lot of money for them.

The Cowboys weren't able to close the deals for Melton and Allen on their visits, but that doesn't mean they won't sign them eventually.

And if they do, then it likely won't be for the stars or the moon.

Cowboys have to spend, choose wisely

March, 11, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- The free-agent shopping starts today at 3 p.m. CT.

If the Dallas Cowboys have learned anything, it’s that they should use coupons.

From 2006-11, the Cowboys signed 12 players in unrestricted free agency. Only two players who signed multi-year deals reached the end of their contracts: Kyle Kosier signed a five-year, $15 million deal with the Cowboys in 2006 and was with the team through 2011. Keith Brooking signed a three-year, $6 million deal in 2009 and was a contributor through 2011.

Igor Olshansky (2009), Leonard Davis (2007) and Akin Ayodele (2006) are the only other players who made it more than one season on their original deals, and Olshansky and Ayodele made it only two seasons.

The Cowboys signed seven unrestricted free agents in 2012 and three lasted one season (Dan Connor, Nate Livings and Lawrence Vickers) on multi-year deals. Brodney Pool signed a one-year deal and barely made it to training camp.

Three members of the 2012 free-agent class remain: Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million), Mackenzy Bernadeau (four years, $11.5 million) and Kyle Orton (three years, $10.5 million). Carr is coming off a disappointing 2013 season, Bernadeau took a pay cut last week and Orton is not sure he wants to play.

Spending money in free agency is hardly ever the answer. The Cowboys will not have a ton of money available to them when the market opens until the DeMarcus Ware situation is resolved, and even then they will have to be wise with how they spend it and who they spend it on.

The needs are obvious: defense, defense and more defense. That’s what happens when a unit finishes last in the NFL in 2013. But the Cowboys could use a veteran presence at wide receiver (Robert Meachem, Jason Avant) and a backup quarterback if Orton walks away (Shaun Hill).

Finding defensive line help is a must, but the Cowboys will have to be budget conscious. They have had on and off talks with Jordan Woy, who represents free agents Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer, for most of the offseason. Both players could find better financial opportunities elsewhere.

Hatcher turns 32 in July and is coming off a career-high 11 sacks. He was added to the Pro Bowl. Spencer played in only one game in 2013 because of a knee injury that will not be healed enough for him to be 100 percent ready for training camp.

How much of a commitment can the Cowboys make and feel like they will get their money’s worth?

Ties to new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli could help in the pursuit of Henry Melton, but he is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Value is often the most overlooked part of free agency. The big-money signings lead to the biggest headlines, but do not correspond enough to wins and losses.

The Cowboys found value in Kosier, Brooking, Gerald Sensabaugh and Bernadeau but did not or have not received enough bang for the buck in Carr ($26.5 million guarantee) and Davis ($18.75 million guaranteed).

As the Cowboys look to clear this 8-8 bump that has turned into Mt. Everest, they need to spend wisely, but more importantly they need to choose wisely.

Win or lose, jobs at stake Sunday vs. Eagles

December, 23, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- As thrilling as Sunday’s 24-23 win against the Washington Redskins was, it might have only delayed the inevitable for the Dallas Cowboys.

With a loss this week against the Philadelphia Eagles in a third straight NFC East championship game, there will be change. Actually, win or lose there will be changes, because that is just the nature of the NFL. How grand and how widespread are the questions.

Speculation abounds about Jason Garrett’s future. Twice in the past two weeks Garrett said he is focused on doing his job to the best of his ability. There is nothing else he really can say. Would Jerry Jones have the patience to bring Garrett back for a fourth season after three crushing Week 17 losses?

After last season’s loss to the Washington Redskins, Jones promised an uncomfortable season for everyone in the organization ... not named Jones.

Would it have made a difference if the Cowboys beat the Redskins last season? Would Jones have stayed with the status quo? They didn’t win, so changes were made.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired. So was running backs coach Skip Peete. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis was allowed to leave for the Chicago Bears. Garrett’s brother, John, was allowed to leave for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson was named “senior coaching consultant,” however, he has not been seen at one practice the entire season.

Ryan’s replacement, Monte Kiffin, would appear to be on thin ice after this historically bad season as the Cowboys switched to the 4-3. He has consistently said retirement is not in his plans, but at 73 years old that could change quickly.

Players, like Gerald Sensabaugh, Marcus Spears, Lawrence Vickers and Dan Connor, were cut in the offseason. Doug Free had his base salary cut in half. Players like DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin could be in the crosshairs this year win or lose to the Eagles.

