Cowboys' free-agent needs: Defensive end

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
10:30
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With free agency starting March 10, it is time to break down the Dallas Cowboys' needs and wants. Teams can start talking with players on Saturday.

Defensive end

What they have: Jeremy Mincey ($1.5 million base salary), DeMarcus Lawrence ($670,302), Jack Crawford ($660,000), Lavar Edwards ($585,000), Kenneth Boatright ($510,000), Ben Gardner ($435,000)

Spencer
The position: There is a major need for an upgrade at defensive end. Mincey led the Cowboys with six sacks last season, and Lawrence came on in the playoffs, but there is not another known commodity.

Until the Cowboys find a bona fide pass-rushing threat, like they had for years in DeMarcus Ware, they will continue to throw numbers at the position and hope that the sum is greater than the parts. George Selvie and Anthony Spencer are free agents, and the Cowboys are open to their return, but at the right price. In reality, they are likely in an either/or scenario, but not both, as the Cowboys look to upgrade.

They had just 28 sacks last season and need more from their defensive front. They believe Lawrence is ready to make a big jump, and hope Mincey can repeat the numbers he had in 2014. They won’t be major players for the big-names, like a Greg Hardy, who remains on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, but they should be able to find help with players on short-term contracts who won’t break the bank.

Best available: Jerry Hughes. He had 19.5 sacks the past two seasons with the Buffalo Bills after an extremely disappointing run as a first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts. There is still some "buyer beware" with him, but he turns 27 in August and has produced well in back-to-back seasons.

Best Cowboys fit: Hughes is likely to cost too much to secure, and the same could be true for Brandon Graham. His departure would weaken a division rival and give the Cowboys a solid -- if not top-end -- pass rusher. But money will matter and the Cowboys could look to another division rival for help on a short-term, make-good deal: Brian Orakpo. Health is the biggest issue with him. Perhaps being a situational pass-rusher will help him stay healthy.

What they will do: Of all the names mentioned above, Spencer makes the most sense. They know him. He knows them. It won’t take a lot of money to bring him back. They can come up with a solid structure on a deal that will pay him more if he produces more, with incentives. Orakpo would make sense, too, but the Cowboys will also need to go the draft route as they look to overhaul their front over the next two seasons.
IRVING, Texas -- Free agency in 2015 has not yet started, but is it too early to look at 2016?

The Dallas Cowboys are going to. While the main salary-cap focus for just about everybody else is 2015, the Cowboys take a multi-year look at how things could shake out with their free agents so one year will not adversely affect another.

Bryant
Bryant
The Cowboys want to re-sign as many of their own free agents as possible this year, but they also know they need to have room for Dez Bryant -- if he doesn't sign a long-term deal -- and defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford, who will become a free agent after this season.

The Cowboys have four restricted free agents this year that could become unrestricted free agents in 2016 if they choose to tender Sterling Moore, Lance Dunbar, Chris Jones and Cole Beasley's contracts. Of the four, Beasley stands the best chance of signing soon, with the team talking with his agent about a four-year deal.

If Moore, Dunbar and Jones are not tendered, they will be free to sign elsewhere.

In addition to Bryant and Tyrone Crawford, the Cowboys are scheduled to have eight other players his unrestricted free agency in 2016: Jack Crawford, Mackenzy Bernadeau, James Hanna, Jeremy Mincey, Amobi Okoye, Brandon Weeden and Kyle Wilber.

Bryant was given the franchise tag Monday and could be a candidate for it again in 2016 if the Cowboys are unable to sign him to a long-term deal. If they tag him again in 2016, the Cowboys would be on the hook for $15.38 million.

Tyrone Crawford has the looks of a cornerstone defensive piece based off his production in 2014: 37 tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss and 29 quarterback hurries.

In the past the Cowboys have worked hard on keeping their core players off the open market by signing them before they can hit free agency. They did it with Sean Lee in 2013 and Tyron Smith in 2014. But they were unable -- or unwilling -- to do it with Bryant and DeMarco Murray.

After Bryant and Crawford, the Cowboys don’t have a big ticket player up for free agency in 2016 at the moment.

Mincey led the Cowboys in sacks in 2014 with six, but he will be 32 by the time he hits free agency again. Hanna is a valuable piece as a second tight end and has been able to fend off Gavin Escobar for playing time. Wilber is a core special teamer but can play linebacker and defensive end. Jack Crawford showed flashes of potential last season before a broken thumb ended his season. Bernadeau is a valuable backup who can play all three interior offensive line spots.

