INDIANAPOLIS -- Even if Jerry Jones wanted to start over with his roster, the Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager says it's not an option.
"You can't do what I did in 1989 because of the contracts and cap," Jones said Monday at the NFL scouting combine. "The system automatically creates about a third turnover, but it also creates contractually for clubs a situation where you cannot just strip it. You couldn't even field a team with the hits against your cap by canceling the contracts."
When Jones bought the franchise 25 years ago Tuesday, the team was a mess. The Cowboys were coming off three straight losing seasons after decades of excellence under coach Tom Landry and needing an injection of talent.
Dallas used its best asset, Herschel Walker, in a trade that remade the franchise. The Cowboys also had the No. 1 pick in the draft and selected quarterback Troy Aikman. By the 1992 season, Dallas won the first of three Super Bowls in four years.
Jones also did not have to worry about a salary cap in 1989. The Cowboys may have to pare roughly $20 million to get under the cap with restructured contracts, pay cuts or cutting of players, but nothing to the extreme of stripping the core of the team.
After three straight 8-8 finishes and only one playoff win (in 2009) with a group of talented veterans including Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin and Jason Hatcher, many fans believe it is time to forget the hopes of a last-gasp Super Bowl run. But trading or cutting players, Jones said, leads to the same acceleration of signing bonus money against the salary cap.
The Cowboys could not cut or trade Romo -- nor would they want to -- a year after giving him a six-year, $106 million extension. They would take a $4.6 million cap hit if they cut Brandon Carr. They can cut Austin, but it only makes sense as a post-June 1 decision, and that leads to dead money against the cap in 2015.
"The easiest thing in the world is to change and go look for something new," Jones said. "Something [new] being maybe a style, a player, that type of thing. That's easy to make that decision. Now you have to know, you're sitting there saying, 'OK, where do I go from here and what type of player am I going to have out there, and how is the best way to use it if there is an asset somewhere else?' You've got to roll the clock forward."