The Cowboys released four players on Friday _ defensive end Everett Brown, defensive tackle Corey Irvin, guard Ray Dominquez and tackle Jeff Olson.
The team saved more than $2 million in salary foro 2014 but less than $1 million in salary cap space. More moves need to be made for them get under the projected 2014 salary cap of $133 million. The Cowboys are roughly between $15-$20 million over the cap.
They need to be under the cap by March 11.
The team is weighing roster decisions with defensive end DeMarcus Ware, receiver Miles Austin and center Phil Costa to create more room. The Cowboys could also create room by restructuring the contracts of quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten, cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick and linebacker Sean Lee.
The biggest winners in the Cowboys’ decision to hire former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan as passing game coordinator and play caller are likely quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant, per owner Jerry Jones.
One year after getting Peyton Manning-like input into the offense and personnel decisions, Romo is expected to be even more involved and have more power in the offense under Linehan.
“Yes. He’ll have more (power),” Jones said. “I am just answering his question. How and where and what it has to do with depends on how comfortable he is. Romo was a tremendous supporter of Bill Callahan (last season’s play caller). He was absolutely ecstatic over us getting Linehan. He had serious discussions with Detroit’s quarterback (Matt Stafford) and got a great feel for Linehan’s imagination and what Linehan does to maximize skills in the individual players and his flexibility of coming up with schemes within schemes within the base or rules of an offense. Having said all of that, the most excited guy in the organization was Tony Romo to have the prospect of getting Linehan. And so they will be locked at the hip.”
Romo has been recovering back surgery and the official start to the off season program doesn’t begin until April 21, but he has already had some informal meetings and conversations with Linehan at the team’s Valley Ranch headquarters.
Although Linehan and the Cowboys were attracted to each other because of his prior relationship with coach Jason Garrett and his offense, Jones said his hire represents real change for the team on offense. It will not only be a change in style but a change in terminology in how they call plays on offense.
"Linehan gives us a complete real change of our offense with our terminology," Jones said. "It's different. Although [Garrett and Linehan] have been together coaching, you can't see a lot of what we've been and what they did up in Detroit. He's got a track record of really zeroing in and building the offense around the talent, the specific talent and the qualities of the players."
Linehan ability to utilize his players and maximize their abilities should gain him a big fan in Bryant. Despite being team’s most dynamic weapon _ putting up back-to-back seasons of more than 92 catches and 1,200 yards and catching 25 touchdowns the past two years _ there were times when Bryant disappeared from the Cowboys offense for long stretches.
Jones said that won’t happen with Linehan, pointing to his use of Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson in Detroit and specifically his 14-catch, 329-yard, video-game performance against the Cowboys last season.
Jones said Linehan has done that throughout his career in the running game as well as the passing game, dating back to his days in Minnesota with Randy Moss and Robert Smith.
“There is no question, he’ll take it and he’s done it,” Jones said. “Look hard at how he maximized his skills, how he maximized Johnson’s skills. Johnson didn’t get there doing what he did against us. For whatever reason, they designed stuff to take advantage of Johnson getting there. We’re not going to give any coach credit for Johnson. Well, that’s not really the way it should be. With what he did at Minnesota, with what he’s done and where he’s been, he really does make adjustments to the personnel that are really dictated by the scheme and the philosophy. There’s no question that he’ll take his top players, and it can be in the running game as well, in the running game, he will utilize them in the running game. To some degree all coaches will say that, but getting them to do it or getting it done is another thing. But he’s a proven imaginative coach, relative to using his talent, their particular skills."
Tuesday marks the 25th anniversary of Jerry Jones franchise-altering purchase of the Dallas Cowboys from Bum Bright in 1989.
Jones spent more than an hour Sunday on the Cowboys bus outside Lucus Oil Stadium in Indianapolis reminiscing about the historic transaction and the days leading up to it _ the nervousness and excitement that caused him to develop a heart condition called Arrhythmia and the huge risk he took, considering the Cowboys were not only a mess on the field at the time but where swimming in debt, losing $1 million per month.
"It was quite a trying time for me. I get emotional talking about it and I've asked a professional about why I get emotional talking about it in public or private and they said, well, that was a traumatic time for you. It was a pretty significant reach risk-wise and I didn't know how it was going to turn out, so it was a nervous time for me. I developed arrhythmia, and I had never had an unhealthy day in my life. Arrhythmia is called by a lot of people and a lot of med students get it. It was from not resting and never sleeping and then getting up just after you lay your head down. So that kind of describes for me that period of time. It was a time that I felt very off balanced.”