A lot is at stake against the Eagles, and for some people it could be more than just a playoff spot.

Little to show for 2012 shopping spree

August, 8, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. – Much was made of Dallas’ free agency shopping spree in 2012. Less than a year and a half later, the Cowboys don’t have much to show from the seven-player class.

If the Cowboys had their choice, only one of those players would see significant playing time for the team this season.

A quick recap on the class’ contributions to the Cowboys and where they stand with the franchise now:

Todd Archer joins Galloway and Company live from Oxnard, Calif., to discuss the latest Cowboys news and which players they will keep on their roster.

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CB Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million): Jerry Jones readily admitted the Cowboys paid “retail” to fill a major need. Carr had a solid first season in Dallas but didn’t perform well enough to merit serious consideration for his first Pro Bowl appearance. The hope is that he’ll benefit from Monte Kiffin’s scheme, which relies on cornerbacks to get in receivers’ faces and play physical.

OG Nate Livings (five years, $18.7 million): The Cowboys hoped that Ronald Leary would beat out Livings even before the veteran needed arthroscopic surgery on his knee, likely sidelining Livings for the rest of training camp. The question now is whether the Cowboys will cut Livings despite his $1.7 million salary being guaranteed this season.

OG Mackenzy Bernadeau (four years, $11 million): The Cowboys tried to replace Bernadeau with Brandon Moore, but the ex-Jet changed his mind and decided to retire. Bernadeau, who was demoted to a backup his last season in Carolina, has had injury issues since arriving in Dallas. The Cowboys clearly aren’t confident that they can count on him after he struggled last season, missed all of offseason workouts while recovering from shoulder surgery and was sidelined the first two weeks of camp with a strained hamstring.

QB Kyle Orton (three years, $10.5 million): Orton threw only 10 passes last season. The Cowboys would love it if he played that little again this year. They signed him purely as an insurance policy, albeit a pretty expensive one. They’re confident that they’ll have an adequate quarterback if Tony Romo goes down, but it’d be a major dropoff.

LB Dan Connor (two years, $6.5 million): It’s funny to think that a year ago Connor vs. Bruce Carter was considered one of the best position battles in camp. Connor, who got a $2.7 million signing bonus, became a cap casualty after a 58-tackle season. He signed a one-year, $780,000 deal with the New York Giants.

FB Lawrence Vickers (two years, $2.4 million): Vickers was a bit player for a team that statistically had the worst rushing attack in franchise history. He’s out of football now, cut by the Cowboys after they decided to scrap the fullback position in favor of using multiple tight ends.

S Brodney Pool (one year, $1.1 million): Pool was guaranteed only $100,000. He didn’t exactly earn that money, flunking the pre-camp conditioning test and getting cut soon thereafter when it was clear he had no chance to beat out Barry Church for the starting job.

Eight in the Box: Offseason regret

July, 12, 2013
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at the one move each team in the NFC East needed to make but didn't.

Dallas Cowboys: Upgrade at right tackle. The Cowboys believe they improved their offensive line with the first-round draft selection of center Travis Frederick, and they may be right. But the problem is the line needed more help than that. Instead of getting the disappointing Doug Free to take a pay cut and stay, the Cowboys could have explored other options, such as using another early-round pick on a tackle or signing one of the veterans (Tyson Clabo, Eric Winston) who were cut during free agency. Cap issues were one factor, but basically the Cowboys seemed content with the idea of a right tackle platoon or training camp competition between Free and Jermey Parnell. They claim the platoon of that pair worked well late last season, but it's likely the right tackle's play looked good only in comparison to Free's terrible first-half performance.

New York Giants: Anything of consequence at linebacker. Sure, they brought back Keith Rivers. Yawn. And they signed Dan Connor. Double yawn. And they took a chance on Aaron Curry, who was once one of the top prospects in the league but has already washed out with two teams. Interesting, but certainly not a confidence-boosting sign. Mathias Kiwanuka, who was one of their starting linebackers the past two years, will move back up to defensive end to help replace Osi Umenyiora, who left as a free agent. And there are some young guys the Giants brought in as rookies two years ago who may be good enough to play or start. The Giants feel they got stronger up front at defensive tackle and never mind spending on defensive backs, but the middle of the field remains a weakness for them against offenses that are willing to exploit it. Some guys are going to have to outperform expectations at linebacker in 2013.

