Jerry Jones Continues to Show He is a Changed Man

For the second consecutive season, Jerry Jones has shown restraint and stuck to his offseason plan. As a result, the Cowboys have already lost six players to free agency while signing only two.jerry-jones2

Based on their offers from other teams, no one can fault Jones for not retaining offensive tackle Jermey Parnell, linebackers Justin Durant and Bruce Carter, returner/wide receiver Dwayne Harris, and defensive tackle Henry Melton. All of these players were signed for much more than their supposed value so Jones was correct in letting them walk.

The decision that really hurt Cowboys’ Nation was Jones’ insistence that the team not exceed a certain number when offering a contract to reigning NFL rushing champion free agent DeMarco Murray. There is no doubt the Cowboys wanted to retain Murray, but they had a predetermined number in their minds that we did not find out until yesterday as Dallas made one last attempt to prevent Murray from signing with the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles.

Rather than negotiate with Murray throughout the season and increase their offer of 4 years for 16 million, the Cowboys let Murray go out and bring offers back to them. After being spurned by running back, Frank Gore, Eagles coach Chip Kelly decided to make a run at Murray and it paid off by getting him to sign a five-year, 42 million dollar contract with 21 million guaranteed. On the other hand, the Cowboys increased their offer to four years for 24 million with only 21 million guaranteed.

While I know the Eagles have a lot more cap room than the Cowboys, the offer to Murray was still quite insulting especially only guaranteeing 12 million. Yet. Jones knows his team’s cap numbers better than we do.

In a prepared statement, Jones had this to say about Murray’s departure.

“We are very grateful to DeMarco Murray for his contributions to the Dallas Cowboys. He is a quality person, a very good football player, and a player that we wanted to keep.

We have great appreciation for his skills, and if there was no salary cap in place, DeMarco would be a Cowboy. This came down to an allocation of dollars within the management of the salary cap.

Obviously there is emotion involved in these decisions, but it is critical that there be must be discipline involved as well. If it were a question of having an open checkbook with no salary cap constraints, we all know things would have worked out differently.

We have recently made significant commitments to top players who are currently on the team, specifically at key positions such as quarterback, left tackle and wide receiver, and we were comfortable with the offer that we made to DeMarco to include him in that structure.

These are difficult decisions that are part of the NFL. They are decisions that take into account the entire team, the current economic structure of the team, and the financial concerns for the short and long term future of the team.

At the end of the day, this is about finding the best way to collectively fit all of the individual pieces together, in terms of talent, offensive players, defensive players and dollars—under the salary cap structure—that gives you the best chance to have a championship team.”

There were many years that Jones did whatever he could to keep his own top free agents from leaving as well as trying to obtain the biggest free agent out there (see: La’ Roi Glover, Jason Ferguson, Marco Rivera, Terrell Owens, Brandon Carr). Well, these times have changed over the last two years primarily because of Stephen Jones who is not only Jerry’s son, but vice-president of player personnel.

The younger Jones has become more visible over the last year and was instrumental in the Cowboys bypassing Johnny Manziel in last year’s draft. While Manziel would have been the sexy pick, the Cowboys passed up Manziel and drafted another offensive lineman for the third year in a row. All Zach Martin did was help pave the way for Murray to lead the league in rushing, make the Pro Bowl, and was voted All-Pro. Meanwhile, Manziel had a forgetful year and has almost been in rehab for two months.

Let’s not forget Jerry’s penchant for holding onto his own players for too long. DeMarcus Ware will go down as one of the best Cowboys’ players of all-time, but had a huge contract that would be tough to fit under the 2014 salary cap. Jerry struggled with releasing Ware and letting the team’s all-time sack leader walk via free agency. With the help of his son, Stephen, Jerry said goodbye to Ware and Jason Hatcher last year and settled for cheaper options like Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain, and Henry Melton.

The Cowboys returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2010 by making wise choices in free agency and having a strong draft. Look for these new spending trends to continue as the Cowboys deal with dead money against the cap for the next few years. Even then, the days of Jerry making the big splash free agent signing like a Deion Sanders seem to be long gone. Jerry the GM finally understands that building a football team takes patience and building through the draft and, for that, he continues to show he is a changed man.

And that’s…as I see it!

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