On the warning his father told him about what would happen if he failed:
“I didn't know, but I quickly found out the visibility that was involved there. My father called me about 10 days, two weeks into this thing and he said, 'Jerry, I had no idea this thing would have the visibility it's got and he said, I don't care you are a young guy, and he said, 'I don't care whether you do it by mirrors, smoke or what, if you are not successful, you've got to make it look successful or you will be known by a loser and you won't be able to do anything else for the rest of your life in terms of getting people to go along with you.' "
On his biggest regret:
"If I had a chance to do it over again I would've waited a year and just got my feet on the ground a little bit more and probably just gone with the staff that we had and then later made the ultimate changes that I made. If I had to do that over again, I probably would do it because probably it was the urgency with how fast we had to move. That got a lot of the criticism that the changes that were made with the staff.”
So you regret hiring Jimmy Johnson and firing Tom Landry so callously:
“I don't regret what I said was looking back because that contributed to the seemingly insensitive way that coach Landry was changed out and that contributed to it, the fact that it was done at the same time that we made the announcement there 25 years ago, that we made the announcement that I was buying the team, that I was going to be the general manager and all of that was done almost the same night. As a matter of fact, that was done the same night. So if I look back at the criticism, that's one where you might have taken more time.”
Was Jimmy Johnson always going to be the guy to replace Landry:
“I thought of Barry (Switzer). I did think of Barry. But Jimmy is, of course, more active. He probably had more proximity. I kept up with Jimmy. My oil and gas partners were in Oklahoma City and I spent a lot of time around them. They were very prominent in OSU, OklahomaState’s athletic department. So that all fit real good. When I called Jimmy to tell him that I was looking at it, that I was interested -- what would you think about joining me? His quote was: ‘I always wanted to be with you, work with you. If you called me to sell insurance, I’d sell insurance.’ So actually Jimmy came on and we officially – not officially – but we announced he was going to be the head coach and it was a significant period of time after that before we every got around to doing an agreement about money, before we even talked about money. He committed and left Miami and came to the Cowboys before we even talked about money.
Jones on the nervousness of the financial risk because of the state of the Cowboys and NFL:
“I was excited. I was very nervous. I knew I had huge financial obligations. I knew they were ahead of me and I didn't have all the answers as to how we were going to address them. I knew there were a lot of pitfalls in just the buying of the Cowboys, not necessarily clean. I bought 13 percent of the Cowboys from the FDIC. They had been foreclosed on. And so it was not in a nice complete operational routine. The franchise was not. All that made me extremely nervous. But had I not had the just sheer positiveness of just getting to be involved in the NFL, knowing that when I got up in the morning I would be in the NFL, knowing that I would be part of the Cowboys then those would have been issues in normal business that might have buckled my knees. But because it was so exciting to me to be part of the Cowboys I give that a lot of credit for working through those things. That was 25 years ago.”
Is the passion and excitement still there:
Yes, of course. It is. Its actually there more than it was because I’m able to think more offense. I’m not as concerned as I was financially about the state of the franchise, about the NFL, about the game. The future is significantly brighter than it was in 1989 for the NFL, for pro football and for that matter pro sports today. I never thought Gene (his wife) would be waiting tables over this deal. But I did think it had the potential to really knock my stuff in the dirt. I knew that it did. Lamar Hunt got up at one of our NFL owners meetings maybe 12 to 13 years ago. He got up and told the entire ownership that the greatest risk I have ever seen taken in sports was the one the Jerry took when he bought the Cowboys, financial risk. He was well aware of the situation with Cowboys. He was well aware of the lay of the land
Jones blames his reputation as an owner who only cares about making money on his aggressiveness of being an agent of change in the NFL because of the poor financial state of the Cowboys and the league at time.