Philadelphia Eagles: Spend some money on the secondary. The Eagles were the only NFC East team that had cap room to burn. Even though they needed to improve all four starting positions in the secondary, they chose to go the economic route, bringing in uninspiring cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and safety Patrick Chung. Former Giant Kenny Phillips is a premium talent at safety, but they got him inexpensively as well, and the reason is a chronic knee problem that could keep him from ever playing for them. New coach Chip Kelly was looking for physical cornerbacks with the ability to tackle, which is fine, and I can understand that the Eagles felt burned by the way the Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie moves of two years ago worked out. But the moves at defensive back feel like half-measures, and you get the feeling they'll be looking to upgrade the same spots next year. This was a team that should have at least looked into trading for Darrelle Revis, though it would have been hard to justify giving up the No. 4 overall pick in the draft for him.

Washington Redskins: Get Pierre Garcon's foot fixed. This one is on Garcon, of course. The team can't force a player to have surgery if he doesn't want to have surgery. Garcon did have a procedure to repair a shoulder problem, which is good, but it was the torn ligament in his foot that bothered him last season, cost him six games and is at risk of flaring up again if rest didn't cure it completely. Garcon was a hugely valuable part of the Redskins' offense as Robert Griffin III's No. 1 wide receiver. Everyone has heard that the Redskins were 9-1 in regular-season games in which Garcon played. The Redskins' cap problems prevented them from improving the secondary or the offensive line and from keeping special-teams captain Lorenzo Alexander. But when they look back on this offseason, their biggest regret may be that Garcon didn't get the foot surgery he needed.

Eight in the Box: FA winners or losers?

March, 22, 2013
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at whether each NFC East team has been a winner or a loser in free agency:

Dallas Cowboys: Loser. The only significant free-agent move the Cowboys have made is the franchising of Anthony Spencer, who will be one of the starting defensive ends in their new 4-3 defensive alignment. Even if you like that move, you have to acknowledge that its $10.6 million cost has worked as a detriment for a team that had no cap room to start with. The Cowboys still need a lot of help on the offensive line and at safety but have been unable to maneuver around the cap. Their inability so far to reach agreement on a long-term deal with quarterback Tony Romo -- a move that would reduce his 2013 cap cost -- has also deprived them of the ability to address needs so far. The Cowboys haven't lost any significant pieces in free agency, but a lack of flexibility compounded by $5 million in leftover cap penalties has kept them from adding where they need to add.

New York Giants: Winner. I mean, not in the same way that teams like the Seahawks or the Chiefs have been winners, but in their own, Giant-like way. Replacing tight end Martellus Bennett with Brandon Myers at low cost, re-signing left tackle Will Beatty before the market opened, signing Keith Rivers and Dan Connor at linebacker ... nothing that's going to knock your socks off, but some targeted, low-financial-impact moves designed to keep the program winning. The Giants still could turn out to be losers if they don't do at least some work on the offensive line. And I think it's possible they'll end up missing safety Kenny Phillips more than they think. But to this point, they're operating their offseason the way they like to operate it. Low-key but productive.

Philadelphia Eagles: Winner. Again, we're operating on a curve here. This division in general has not been the league's most exciting since the start of the free-agency period. But the Eagles have added two starting safeties (Patrick Chung and Phillips, on a low-risk/high-reward deal), two starting cornerbacks (Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher), pass-rusher Connor Barwin, a versatile fullback/tight end type in James Casey and a big, 24-year-old wide receiver in Arrelious Benn. The Eagles still have plenty of cap room with which to pursue the right tackle they need, and they've addressed enough positions to allow them flexibility with the No. 4 pick in next month's draft. No one can predict how their new additions will play, but they do seem to have targeted and acquired the players they wanted.

Washington Redskins: Loser. They've actually done well to hold together as much of their division-champion team as they have, considering the $18 million in cap penalties they're still dealing with this year. But they had to cut cornerback DeAngelo Hall, lost special-teams captain Lorenzo Alexander, and have yet to re-sign tight end Fred Davis. More importantly, though, they still have major needs in the secondary and have been unable to land the free safety or the starting cornerback they need. E.J. Biggers is probably better as a No. 3 cornerback, though at this point he may project as one of their starters. The good thing is that the safety and cornerback market still has lots of options, and the prices aren't going up. But the Redskins have no first-round pick next month, so they have some challenges ahead.

Cowboys look to second-tier FAs

March, 12, 2013
IRVING, Texas – On the first day of free agency last year the Cowboys flew Brandon Carr to town on Jerry Jones’ private plane and signed him to a mega deal.