Weeden will be given the chance to win the backup job again but the Cowboys have made it clear they are looking for competition at that position.

NFL sets cap; Cowboys' room is fluid

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
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IRVING, Texas -- With the salary cap set at $143.28 million for 2015, the Dallas Cowboys officially have a cap of $148,298,313, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information.

That gives them $19.15 million in cap room, but that does not include the $12.823 million franchise tag tender for Dez Bryant.

So the closer number is $6.328 million in room, but that does not take into account possible restricted free-agent tenders or money to sign the draft picks.

But cap room is always a fungible number, to use a Jerry Jones term.

Fear not, the Cowboys still can create plenty of cap room by restructuring the contracts of left tackle Tyron Smith and quarterback Tony Romo, and they will gain room by either designating Brandon Carr a post-June 1 cut or by agreeing to a re-worked deal with the cornerback that will lower his cap figure from $12.7 million.

The Cowboys would rather not create the maximum amount of room possible with a restructuring of Romo’s contract because of the dead money it will add to the deal down the road.

Also, if the Cowboys reach a deal with Bryant on a long-term contract, then his 2015 cap number would be lower than the franchise tag as well, creating more room.

The Cowboys want to re-sign several of their own free agents, starting with DeMarco Murray, however, the chances of reaching a deal before March 10 are slim. The Cowboys also have eyes on deals for Doug Free, Justin Durant, Rolando McClain and have to make decisions on restricted free agents, like Cole Beasley, who could receive a multi-year deal, Sterling Moore, Lance Dunbar and Chris Jones.

As for free agents outside the building, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on numerous occasions recently, “free agency is not the answer,” when it comes to building a roster because the value never equals the cost. (See Carr, Brandon.)

What's next for Cowboys, Dez Bryant?

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
2:40
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IRVING, Texas -- Now that the Dallas Cowboys have placed the franchise tag on Dez Bryant, what’s next?

One of Bryant’s agents, Tom Condon, laid out several possibilities without offering up which direction they will go while speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday.

Bryant
Bryant
Unless Bryant signs the tender, which is worth $12.823 million, then he does not have to show up to anything. While extremely unlikely, Bryant could skip the first 10 games of the season, play the final six and still get an accrued season to his credit.

The offseason workout program is voluntary, as are the organized team activities. If Bryant does not sign the tender, he would not be required to show up for the mandatory June minicamp either, because he would not be under contract.

“There’s a lot of different options,” Condon said. “There’s a substantial number of moving parts.”

Condon was asked what his advice to Bryant will be.

“I probably shouldn’t disclose the plan, don’t you think?” he said.

Condon also wondered whether a team would be willing to give up two first-round draft picks for Bryant should the Cowboys not match an offer sheet.

“He’s a special player, so if you’re picking late in the first round, let’s say you’re in the last four, five picks of the first round and you know that Dez Bryant is a superstar, do you give up a very late pick in the first round this year and a very late pick in the round next year to ensure that you’re competing for the Super Bowl for the next several years?” Condon said. “That part of it is pretty interesting.”

The Cowboys did just that for Joey Galloway in 2000 after the Seattle Seahawks placed the franchise tag on the wide receiver. The Cowboys gave Galloway a seven-year, $42 million deal and the Seahawks turned those draft picks to select running back Shaun Alexander and Koren Robinson.

Galloway suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his first game, Troy Aikman retired after the season and the Cowboys went through three straight 5-11 finishes.

The Cowboys’ hope with Bryant is to sign him to a long-term deal by July 15. They had their first face-to-face meetings with Condon and Kim Miale last week with the promise of more discussions. At the NFL scouting combine, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he hopes the tag is a “placeholder” until a multiyear agreement is reached.

“The Cowboys have given us every indication that they don’t want to lose the player,” Condon said, “and that they value him very much.”

Cowboys franchise Dez Bryant

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
1:58
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IRVING, Texas -- What has been known for some time is now official: The Dallas Cowboys have placed the franchise tag on wide receiver Dez Bryant.

While the tag all but secures Bryant's rights for 2015, the Cowboys hope they can work out a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline. If they don't, then Bryant will play the season on the tag for $12.823 million, the tender amount for franchised wide receivers in 2015 as part of the salary cap being set at $143.28 million.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones had said Friday that the team had informed Bryant's agent that he would receive the tender. The Cowboys did not use the exclusive franchise tag on Bryant, but a team would have to give up two first-round picks if Dallas chooses not to match an offer sheet.

