Since the salary cap was implemented in 1994, the Cowboys have had to do some serious number-crunching. But you ain't seen nothin' yet. According to salary lists obtained by SI, the cap cost of Dallas's 13 highest-paid players in 1998 will be $43.53 million—roughly the projected salary cap for that year. Some of those players will be gone by then: Defensive end Charles Haley and tight end Jay Novacek, for example, may retire this season because of back problems, but the club's savings on their nonguaranteed salaries will be at least partially offset by whatever remains of their prorated signing bonuses. And with a total of 27 Cowboys under contract in '98 with a cap value of $50.12 million, the front office will have to renegotiate a bundle of deals before it can even think about filling its 53-man roster.
Among the players not yet signed for '98 are a couple of key starters: guard Larry Allen, a Pro Bowl player each of the past two years, and defensive tackle Chad Hennings. Nevertheless, Dallas owner Jerry Jones doesn't seem fazed. "Every time we make a decision, it's about winning in 1997," he says. "Everything else we do is far less important."
Below are the 13 highest-paid Cowboys signed for '98, with their ages at the start of that season.