So far on the first day of free agency this year the Cowboys have laid low, gauging interest on some mid-level free agents while other teams spend gratuitously.

According to sources, the Cowboys have some interest in Chicago defensive end Amobi Okoye, New York Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn and New York Jets guard Matt Slauson.

Okoye played in nine games last year with 11 tackles, two quarterback pressures and a sack for the Bears. If he joined the Cowboys he would reunite with his former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys’ defensive line coach.

The Cowboys were close to a training camp trade for Slauson last summer when they suffered a number of injuries but the sides never pulled the trigger. Like Okoye, he would reunite with a former coach in Bill Callahan, who was his line coach in New York.

The Cowboys had interest in Blackburn last year, but signed Dan Connor, who was cut on Monday, instead. In 15 starts for the Giants, Blackburn was credited with 97 tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks.

With only $177,000 of salary-cap room, the Cowboys would have to cut players or restructure more contracts in order to sign any free agents. They are hoping to sign quarterback Tony Romo to a new deal, which would create cap room, but nothing appear close. A long-term deal for Anthony Spencer would also create room but there have not been talks yet.

Source: Cowboys $6.8 million over cap

March, 9, 2013
Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Tony Romo's potential contract extension, the Cowboys' plans for Anthony Spencer and how Joe Flacco's final month of the season impacted the Cowboys' offseason.

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NFL teams have until Tuesday to get under the $123 million salary cap for the 2013 season.

According to a source, the Dallas Cowboys are close to $6.8 million over the cap.

Several things could happen within the next few days to get the team under the cap:
The Cowboys have the necessary paperwork to file with the league regarding several players' restructured contracts. The Cowboys could get under the cap without a new deal for Romo or reworking some deals such as Ratliff's or Scandrick's.

Team officials don't seem too concerned about it at this stage of the offseason because they have a plan in place to make sure they get under the salary cap.
IRVING, Texas -- Beginning at 11 p.m. tonight, the Cowboys can start contacting the agents for free agents.

If you believe what the Cowboys have said, then there’s no need to stay up late trying to figure out who they will be calling.

Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Tony Romo's potential contract extension, the Cowboys' plans for Anthony Spencer and how Joe Flacco's final month of the season impacted the Cowboys' offseason.

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Executive vice president Stephen Jones said at the NFL scouting combine that the Cowboys can't be as active in the free-agent market as they were last year when they signed seven players, including cornerback Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50-million deal.

The NFL has instituted this three-day legal tampering period to get rid of the illegal tampering that normally occurred at the combine. Teams can entering into negotiations with the agents, but they cannot meet with the players or officially sign them until Tuesday at 3 p.m.

On the first day of free agency last year the Cowboys hosted Carr, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Kyle Orton at Cowboys Stadium, wining and dining them with current players such as Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin on hand.

They missed on only one free-agent target: tight end Kellen Davis, who chose to re-sign with Chicago.

The Cowboys still need to pare roughly $6 million before Tuesday just to get under the cap. They can rework the deals on players such as Jay Ratliff and Bernadeau and are waiting to hear if Dan Connor will take a pay cut.

They could also get under the cap by signing Tony Romo to a new deal to reduce his $16.8 million cap figure.

Free-agency series: Linebackers

March, 8, 2013
Eighth in a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position by position:



Who will be the Cowboys' best linebacker next season?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,220)

Who’s on the roster: Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Caleb McSurdy, Dan Connor, Kyle Wilber, Alex Albright, Orie Lemon

Analysis: In Lee and Carter, the Cowboys appear set at the Mike (middle) and Will (weakside) linebacker spots. However, both players are coming off injuries and must prove they can stay healthy. The Sam (strong side) is in question, but Albright looks to be the best in-house candidate. Wilber didn’t play much as a rookie but has athletic ability. Connor could be a cap casualty soon and Lemon might not be tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent. McSurdy is coming off an Achilles injury but could be an OK fit as a backup. Just based on numbers, the Cowboys will need to add some players here.

Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Tony Romo's potential contract extension, the Cowboys' plans for Anthony Spencer and how Joe Flacco's final month of the season impacted the Cowboys' offseason.