While the Cowboys have mapped out their plan for Bryant, they appear ready to allow the NFL's rushing champ, DeMarco Murray, to hit the open market. At the scouting combine, Jones said if Murray did not sign before free agency began it would not preclude his return, citing Darren Woodson and Jay Novacek as past examples.

The Cowboys thought they were close to a multiyear deal with Bryant last season, but he eventually changed agents from Eugene Parker to Kim Miale of Roc Nation and Tom Condon of CAA. The Cowboys had their first face-to-face meetings with Condon and Miale last week.

Bryant, 26, was named to the Pro Bowl for the second straight season -- but did not play in the game -- after matching his uniform number with 88 catches for 1,320 yards and a Cowboys single-season record 16 touchdown catches in 2014.

He nearly helped the Cowboys to their first NFC Championship Game since 1995 with a fourth-down catch at the Green Bay Packers


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Do Cowboys have replacements ready?

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
12:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Last week ESPN Insider Field Yates offered up a view at how the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens have some in-house replacements for their top free agents. Insider

On a local view, how would the Dallas Cowboys replace some of their free agents should they sign elsewhere?

One player the Cowboys won’t have to worry about replacing is Dez Bryant once they place the franchise tag on the All-Pro wide receiver today.

But they have several other free agents they could need to find fill-ins for.

DeMarco Murray: The only current choices would be Joseph Randle or Ryan Williams. Randle's off-field issues hardly guarantee him a roster spot. Williams spent the year on the practice squad. Randle had just 51 carries in 2014 but he had 343 yards and three touchdowns. If the Cowboys can’t keep Murray, they must find another running back either in the draft or in free agency to replace the NFL’s reigning rushing champ.

Rolando McClain: He is facing a four-game fine for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, according to sources, so the market could be slow for him with teams knowing he is one more violation away from being suspended for four games. But the Cowboys not only have a replacement for McClain, they have a better player in Sean Lee. He missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament but will be ready for the offseason program. The Cowboys might hope to pair McClain and Lee at linebacker, but they at least have Lee ready.

Justin Durant/Bruce Carter: The chances of Durant returning are better than Carter, but if they lose both, then Anthony Hitchens would be the replacement at weak-side or strong-side linebacker. Hitchens is more of a weak-side linebacker. The coaches credited him with 100 tackles to go with three tackles for loss, two quarterback pressures, one interception and four pass deflections. Kyle Wilber could be a strong-side candidate.

George Selvie: He started 29 of the last 32 games at left defensive end, picking up 10 sacks and doing more than the Cowboys ever could have imagined when he signed during training camp in 2013. But the Cowboys can move Jeremy Mincey, who played right defensive end in 2014 and led the team with six sacks, to left defensive end and have DeMarcus Lawrence start on the right side.

Nick Hayden: He is a replaceable part but he is more valuable than people think. The Cowboys have Josh Brent under contract for another year and can hope a full offseason of work can help get him in better condition. Terrell McClain would be another option, but he might be better suited to play the three technique than nose tackle.

Doug Free/Jermey Parnell: The Cowboys can’t afford to lose both of them because there is no ready-made replacement on the roster. Parnell is expected to garner a lot of attention on the open market. Free is coming off surgery that could limit his services. If the Cowboys lose both, then they would be looking at Darrion Weems or Donald Hawkins as on-the-roster possibilities, which could prompt them to take a fourth offensive lineman in the first round in the last five years.

Cowboys' free-agent needs: Quarterback

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
10:30
AM ET
With free agency starting March 10, it is time to break down the Dallas Cowboys' needs and wants. Teams can start talking with players on Saturday.

Quarterback

Weeden
Romo
What they have: Tony Romo ($17 million base salary), Brandon Weeden ($660,000), Dustin Vaughan ($510,000).

The position: Until 2014, the Cowboys have used a high-priced veteran as Romo’s backup from Brad Johnson to Jon Kitna to Kyle Orton. In 2012, the Cowboys gave Orton a $5 million signing bonus.

Last year the Cowboys rolled with Weeden as Romo’s backup and paid him just $570,000 without a signing bonus. This year, Weeden will make $660,000.

Weeden played in four games in 2014 and finished with three touchdown passes and two interceptions. In his one start against the Arizona Cardinals, he completed 18 of 33 passes for 183 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in a 28-17 loss.

As much as they like Weeden, they will look to improve if possible.

