FRISCO, Texas — When Jason Pierre-Paul signed his four-year deal with the New York Giants worth $62 million last week, you saw the cost of the free-agent war daddy that Jerry Jones so craves for the Dallas Cowboys.
Pierre-Paul received a $20 million signing bonus, and $40 million of the deal is guaranteed.
Given the Cowboys’ stance on free agency, they will not get into that price range for any player at any position who has never worn a star on his helmet.
If the Cowboys are going to find a war daddy, it will have to be in the draft. And the big money will come with that player’s second contract — after he has demonstrated the ability to sack the quarterback.
While people lament the Cowboys’ reluctance to go after a big-time pass-rusher in free agency — even if there are few true threats available each year — Dallas has put its money in the offensive line.
The Giants’ answer to the Cowboys’ offensive line has been to sign Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Pierre-Paul to massive contracts. They could keep Jonathan Hankins as well, although at a price the team wants to pay, which is maybe not as much as Hankins wants.
The Giants have committed $34.76 million in 2017 cap space to Pierre-Paul ($7.25 million), Harrison ($10 million), Vernon ($16 million) and Jay Bromley ($910,000), who projects to be the starter if Hankins remains unsigned.
The Cowboys have committed $17.162 million to their projected starting offensive line of Tyron Smith ($8.820 million), La’el Collins ($662,000), Travis Frederick ($4.531 million), Zack Martin ($2.853 million) and Chaz Green ($786,000). If Jonathan Cooper starts, with Collins moving to right tackle, take out Green and add Cooper’s $1.656 million cap figure.
While that does not look like an even match, remember that the Cowboys restructured the contracts of Smith and Frederick to create $17 million in cap room. Smith had a cap figure of $15.8 million, while Frederick’s cap figure was $14.871 million. That brings the Cowboys’ total to nearly $35 million in cap figures spent on the offensive line.
The Cowboys want to sign Martin to a long-term extension this summer that would make him one of the highest-paid guards — or the highest-paid — in the NFL, but the deal is likely to be cap-neutral in 2017.
Just as the Cowboys need to improve their defensive line, the Giants’ weak link was its offensive line. They have added D.J. Fluker at right tackle and re-signed John Jerry at right guard. Add in Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg and the Giants’ cap commitments to the offensive line this season amount to $19 million.
The thought out of New York is that the offensive line has held the Giants back. The thought in Dallas is that the defensive line has held the Cowboys back.
The success of both teams in 2017 will not come down to their strengths. The Cowboys offensive line will again be among the best, even with the free-agency loss of Ronald Leary. The Giants defensive line will threaten every quarterback they face, somehow, someway.
The success of both teams in 2017 will come down to how their weaknesses perform. Last year, the Cowboys got enough out of their defensive line to finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. The Giants got enough out of their offensive line to finish 11-5 and earn a wild-card spot.
The cap is about an allocation of assets.
The Cowboys and Giants have stated their positions clearly.