FRISCO, Texas – ABC is missing the boat.
Should have produced Wednesday Night Football – As The NFL Turns, and promoted the telecast as "the best, most authentic reality TV show in the business."
Were you even able to keep up with the dizzying pace these past couple of days once "legal tampering" began at noon Monday as a prelude to the start of Wednesday's 3 p.m. (CT) opening to free agency 2020?
Riveting TV, guarantee you.
Tom Brady leaving the Patriots one day, going to sign with the Buccaneers the next.
Philip Rivers to the Colts.
Teddy Bridgewater to the Panthers.
Nick Foles to the Bears.
Drew Brees re-signing with the Saints for less than "market value."
Cam Newton given permission to seek a trade on behalf of the Panthers.
Jameis Winston maybe without a chair once the music dies.
And the free-agent revolving door spinning hands-free out here at the mostly-vacant Star, almost impossible to keep track of those reportedly outgoing and incoming.
Many years ago Cowboys owner Jerry Jones maintained the NFL is "the best reality show on TV." He was referring to the games. He might as well have been referring to free agency. Like, what would you have rather watched? The Masked Singer? Survivor? Or As The NFL Turns, a recap of all the reported and rumored moves taking place across the NFL, and that certainly would have included an entire segment on the Dallas Cowboys.
Because if Tuesday is any indication, when disengaged from the internet for two hours, all hell broke loose, probably requiring a Part II for today's shots. So better get started.
- Bottom Line: No shock the Cowboys didn't come to a long-term deal with Dak Prescott by the NFL's Monday, 10:59 a.m. (CT) deadline to place right-of-first-refusal tags on players. Nor that the Cowboys did place the exclusive tag to not only reserve Dak's rights but also prevent any team from possibly sending him an offer sheet the Cowboys would unlikely have matched. No biggie there. But what hamstrings the Cowboys is the one-year, guaranteed tender of $31.509 million immediately hitting the Cowboys 2020 salary cap, nearly slicing in half their available space in what's now a $198.2 million cap. And that total could go up if a quarterback sneaks into the average of the top five by April 27. Now then, for example purposes only, say the Cowboys signed Dak to a five-year $175 million package, with a $40 million signing bonus that averages out to $35 million a year. Then for the 2020 cap hit, the five-year proration of the signing bonus would be $8 million a year, and because the newly approved CBA wipes out the 30-percent paragraph 5 rule, his base salary could be, say just $5 million the first year, paying him $45 million cash in 2020 but only counting $13 million against the cap. That would free up like $19 million in space, and that's what could happen if they sign him to a long-term deal by July 15. That's the bottom line on the tag.
- For Example: If reports are accurate, and remember none of this stuff being reported is official until the player physically signs the contract and takes a physical after 3 p.m. Wednesday, then Amari Cooper will receive like a five-year, $100 million deal, with a first-year base salary of $10 million and a $10 million signing bonus. So the 2020 salary cap hit would be the $10 million base plus the five-year proration of the $10 million signing bonus ($2 million a year), totaling a palatable $12 million, thus leaving more cap space to operate within the coming days/weeks.
- The Real McCoy: A year ago this time, when Tampa Bay was trying to unload veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, didn't like the optics of the Cowboys signing a guy going on 31 but having made $12.25 million in 2018 with the Buccaneers and scheduled to make $13 million in 2019. Well, the Bucs decided he was not worth that much after a 28-tackle, six-sack season, matching his fewest sacks since 2012 and fewest tackles since 2011. Didn't think the Cowboys should trade for an aging veteran whose numbers were on a decline but base salary on an incline. Nobody did, and finally Tampa Bay cut McCoy, the former Sooner signing a one-year deal with Carolina for $8 million in 2019 when his sack total then dropped to five. But now the Cowboys are reportedly taking a swing at the 10th-year, six-time Pro Bowl tackle, the likely replacement for what appears to be a departing Maliek Collins (Las Vegas) for a reported three years, $18 million, but just $4.25 million against the cap in 2020. First, pretty team friendly. Second, a bigger body in the middle. And lastly, the Cowboys would hope some good veteran influence on second-year defensive tackle Trysten Hill.
- Creating Space: The Cowboys did create some salary cap space Tuesday by declining the $4 million option for backup offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, who had signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal last year. So that's another spot the Cowboys must fill, but Fleming certainly did not play to the level of earning that much in 2020. But now the only backup player under contract having played a smidge of offensive tackle in the NFL is last year's rookie free agent Brandon Knight, who played one-and-a-half games last year, starting one, as an injury replacement.
- By The Way: As pointed out earlier, none of these widely reported free-agent signings will be official until contracts are physically signed. And that's going to be problematic since the NFL and NFLPA have banned travel for players and team personnel, thus eliminating in-person interviews or physicals, unless conducted in the player's locale. Maybe the NFL will institute contract signings to-go. Oh, and that week head start to offseason training the Cowboys were receiving for having a new coaching staff likely has been wiped out since the NFL has postponed the start of those workouts, too.
- Shots Around: Reminder, when disseminating these contract numbers being thrown around, and usually by the agents, do not concentrate on the total package but the amount of the guarantee … See where Baltimore declined to pick up the $7 million option on Brandon Carr's contract, making the former Cowboys cornerback a free agent. Carr, who turns 34 in May and still lives locally, had six interceptions over his three years with Baltimore, but none this past year, having started all 48 games with the Ravens. Might be an inexpensive placeholder at corner for a potential draft choice, or the Cowboys could turn to their own free-agent corner, Anthony Brown, who missed seven games last year with injuries … Player agent Mike McCartney (pay attention to the spelling now) Tweets out, "excited for Sean Lee to play another season for @dallascowboys." Appears will be a pretty team-friendly deal laced with performance incentives … Bottom line of Cowboys signing Blake Jarwin to a three-year $24.5 million deal: Only $9.25 million is guaranteed over the first two years, and his $3.25 million cap hit in 2020 basically equals what his second-round tender in restricted free agency would have cost.
So, see why I keep shouting out the 2020 cap-saving benefits of the long-term deal, and why it appears Miami sabotaged the Cowboys from attempting to re-sign Byron Jones by front-loading $40 million guaranteed into the first two years of his reported contract, creating unfavorable cap hits of $14 million and $17 million in 2020-21.