“We know that the backup is key,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “We played a good team in Arizona, we played a good team. But if we’d been better at backup quarterback, who knows? We might have been able to get that game. But let’s give Arizona the credit they’re due. When I look back at the backup quarterback -- where we messed up relative to backup quarterback, I’ll second guess that. On the other hand, you can just go so far with that line of thinking. So when you ask me where we are, what I’m thinking at quarterback, I do think we need to improve what we do if Tony is not in there.”

The Cowboys like Vaughan's development, but he remains a prospect -- not an adequate backup for Romo.

Best available: Ryan Mallett. He is young and showed at least a little promise after his trade to the Houston Texans. At this point in his career, Mallett will want a chance to start, so remaining with Houston is his best bet.

Best Cowboys fit: If the Cowboys want to dip back into their history books, then Matt Moore would be the best option. He signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and had an impressive preseason but the Cowboys were unable to sneak him through waivers. He has spent the last four seasons with the Miami Dolphins.

What they will do: With Romo set to count $27.773 million against the salary cap and more important needs elsewhere, it’s difficult to see the Cowboys making a second financial investment at the quarterback spot. They’ll stick with Weeden.
IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys decided to release DeMarcus Ware last year, they left the negotiations on a new deal open with their all-time leader in sacks as he hit the market without ever making an offer.

They did not want to submit something Ware would sniff at and feel insulted.

A day later, Ware signed a three-year deal with the Denver Broncos that guaranteed him $20 million, which was a figure the Cowboys never would have come close to matching.

Murray
This year the Cowboys are preparing to let DeMarco Murray, their single-season rushing leader, hit the open market with the hope he allows for a chance to match an offer from another team.

Are the Cowboys unwilling to make an offer to Murray because they don’t want to offend the NFL’s reigning rushing champion, as they were with Ware last year?

It sure seems that way.

While owner and general manager Jerry Jones said at the NFL scouting combine he has some flexibility in the parameters of a deal for Murray, it might not be close to what the running back can get on the open market.

There have not been detailed negotiations between the two sides, despite the publicly stated positions by the Cowboys and Murray that both sides want to continue the relationship for the long term. Coincidentally, Ware and Murray are represented by the same agency.

Murray has said money will not be the only factor in his decision. Winning will matter. The Indianapolis Colts went to the AFC Championship Game this past season and have more than $40 million in cap space. The Atlanta Falcons struggled badly last season but have a core in place that can turn things around quickly and have roughly $23 million in cap space available. The Arizona Cardinals can create enough cap space to make a deal for Murray more than possible.

And so can the Cowboys, even with the impending franchise tag of Dez Bryant.

The possible -- or impending -- departure of Murray will be about the Cowboys not wanting to spend big on a running back, not about a lack of salary-cap space.

Stephen Jones said at the combine that if Murray hits the market it would not preclude his return, in the same way Darren Woodson and Jay Novacek hit the market in the past but eventually returned.

It’s a risky strategy.

Murray will be under no requirement to offer the Cowboys a chance to match or come close to an offer before signing elsewhere.

And the Cowboys will be under no requirement to wait for Murray to bring them an offer. They will be able to peruse the free-agent market to find a potential replacement at a cheaper price.

It all makes you wonder if the Murray saga will end the same way as the Ware saga.
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IRVING, Texas -- Adrian Peterson, if you listen to him, sounds like a man who no longer wants to play for the Minnesota Vikings.

Before you get too excited, that doesn't mean he's playing for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015.

You're certainly entitled to dream about it. And feel free to drop to your knees and pray about it too. Consult a psychic, if you want.

It ain't happening.

Way too many things would have to fall perfectly into place for Peterson to play for the Cowboys next season.

First, DeMarco Murray has to leave, which is hardly a given. Yes, the Cowboys have given him permission to seek his fortune elsewhere, which really means the Cowboys want to know the best offer he can get from another franchise so they can negotiate off that number.

Murray wants to win, and he wants to play here. He'll be 27 when the season starts, and he's coming off a season in which he carried the ball 392 times in the regular season. History suggests he will never, ever be the same runner. No one knows whether history will be correct, but no team wants to get stuck with a huge contract and runner with diminishing skills, so it seems unlikely he'll be blown away by an offer.

Murray wants to be here, and the Cowboys keep saying they want him. Ultimately, you figure they'll find a way to get a deal done. Unless, of course, the Cowboys insult him with an offer -- always a possibility, given the way they do business these days.

If Murray does leave, the Cowboys aren't trading anything to Minnesota for Peterson. If they do, it means they have to accept his current contract, which is supposed to pay him $12.75 million this season.


