For quite a while now, there has been mutual interest between star safety Earl Thomas and the Dallas Cowboys. Thomas famously approached Cowboys coach Jason Garrett on his way back to the locker room after a Seahawks-Cowboys game and told him to " " if he ever hits the open market in free agency. Dallas' secondary has been a relative weakness for years and the safety spot in particular has been a wasteland since the days of Darren Woodson. A union between the two sides makes perfect sense, especially considering Thomas is from Texas and grew up rooting for the Cowboys.
But perhaps the Boys are not quite as in on Thomas as most would think, considering the extended mutual flirtation between the two sides. Here's a report from Calvin Watkins of The Athletic:
A source close to Thomas said there is a strong market for him from several NFL teams. But his age (29) and injury history are causes for concern. Thomas' injury should require three to four months of recovery; given that timeframe, he should be good for Week 1.
Thomas wants to play for the Cowboys. The team is interested, but not to the degree most assume.
"I can't imagine we're more than bargain shoppers here," a Cowboys source said.
Let's game this out.
The Cowboys have approximately $46.7 million in cap space, as of this writing, according to Spotrac. They can create an additional $7 million in space by cutting Sean Lee, who has fallen behind young stars Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch on the linebacker depth chart and can't possibly be worth over $10 million on the Cowboys' books next season. They can create another $5 million on top of that by cutting Allen Hurns, who was a bit player for Dallas by the end of the season and suffered a horrific leg injury in the playoffs. Making both of those moves would get Dallas to around $58.7 million in space. They could get even higher by cutting Tyrone Crawford, restructuring Zack Martin's contract, extending Amari Cooper in a fashion that allows them to lower his 2019 cap hit from its current $13.9 million number, and/or parting ways with Jeff Heath, who would become solely a special-teams contributor if the Cowboys were to sign Thomas.
If DeMarcus Lawrence is franchise-tagged, , he'll count for approximately $19.6 million against the cap. And that's the number unless the sides are able to come to a long-term agreement that spreads out the guaranteed money over multiple years. Plus, the Cowboys will presumably negotiate extensions with Cooper, Dak Prescott, and maybe even Byron Jones.
No matter what moves they make, there should be room for Thomas on the books. Dallas has studiously avoided high-priced free-agent signings over the past several years and it would be slightly out of character for them to splurge on someone of Thomas' caliber, but he plays a position of need, has a history with defensive play-caller Kris Richard from their days in Seattle, and has wanted to play for the Cowboys for a while now. If they're making money the sticking point, they could be doing themselves a disservice.