For a few years now, Defensive Lineman Tyrone Crawford has held the distinction of having the worst contract on the Dallas Cowboys’ books. As we head into the 2020 offseason, that same bad contract leaves him most likely to be released to clear salary cap space.
In fact, when looking at all of the current contracts for 2020, Crawford is really the only player on the Cowboys’ roster who would even qualify as a cap casualty.
Tyrone is set to count $9.1 million against the 2020 cap. If released he would only have $1.1 million in dead money, resulting in $8 million back in cap relief for Dallas.
The only other Cowboy who offers that kind of relief is Tyron Smith, whose $13.5 million cap hit would drop to $5.29 million. But there’s zero chance that Dallas would cut Smith while he’s still one of the top left tackles in the NFL.
Other high-salary players like DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, and Ezekiel Elliott offer either minimal or no cap relief at all if cut. For guys with newer deals like Tank, Zeke, or Jaylon Smith, the dead money would actually be more expensive than their 2020 cap hit.
There are some other minor moves that could create cap space. Dallas could get back $1.4 million by cutting Punter Chris Jones or $1 million from Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. But these moves would be more about performance; the players are bargains at those salaries if playing at even an adequate level.
The Cowboys have plenty of cap room going into the offseason. With projections ranging from $77-$83 million in available spending power, Dallas can re-sign Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones and do whatever else is needed to field a competitive team in 2020.
But even if they don’t necessarily need the cap savings from Tyrone Crawford’s deal, so they still want to keep overpaying for a roleplayer?
Between a reduced role, legal issues in the offseason, and playing in only four games due to injury, 2019 was a bad year for Crawford. He even lost the honor of being a team captain despite his experience and tenure with the Cowboys.
Even after the assumed deals get done for Prescott, Cooper, and Jones, Crawford would still have one of the ten highest cap hits on the roster. That just doesn’t compute given his actual role on the team.
Perhaps reading these tea leaves himself, Crawford reportedly is willing to discuss a reduced salary in 2020 to remain on the team. That does seems the only realistic way that Dallas would keep him this year.
One other factor that could help Tyrone is if the Cowboys convert to a 3-4 scheme under new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan. Having entered the NFL as a 3-4 DE, Crawford’s value would suddenly increase for Dallas to help make the transition.
Even then, though, the Cowboys could do a lot with $8 million more cap space. That could go to helping them sign two or even three veteran roleplayers with 3-4 experience, or maybe help them land one major player that could become a catalyst for others.
It really is remarkable, and a credit to the work of the Cowboys front office in recent years, that we don’t have more bad contracts to talk about. The jury is still out out on some like Jaylon Smith or Ezekiel Elliott, but right now only Tyrone Crawford’s stands out as a clear mistake that needs correction.
Will that move finally come in this 2020 offseason?