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Cowboys to franchise Dez Bryant

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
8:06
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys informed the agent for Dez Bryant on Friday that they will place the franchise tag on the All-Pro wide receiver by Monday's deadline, executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed.

The Cowboys have to notify the league of the move by 4 p.m. ET Monday, which will guarantee Bryant roughly $13 million in 2015. The Cowboys will not use the exclusive franchise tag on Bryant, but a team would have to give up two first-round picks if Dallas chooses not to match an offer sheet.

At the NFL scouting combine earlier this month in Indianapolis, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he hoped the tag would be a "placeholder" until the two sides can work out a long-term deal with Bryant. Jerry and Stephen Jones had their first face-to-face meetings with Bryant's new agents, Tom Condon of CAA and Kim Miale of Roc Nation, last Tuesday.

During the season, Bryant said he would be "highly disappointed" if he was given the tag.

It will be the fifth time in team history the Cowboys have used the franchise tag. The others were Flozell Adams (2002), Ken Hamlin (2008) and Anthony Spencer (2012, '13).

Bryant changed agents last November after the Cowboys thought they were close to a multiyear agreement with the wideout. They had only a couple of conversations with his new reps during the season and did not meet with them at the combine.

Since joining the Cowboys as a first-round pick in 2010, Bryant has been one of the NFL's most dynamic receivers.

In five seasons with the Cowboys, Bryant has caught 381 passes for 5,424 yards and 56 touchdowns. No player in team history has more catches, yards or touchdowns than Bryant in the first five years of his career.


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Dallas Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 2

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready. In it we discuss:
  • The financials at running back
  • The quarterback-wide receiver relationship
  • Dorial Beckham-Green
  • Brandon Carr
  • Incentives
  • If you want to see Part 1, click here. Away we go:

    @toddarcher: Without a doubt it would be drafting a Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley or whoever than re-signing DeMarco Murray. Last year's No. 27 pick received a four-year deal worth $7.7 million. Murray should earn more than that in 2015 alone on a free-agent deal. But can you guarantee a rookie running back can step right in and be a huge contributor? You can't, and that's another one of the million factors or so that go into keeping Murray. If the Cowboys don't keep Murray and miss on a potential first-rounder in the draft, then they face the real possibility of wasting the final few years of Tony Romo's career. As much as everybody think the Murray decision is an easy one, to me it's not. The Cowboys can only be wrong. Either they pay him and he doesn't produce or they let him walk and can't replace him. We're not going to give them a lot of credit if Murray stays and plays well.

    @toddarcher: Not really. I think Dez Bryant would be a great receiver if I played quarterback. Well, maybe not, but you have to be careful to not take away credit from Bryant in his development. We always want to credit this coach or that coach or the quarterback while sometimes failing to give the player credit for improving. Now, I think Tony Romo has made some receivers better and made them a lot of money in other spots. Put Laurent Robinson's name at the top of the list. Romo has shown he can make role-playing receivers look better than they really are, but Bryant would be a star anywhere.

    @toddarcher: We hear Jason Garrett talk all the time about the "right kind of guy," and oftentimes it's misinterpreted to mean, "I only want Boy Scouts." That's just not the case. Dorial Green-Beckham might be the best receiver in the draft, but that doesn't mean he will be the first receiver selected. He had issues at Missouri involved with arrests for marijuana and an alleged assault. I'm sure the Cowboys will have a handle on all of that by the time it comes to the draft and will feel comfortable taking him or keeping his name off the board. But there's also a need. I understand the "best player available" theory, but, to me, it's just that: a theory. Need has to be factored in. Dez Bryant isn't going anywhere. Terrance Williams isn't going anywhere. The Cowboys like what they're getting from Cole Beasley. They believe Devin Street can develop. If you're drafting Green-Beckham in the first two rounds, he would be expected to contribute right away. Would that happen here? I understand the Cowboys drafted Bryant when they just had Roy Williams and Miles Austin but they knew they would be moving away from Williams quickly and would have the chance to play Bryant right away.

    @toddarcher: Brandon Carr's agent met with the Cowboys at the combine so there's at least been discussions, but he does have leverage. Well, at least a little because the Cowboys need him. They aren't sure about Morris Claiborne's health. They don't know if Sterling Moore will be back. They aren't sure what awaits in the draft. But I would say that leverage -- as little as it is -- will disappear the longer it goes. The Cowboys can just wait this out and then hold the threat of his release over his head at a point where the money will be dried up for a cornerback that did not have an interception in 2014.

