The Party's Over
Salary cap realities could bring Dallas back down to earth
Greene's ill-timed brag
Walsh's tough task
While Reba McEntire and her-band entertained the 2,500 guests at the Cowboys' victory party on Sunday night, Dallas vice president Stephen Jones took time from the celebrating to ponder the Cowboys' future. As Dallas's salary capologist, Jones is the guy responsible for having signed all but two of the Cowboys' stars—Super Bowl MVP cornerback Larry Brown and safety Darren Woodson—to long-term deals.
But Jones, 31, is also the son of Dallas owner Jerry Jones, and sometimes that's the hardest part of his job. One night last September when Stephen and Jerry were negotiating with Deion Sanders's agent, Eugene Parker, Stephen wanted to pop his father in the jaw. Stephen had carefully planned the Cowboys' salary structure to ensure long-term success, and Jerry wanted to give Sanders a potentially cap-wrecking $13 million bonus. The Joneses were in one room of a suite in the Mansion at Turtle Creek in Dallas, heatedly discussing their options, while Parker was on the phone with his client in another room. When Jerry decided to pay Sanders the enormous bonus, he started walking toward Parker's room. Stephen, however, blocked his path and balled up his fists.
"Stephen," Jerry said incredulously, "what are you going to do, hit me?"
"I'm thinking about it!" Stephen said.
"Get out of the way," Jerry said. "I'm going to make the deal."
The rest is history: Sanders signed a seven-year, $35 million contract (including that $13 million up front), the Cowboys went on to win their third Super Bowl in four years, and Stephen laughed about the incident on Sunday night. "Hey, it paid off," he said. "We won. When you're in position to win, you have to do everything you can to try to get there, which is what we did."
The party won't last for the Joneses and the Cowboys, because numbers don't lie. In 1996 Dallas has 36 players under contract at a total outlay of $40 million, roughly $2 million under the estimate for next season's salary cap. Every offensive starter is signed, though the Cowboys will likely reward running back Emmitt Smith and quarterback Troy Aikman by extending their contracts. Look for Dallas to offer Smith and Aikman big signing bonuses, which would give the Cowboys some cap relief in the short run because bonuses are prorated over the life of the contract. However, giving so many players large signing bonuses will eventually wreak havoc on the Cowboys' salary cap in future years.
In fact, the defense could be razed soon. Doubtful to return next season because Dallas won't have room under the cap to re-sign them to handsome raises are Brown, Woodson, linebackers Dixon Edwards and Robert Jones, safety Brock Marion and defensive tackle Russell Maryland. And Brown's price tag jumped even higher with his two-interception performance against the Steelers.