INDIANAPOLIS – The main purpose of the combine is to evaluate players for the upcoming draft, which is still about two months away.
A deadline that is approaching much quicker and could be even more important is March 12, the first day of the new league year. That's the start of the free-agent signing period and when the Cowboys must get under the salary cap. Currently the team is about $20 million over.
But again, whether it's Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones or even Jason Garrett, who admits he doesn't get directly involved in those decisions, no one seems too concerned about the cap situation.
The biggest sticking point is Tony Romo's contract. Currently, he is scheduled to count $16.8 million against the cap, including an $11.5 million base salary. With one year left on his contract, the timing is right for Romo to get a new deal, especially since the Cowboys would like to lower his cap charge. They can seemingly give Romo a new deal – probably in the range of $16-18 million per season, and still lower his cap charge this season.
However, Jerry Jones said this weekend the Cowboys could still get under the cap without getting Romo's deal finalized before the March 12 deadline.
"It's not necessarily you have to have Romo done before you make these other decisions," Jones said. "It's not necessarily so but it is what you want to do. But it's not what you have to do. It's not all one in the same. But immediately for the March 12th time, we don't have to have any one (player) signed or redone." [embedded_ad]
As of this weekend, the Cowboys have had only informal talks with the agents of Romo and Anthony Spencer, an unrestricted free agent who will likely hit the open market on March 12. Because of the Cowboys' contract situation, it's likely Spencer will get to the market because the Cowboys just don't have the cap room to sign him to a long-term deal or place the $10.63 million franchise tag on him, like they did last year when it was $8.8 million.
However, Jones said there is a "reasonable way" to prevent Spencer from hitting the open market. But he did say he won't pay Spencer what he's initially looking for, which is a contract that will pay him about $12 million annually.
It's believed Spencer would like to stay in Dallas but not at a huge hometown discount.
In smaller free-agent news, the Cowboys met with L.P. Ladouceur's agent this weekend. The deep snapper is a free agent on March 12 but the club could have a long-term deal in place before that. Ladouceuer has been the deep snapper since 2005 and arguably has never had a bad snap in his eight-year career.
Other unrestricted free agents who might return include safety Eric Frampton and tight end John Phillips.