Stephen Jones: Time to evaluate core

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones put a jolt into things Wednesday morning when he talked about evaluating the core group of players.

This core would include Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jay Ratliff, Marcus Spears, Miles Austin and Anthony Spencer. High-priced players such as Brandon Carr, Doug Free, Gerald Sensabaugh and Orlando Scandrick could also be included.

"I think so," Jones told KRLD-FM when asked about the Cowboys evaluating their talent. "Anytime you go through a season you have to evaluate what type of season they had. With each player, there’s significant money attached, especially to your core group of guys. And if they’re not playing to their money then you certainly have to take a look at it because we’re one of those teams that, to be real candid with you, we’re up against the cap next year, I mean up against it tight."

As Todd Archer pointed out Wednesday, the Cowboys are over the projected $121 million salary cap for 2013 by roughly $20 million with only 44 players under contract.

The Cowboys have several issues to make regarding the salary cap. They can rework some contracts to lower cap numbers and create salary cap space and of course they can release players. For instance, releasing Ratliff saves the team $1 million and making Free a post June 1 cut gives the Cowboys $7 million in savings.

Romo enters the final year of his contract in 2013, and both sides would like to extend the deal. Spencer could become a free agent unless the team places the franchise tag on him again.

Free has struggled this season, and the Cowboys have to wonder if this an off year for their starting right tackle who is scheduled to make $7 million in base salary in 2013 with a cap number of $10.02 million.

Ratliff missed the first four games of the 2012 season with an ankle injury and then missed the Washington game on Thanksgiving Day with a groin injury. The Cowboys have to figure out if the rigors of playing nose tackle for several years are taking a toll on Ratliff. He is scheduled to make $5 million in base salary in 2013 with a $7 million cap number.

"We certainly can’t afford to overlook mediocrity if a player’s had a mediocre season," Jones said. "But he’s being paid to have a great season. Those things have to be addressed. We’ll certainly continue to look at that."