    @toddarcher: Some of them count against the cap immediately whether a player hits it or not. If they don't, then you get a credit. But I want to take this to incentives in general and avoid some of the cap minutiae when it comes to them. I've gone back and forth on how they might encourage performance and protect the team. There are those at Valley Ranch who believe Henry Melton was looking more for his sixth sack than doing what he was supposed to do in the scheme because he would've earned an extra $250,000 with six sacks on the year. So that's a situation where individual incentives can affect the team. 
    IRVING, Texas -- By 4 p.m. ET Monday, the Dallas Cowboys will likely place the franchise tag on wide receiver Dez Bryant.

    It will mark just the fifth time the Cowboys have used the tag since its inception. Bryant will join Flozell Adams (2002), Ken Hamlin (2008) and Anthony Spencer, who was tagged in 2012 and '13, as the only Cowboys’ tagged. Hamlin never played under the tag having reached a six-year, $39 million deal.

    During the 2014 season, Bryant said he would be “highly disappointed” if the Cowboys used the franchise tag. Players largely view the tag as a hindrance, not a financial boon. It effectively keeps them off the open market because other teams are unlikely to give up two first-round picks as compensation.

    [+] EnlargeDez Bryant
    Elsa/Getty ImagesIf the Cowboys apply the franchise tag to Dez Bryant, they'll have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal.
    They want the security of a long-term deal with heavy guaranteed money, but they have few options.

    They can sit out the voluntary offseason program, skip the mandatory June minicamp, which would subject them to fines, or sit out of training camp and games in protest. But they won’t be getting paid.

    Several executives asked at the NFL scouting combine said the player’s reaction to the tag is not weighed when making the decision. Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson had a succinct answer when asked the questions: “Uh, no.”

    “The player has no choice in the matter,” Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. “It’s something that we agree on that’s been collectively bargained.”

    As much as the players don’t like it, it’s not a tool teams enjoy using much because of the amount of cap space it eats up. While it will not prevent the Cowboys from being active in free agency, tagging Bryant would force them to move money around in ways that could hurt their cap in the future.

    On a long-term deal, the player’s first-year cap number is relatively low.

    “For some players there’s a negative reaction to it but that’s not the case with all players,” Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith said. “For the team, it’s a tool to continue to try to keep good players.”

    Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett said they would not be worried about Bryant’s reaction to the tag, even though there has been heavy speculation that Bryant will stay away from the team in the offseason without a long-term deal.

    When the Cowboys tagged Spencer in 2012 and ‘13, he wasted little time in signing the tender.

    “If you sign it right away, it’s automatically guaranteed,” Spencer’s Dallas-based agent, Jordan Woy said. “You can still negotiate to get a long-term deal. But I don’t see the benefit in not signing it because if I don’t sign it, it’s not guaranteed, No. 1. The team could take it away and if you wait too long other things can happen (like teams not having cap space). Or people could change their mind. I think it’s better signing it and having the guaranteed money sitting there.”

    The likelihood of the Cowboys pulling the tender from Bryant, however, is slim. Another agent said for a player of Bryant’s caliber teams will always create cap space to get a deal done.

    “I’ve never seen anybody just pout to the extent that they wouldn’t do it over this kind of money,” Jerry Jones said. “That usually is not realistic. It’s just too much money. And consequently it’s not set up or packaged the way that parties might want -- and I want to emphasize again – it’s not really set up in our best interest at all. There’s a much better way for our future and our cap this year if we didn’t franchise, but this is here when you don’t have your meeting of the minds about how you want to structure something long term. And so if anything it’s in the right situation, it’s a placeholder for addressing it as you move through the future.”

    Spencer made $19.4 million in the two years he was tagged, and he played in just one game in 2013 because of a knee injury. Had he signed a longer-term deal, he might not have been able to make the same amount of money.

    If the Cowboys are unable to reach a long-term deal on Bryant, then they could always use the franchise tag on him in 2016, which could bring his two-year total up to $28 million. And if they so desired, they could use it in 2017, according to league rules, and likely have to pay him the quarterback tender.

    Perhaps Hamlin could serve as the template for the tagging of Bryant.

    The Cowboys put the $4.396 million tag on Hamlin in 2008 but reached a six-year, $39 million deal in July that included a $9 million signing bonus. Hamlin, however, lasted just two more years. The Cowboys never got the value they were expecting.

    Monday is the deadline to put the tag on Bryant, but the next deadline is July 15, which is when a long-term deal needs to be finalized or the receiver would play the year under the franchise tag.

    By then we’ll know if the tag is a “placeholder,” or the deal.

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