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NFL free agents of interest: Ernie Sims, Chase Blackburn, Keith Rivers, Will Witherspoon, Geno Hayes

Need meter: 7. When the Cowboys ran the 3-4, they generally needed bigger linebackers to withstand more direct play with the offensive linemen. With the 4-3 that changes to a degree, with speed being a top priority. But, as with every position in free agency, don’t look for the Cowboys to spend a lot of money. Not with Lee entering the final year of his deal and Carter up the year after him. Sims played well after joining the Cowboys following Lee’s toe injury. Sims is a better fit for a 4-3 and would be a solid backup. The Cowboys had mild interest in Blackburn last year, and he did some nice things for the Giants.

Who will be the next to go?

March, 5, 2013
Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley discuss the Cowboys putting the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer and releasing Gerald Sensabaugh.

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After the Cowboys released three players Monday -- the biggest name being safety Gerald Sensabaugh -- who might be the next player to be sent packing from Valley Ranch?

We look at four possibilities:

1. Marcus Spears. A valued member of the defensive line, Spears has played well as a starter and a backup. The team, however, could be focused on using younger players. It's unknown if Spears has a role in the new 4-3 alignment since it requires pass rushers up front and he's more of a run stopper. If Spears is released, the Cowboys only would save $600,000 -- so it's not a big deal if he stays.


Who will be the next player released by the Cowboys?


Discuss (Total votes: 4,826)

2. Dan Connor. The Cowboys have asked Connor, who is scheduled to make $3 million in base salary, to take a pay cut or be released. Connor, an inside linebacker in a 4-3, takes up $4.3 million of salary cap space and the Cowboys would like to reduce that number or eliminate it. With the team looking to go younger, the Cowboys might let him go, but his experience in a 4-3 is of value. Connor most likely won't play one of the outside linebacker spots as a starter, but could as a reserve.

3. Doug Free. It seems, for now, that the starting right tackle has a home. The Cowboys could cut Free after June 1 and save $7 million, but that won't happen until the summer. The Cowboys are under the cap right now, so Free's status seems secure. After more offseason meetings, the Cowboys could move on from Free -- especially if they draft a tackle.

4. Lawrence Vickers. He was supposed to be an upgrade over Tony Fiammetta but the Cowboys' run game finished 31st overall. Even with injuries to Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys expected more from Vickers, who enters the final year of his deal with a $1.2 million base salary and counts $1.3 million against the salary cap. The Cowboys would save $1.1 million by releasing him.
The Cowboys have shifted money around to save roughly $23 million off the salary cap. A new contract is coming for quarterback Tony Romo, with a potential average salary of $16-18 million per season.

Adam Schefter joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss how much the Cowboys will pay Tony Romo, what Romo would demand on the open market, what Romo's potential trade value would be and what else we can expect from the Cowboys this offseason.

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At this point, I believe only one key player from last season will not return -- Anthony Spencer -- and that's not because of performance. It's because of money. As of today, the Cowboys don't have enough to place a franchise tag on him for $10.8 million.

Veteran Dan Connor has been asked to take a pay cut or be released. Nothing has been finalized.

When Jerry Jones talked about wanting people to be uncomfortable at Valley Ranch, it sure doesn't sound like he was addressing the players when, in fact, they should be the ones who are uncomfortable.

It was a bad sign when Jones related his tiff with nose tackle Jay Ratliff to a father-son issue. It was worse when coach Jason Garrett, when asked if Ratliff would return in 2013 after his DWI charge, responded by saying "absolutely."

Garrett has talked about wide receiver Miles Austin needing to get healthier so he can finish a season. There was talk about possibly finding another safety, despite the solid play of Gerald Sensabaugh and the return of Barry Church from a torn Achilles.

Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys' fascination with their players, what it's like to be released late in your career, why Tony Romo isn't worth elite quarterback money and Doug Free's possible move to guard.

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But that's it.

If you feel the players around Valley Ranch should feel nervous or uncomfortable, forget about it. They don't.

That needs to change.

Yes, coaching changes were needed after another 8-8 season, but don't stop there. We're not saying to cut players just for the sake of cutting them.

Ratliff should be gone, but he won't.

Maybe Sensabaugh should find a new place to work.

Don't ask Connor to take a pay cut. Just cut him.

Let Doug Free go after June 1 -- it'd save $7 million.

You saw what the Atlanta Falcons did: Three veterans -- all recently obtained via free agency -- were cut in a salary cap move.

If Jones wants people to be uncomfortable at Valley Ranch, then apply it to the players, as well.

So far, that hasn't been the case this offseason.
The Cowboys have begun the process of getting under the proposed $121 million salary cap by restructuring contracts, and they could quite possibly cut linebacker Dan Connor.

Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys' attempt to clear cap space, Tony Romo's value around the NFL and why the recent Alex Smith trade shows how valuable Romo truly is.

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The moves are designed to get restricted free agents and draft picks signed and of course to do something in free agency, which starts March 12.

But the one major move the Cowboys could make regarding their free agents is re-signing defensive end Anthony Spencer.

Will the Cowboys have enough money to bring Spencer back in 2013?

It would cost the Cowboys $10.8 million to franchise Spencer, and they have until March 4 to make a decision. If they sign Spencer to a five-year deal, the price tag would likely be around an average of $8-10 million.

Is Spencer worth it?

The Cowboys have to lower quarterback Tony Romo's cap number. If they don't, they won't have much room to make moves in free agency. If they are able to lower Romo's team-high $16.8 million cap number, they have to pay the quarterback big money -- some have said possibly in the $17-18 million range per season.

In the last 24 hours, the Cowboys saved $8.3 million by restructuring the deals of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Nate Livings. That figure will move to more than $18 million when the Cowboys enact a clause in Brandon Carr's contract. Carr's $14.3 million base salary in 2013 is being converted to a base salary of $715,000 with the difference of $13.5 million being moved to a signing bonus to lower his cap figure, which currently sits at $16.3 million. That move will save the Cowboys $10.8 million. More money will come off the books depending on what happens with Jay Ratliff, Romo and Connor.

Then there's the Doug Free situation. If he's a post-June 1 cut, the Cowboys save $7 million. But they can't get that savings until June, when the best of the free agents are off the market.

When the Cowboys do get under the salary cap, the savings will be significant. What they do with the savings is uncertain, especially with Jerry Jones saying last week at the scouting combine that the financial figure Spencer wants and what the Cowboys are willing to give don't match right now.

Yes, the Cowboys will have some money to spend, but it might not be on Spencer.
According to a source, the Dallas Cowboys asked backup linebacker Dan Connor to take a pay cut.

Connor is scheduled to make $3 million in base salary and he counts $4.3 million against the salary cap. The Cowboys are roughly $20 million over the salary cap and are in the process of reducing cap numbers of several players.

If Connor refuses to take a pay cut, he could be released. The Cowboys value Connor's ability to play linebacker in a 4-3 scheme and would like to keep him because of his experience in that alignment.

According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Cowboys restructured the contact of defensive end DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys will convert $5 million of Ware's $5.5 million base salary into a signing bonus, saving $4 million against the salary cap.

The Cowboys have also approached the agents of tight end Jason Witten, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and cornerback Orlando Scandrick about restructuring their contracts. Scandrick is scheduled to make $2 million in base salary and counts $3.78 million against the salary cap. Ratliff, who will make a base salary of $5 million, has a cap number of $7 million.

Cowboys have decisions to make regarding cap

February, 13, 2013
IRVING, Texas – For the last two days the Cowboys have had their first in-depth meetings regarding the players on the roster.

After signing seven players in unrestricted free agency last year, including cornerback Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50 million deal, the Cowboys will be hard-pressed to be as active this year when the market opens March 12.

“The salary cap is tight around the league and it’s tight here in Dallas,” coach Jason Garrett said, “so we have to make some decisions. We’ve spent the last couple of days here talking about our personnel. We’ve got to make some good decisions with our personnel and how we think we can help our team with guys who are available free agents. Obviously we also have an opportunity to help ourselves in the draft, so we have to put all of this together.

“We’ve just started the discussions, and those decisions will be critical for our success.”

The Cowboys will have to make a number of moves – cutting players, restructuring contracts and/or signing quarterback Tony Romo to an extension – just to get under the $121 million cap. Executive vice president Stephen Jones has acknowledged the cap is more of a challenge this year than in recent years.

The Cowboys will restructure Carr’s contract, which will save about $10.5 million in space, and can look to rework the deals of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten, which would create about $6.5 million in space. A new deal for Romo would likely cut his $16.8 million salary-cap figure in half.

Players such as Doug Free, Dan Connor, Jay Ratliff, Marcus Spears and Lawrence Vickers could be cut or asked to take pay cuts to remain in Dallas, which would open up more space.

The Cowboys would like to keep Anthony Spencer and will have discussions with his agent, Jordan Woy, this month. Woy has said Spencer’s preference is to remain with the Cowboys, but the team might not have the financial wherewithal to keep him.