JEFFERSON CITY, MO
With Rich Bisaccia interviewing for head coaching jobs and Chris Boniol likely out the door, will this affect Dan Bailey in 2014?
Nick: I wouldn't think it would have a major effect on Bailey. It might affect the punter more, assuming it's Chris Jones. Boniol, who is reportedly not returning next year, did work daily with the kicking operation – kicker, holder and place-kicker. So I would think someone else might step in as an assistant to Bisaccia, assuming he returns next year, too. With Bailey having three great years under his belt, I think he'll be fine.
David: As long as Bailey still has a right foot, I'm really not worried about his abilities. I'm honestly not worried about any of the actual special teams players, if there are in fact changes coming at the coaching positions. What concerns me more in that regard is the coverage units – the Cowboys were great at defending kicks and punts this year. But of course, the same players who covered those kicks – namely Dwayne Harris – will be back. So that helps offset any losses.
What does Dallas need to do in order to fix the salary cap problems for the long term?
Nick:Draft better. And not just in the early rounds, but in the middle. If they can draft starters in the third, fourth and maybe fifth rounds, then they can get quality players on the cheap for a few years. Then they'd be more inclined to cut aging [embedded_ad] veterans who take up cap space. Drafting is one way to get better. Plus, playing younger guys earlier in their careers might help, even though that can be tricky, too. But when you wait for three years before you know if guys like Free, Romo and Austin can play, then you end up making a tough decision on signing them long-term. The Cowboys did that and were relatively burned on two of them.
David: Drafting better would definitely help. And they've got to be better with their contract situations. Austin has delivered one quality season since he signed his mega-deal in 2010. Free didn't deliver on his huge deal and eventually took a pay cut. Jay Ratliff was 30 when he signed a mega-extension in 2011. Football is a ruthless business, and it's usually going to be more beneficial to your salary cap to let players walk after a certain point than try to keep them around. It's an interesting point to bring up with Jason Hatcher set to enter free agency. He's a career Cowboy who delivered 11 sacks this past season. He's also turning 32 this year. Does the potential reward outweigh the risks? I don't think so.