“That’ll motivate you to be an agent of change. That’ll motivate you to want to change some things, and that was a part of the driving thing that early on in the NFL that I wanted to change for the benefit of everyone, but for the benefit of the clubs, for the benefit of the fans, I felt that we could do some things that would create more strength, more energy, and that was one of the reasons that I initially was as aggressive, and the other things was timing. I didn’t have time to sit there and wait on some of these changes 15 years or 10 years, you know the days and the time was burning, and so it had to be really, you had to move on it. So that’s one of the reasons that the perception of aggressiveness, or the perception of, for that matter, one of the things that I regret is that the perception about financial, the facts are I had financial security and gave it up to buy the Cowboys, and I didn’t buy the Cowboys to go make money. But once you get in the chair, once you get in the position, then you want to be as good and do as good as you can do. So that’s kind of how things have evolved over the years.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the team has a decision to make with former Pro Bowl defensive DeMarcus Ware because his high salary and seemingly declining play due to injuries.
Ware, who had just six sacks last year and recently underwent elbow surgery, has a $12 million base salary for 2014 and a $16 million cap figure. It stands to the reason that a Cowboys team with financial issues might want to address Ware’s contract by either asking him to take a pay cut or cutting him.
While the former decision is more prudent, the latter is tough to visualize for Jones without having a known commodity on the roster to replace the team’s all-time leader in sacks when it’s time to play football again next year.
“I don't want to get into what we want to do there, or what we are likely to do there,” Jones said. “But we have been counting on DeMarcus Ware to be the best player we got on defense. It is tough for him to practice. He hasn't been able to practice. It's not that he doesn't want to practice, it's just that he hasn't been able to practice. DeMarcus is paid like the best player on defense. You got to look at a lot of things here. As we evaluate either or, it's a question of, if not DeMarcus, then who. No one, no one has been a better and is a better Dallas Cowboy than DeMarcus Ware. He has been exemplary in every way. But the facts are in football, when you start not being able to practice and you start not being able to really get your reps, then you can be DeMarcus Ware, who is a Hall of Famer, and get compromised by not being able to do fundamental things to get ready. So I look at that. Those are things you have to look at.”
Jones said no decision has been made and the Cowboys are not on time table to make one. They have not yet discussed th eir options with Ware or his agent Pat Dye.
“No. Not these issues.” Jones said. Again, I wouldn't discuss timing because I don't have a time. Could do it this afternoon. Could do it tomorrow afternoon. Or could do it a week from today, or two weeks from today. But, no, we haven't thought about it. I'm not planning on visiting with him today, not DeMarcus, not his agent.”
The Cowboys remain in a wait and see mode with backup quarterback Kyle Orton on his playing status for next year.
Owner Jerry Jones said they want Orton to return next and have indicated as much his agent but have yet ot get definitive answer on his plans.
“Well, we have talked to his agent and we want him to play next year – for us,” Jones said. “I think that's the best thing to say. He hasn't indicated that he has decided or not decided to play. If he plays, we want him to play with the Cowboys.”
Jones said he not spent time worried about Orton not coming back because he anticipates him playing based on simple math and logic. Jones doesn’t see him walking away from a job that requires him to hold a clip board for the majority of the time, paying $3.25 million base salary next year _ especially since if he retired he would have to pay the Cowboys back some pro-rated signing bonus money.
“I can logically look at it and think that he would want to play,” Jones said. “But I don't know any more. I haven't talked to him and we haven't talked to him directly about him not playing. I'm assuming he's going to play. Logic tells me with the experience we had in the last game, with the amount we are paying him, with the wear and tear that's involved, from my perspective..I'd take the money.”
With the 25-year anniversary of the day he bought the Cowboys coming up on Tuesday, owner Jerry Jones spent a little time Sunday reminiscing aboutthe days leading up to the purchase of the some of the decisions he made.
Jones' biggest regret was the rushed decision to fire legendary coach Tom Landry and replace him with Jimmy Johnson. Jones doesn't regret the move, just the circumstances that forced him to act so quickly and thus come off as disrespectful to Landry.
He said if he had to do it all over again, he would have waited a year before making the change.
"If I had a chance to do it over again I would've waited a year and just got my feet on the ground a little bit more and probably just gone with the staff that we had and then later made the ultimate change that I made," Jones said.
Clearly Jones is still pained by the stigma of being the man who fired Landry and how coldly he did it. Some Cowboys have never forgiven him for it. It's an issue that forced the team's Hall of Fame coach to change allegiances and root for the rival New York Giants until his death, Landry's wife Alicia admitted in a book last year.
Jones laments now that if he had to it over again he would have taken up the offer of former owner Bum Bright to the firing himself.
