Mick Shots: Nothing Is Free In The NFL


FRISCO, Texas – What an oxymoron, free agency.

There is nothing free in free agency. Costs ridiculously dearly that first week for a team to bring a free agent in, and in more times than not, costs ridiculously dearly to get rid of a free agent contract.

See Miami Dolphins. They were done with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Wanted to trade him. And his guaranteed $7 million base salary.

So to pry a mere 2020 fourth-round pick out of the Tennessee Titans for Tannehill and swap 2019 sixths and sevenths, the Dolphins agreed to pay $5 million of Tannehill's $7 million base salary. Oh, and that $5 million counts against Miami's salary cap.

Same is going on now with the Dolphins purportedly trying to trade defensive end Robert Quinn, who was here at The Star on Tuesday for a visit, given Miami's permission to shop himself around. Again, the Dolphins are fearing they might not get much in return if the team agreeing to the trade has to spend $11.8 million on a soon-to-be 29-year-old defensive end's base salary. Might have to pay to trade the guy away.

This cap stuff is real.

The Cowboys, they have learned that hard free-agent lesson over the years, and are doing a much better job of protecting your salary cap money. As a fan, you should applaud their much more conservative approach to free agency, reflected for now in most likely the least amount of dead money this year eating up their cap space than they've had in some time.

So far this year they have resisted restructuring salaries, meaning pushing more money into the later years of a player's contract to create more immediate cap space that at some point becomes unbearable. Also, one reason why when the Cowboys washed their hands of Dez Bryant last year, they swallowed hard and took the entire $8 million cap hit in 2018. Combining Dez's dead money, along with Tony Romo's and that of Orlando Scandrick, Cedric Thornton and Nolan Carroll, amounted to nearly $24 million of the $32 million hit they absorbed in 2018.

Keep that in mind as we fire off this week's shots.

  • Thank Cobbness: You know what's the best thing about the Cowboys coming to a one-year agreement to sign wide receiver Randall Cobb? Other than the soon-to-be 29-year-old will give the Cowboys a legitimate replacement in the slot for the departed Cole Beasley, along with the fact it appears he'll be signing for one of those Jason Witten-like contracts, with the ability to make as much as $5 million? The fact the Cowboys won't have to face him this year when they play the Green Bay Packers. Because since the 2014 season, the Cowboys have faced Cobb and the Packers five times – twice in the playoffs. And in those five games, Cobb has totaled 34 catches for 341 yards and a touchdown. That's right at seven catches a game, which he exceeded in the 2014 playoff game with eight catches for 116 yards, the last one on third-and-11 with 2:00 left for 12 yards and the game-clinching first down. Now if Cobb can just stay healthy, hamstring problems and a concussion limiting him to just nine games last year.
  • Untapped Talent: Until this guy came through on a visit Tuesday, had forgotten he was considered one of the top, if not the top, defensive tackle in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Michigan State: Malik McDowell, a 6-6, 299-pounder who either had private workouts or visited with nine teams before the draft, including the Cowboys. McDowell fell into the second round, where Seattle selected him with the 35th overall pick. But two weeks before the start of camp, McDowell was apparently involved in a serious ATV accident, suffering a concussion and various head injuries. He spent his rookie year on the non-football injury list, and 2018 on the reserve/non-football injury list, somewhat of a mystery to those in Seattle before the Seahawks released him on March 2. Still hasn't played a down in the NFL. Possibly a prime candidate for one of those short-term, prove-it deals.
  • Did You Realize: That while Earl Thomas' reported contract is five years, $55 million, $32 million of that is stuffed into the first two years of the deal – guaranteed? That's $16 million a year. For a safety! Or that when it comes to Cole Beasley's contract, four years, $29 million and his guarantees, he's getting $14.4 million over the first two years, just a couple million more than the Cowboys were offering? But hey, every million counts, right? Or that the strong safety to come through for a visit, Clayton Geathers, is the nephew of former NFL defensive lineman Jumpy Geathers and the cousin of Clifton Geathers, who had a swim through Dallas for six games in 2010-11?
  • Spreading The Wealth: Since the start of free agency, the Cowboys have either signed, re-signed, tagged, restructured, picked up the option or agreed to terms on 15 players. That includes franchise-tagging DeMarcus Lawrence, picking up Allen Hurns' option, restructuring Sean Lee, bringing back Jason Witten and signing the likes of Tavon Austin, Kerry Hyder, Cameron Fleming, Christian Covington, among others, and agreeing to terms with Cobb. And they still have cap operating room to fund their $4 million rookie pool and sign more if they want. And they can create more cap space for 2019 by signing Lawrence and Amari Cooper to long-term deals. That's working a budget now.
  • Cold-Blooded Fan: As my sister went to northern Alaska chasing the Northern Lights, she runs into a guy wearing a Cowboys sweatshirt at the Fairbanks airport. Says he is a rabid Cowboys fan, and either watches or listens to all the games in the Village of Kotzebue, northwest of Fairbanks and 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the western coast. Seems you can see Russia from there. Giving meaning to maybe "Way North America's Team."
  • Free Shots: Good the Cowboys can bring back deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur for his 15th season, and since it's a one-year deal for the $1.03 million veteran minimum and just a $90,000 signing bonus, he counts only $735,000 against the cap on the veteran exception contract … So much is being made of veteran safety Eric Berry visiting on Tuesday, but remember, he's 30 years old, had played just three games the last two years because of Achilles and heel injuries and was scheduled to make $12.4 million base before Kansas City made him a post-June 1 release, meaning he will count $6.95 million vs. the Chiefs' 2019 cap and another $8 million in 2020 – and the Chiefs didn't want him.

Remember, this ain't fantasy football. The cap is real.