"He did insist that, 'I should make this change. You shouldn't. You should have a clean slate. I will make the change,'" Jones said. "I wanted to and felt that it was pretty obvious that changes were being made because I was taking the team, and I wanted to look coach Landry in the eye, visit with him about that rather than having it done just through the actual purchase closing procedure that would normally come. But that would've been something that when I look back at hindsight, I could've taken Bum up on his offer to make those changes."
Vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys can do what they need to do in free agency but acknowledges salary-cap restraints will force them to be prudent.
The Cowboys are roughly $15-20 million over the projected salary cap of $130 million for 2014.
They will need to make moves to clear room just get under the cap by the start of free agency March 11.
Jones said, however, the limits may be a blessing in disguise for the Cowboys as it may force them to build a winner through the draft like the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
“Free agency isn’t always the answer,” Jones said. “We could go out and hire somebody if we wanted. But I don’t see us going in that direction now. We are not in any rush. But what it may cause you to do is draft young people and play your draft picks, which may make us a better football team. A team like Seattle shows that.”
The NFL is continuing its move toward changing the culture of its league by mulling the institution of a 15-yard penalty for on-field use of the N-word.
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed as much at the NFL Scouting combine. He said the move born out a request from the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which advised the NFL and its players to ban the word this past November.
“We did talk about it. I’m sure you that saw that toward the end of the year Fritz Pollard came out very strong with a message that the league needs to do something about the language on the field. So we did discuss it over the last few days,” Newsome said. “With any rule that we put into play, we have to look at it from A to Z,” Newsome said. “We find out what are the unintended consequences, not just the consequences. As it was stated in our meeting, there are (microphones) everywhere. So if something is being said it’s probably going to be captured somewhere. So we’ll get an opportunity to get it verified if we have to.”
Not only will the use of the word constitute a 15-yard penalty, it would come with an automatic ejection if used twice.
Newsome said NFL officials may present a proposal to owners in Orlando, Fla.
The move to root out the word comes at time when NFL is dealing with the fallout of the Jonathan Martin harassment scandal and possibility of welcoming its first openly gay player in Missouri defensive end Michael Sams.
Vice-president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys have not yet approached wide receiver Dez Bryant or tackle Tyron Smith about contract extensions.
Both are in the final year of their rookie contracts.
Jones said the team’s cap issues have nothing to do with it, as they are simply taking their time in assessing their priorities.
But Jones there is no debating the Cowboys' plans to keep Bryant and Smith around for years to come. Both made Pro Bowl in 2013 for the first team and are considered cornerstone players for the Cowboys.
“We plan on keeping Dez and Tyron around here, barring something unforeseen, for quite a long time,” Jones said. “They are not getting out of here.”
Cowboys vice-president Stephen Jones acknowledges the team has a decision to make regarding defensive end DeMarcus Ware’s $16 million cap hit and $12 million salary for 2014.
They can restructure it to lower the cap figure by turning the base into signing bonus, ask him to take a pay cut or release the team’s all-time leading pass rusher.
The Cowboys have not had any talks with Ware’s agent Pat Dye regarding the contract and won’t be rushed to get anything clarified before March 11, Jones said.
What must be considered outside of Ware’s six sacks last season that seemed to suggest that his career is decline is his recent surgery to repair nerve damage in his elbow.
While Dye declined the comment on whether Ware would be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Cowboys, he does believe his client will be back to his old dominating self in 2014, thanks to the surgery.
Dye said the elbow was much worse than Ware let on and doctors asked him how he was able to play with the injury. The elbow has actually bothered him the last two years, though Ware rarely let him keep him the field. He missed three games in 2013 due a quad strain.
Dye is not alone in his assessment. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett also believes Ware are still be an elite pass rusher, blaming his declining production on injuries.
“He was dealing with a number of different things throughout the course of the season,” Garrett said. “So he’s been a great football player for us. We still feel like he’s a young player. We’ve got to get him healthy and get him back to the form we’re all used to.”
While Garrett declined to get into contract aspect of Ware’s situation, he said met the former Pro Bowler earlier this week before he left for the combine and is looking forward to him getting healthy and being dominant again in 2014.
“We don’t want to get into all of these roster discussions right now,” Garrett said. “But I had a great meeting with him [Wednesday]. What we anticipate all of the guys on our football team to do is get ready to play in 2014. In DeMarcus’ case, he’s got to get himself healthy, get that elbow cleaned up, the other things he’s had to deal with and get himself ready to go and be his best version.”