How Cowboys could spend Orton's money

OXNARD, Calif. – When Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones attempted to explain the club’s decision to release backup quarterback Kyle Orton, he referenced the possibility of using some of the money gained in that move on different players.

The Cowboys gained $3.25 million in cash and $2.7 million in cap space with the move, bringing them close to $11 million under the cap.

Jones was asked if using that money on players like Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith or DeMarco Murray was a priority.

“It’s all fungible,” Jones said. “It will go to that and other things. A dollar that you’re not paying to a player or under one contract does not have a single place to go or a single goal. We know how that works. Certainly, to the extent that we can do some things with some key players, such as Dez Bryant, we can do some things with Tyron, we will do that. But it also keeps your powder dry to do something if you get an opportunity as you go into the season. I wouldn’t preclude that at all. We’re in the business of using those resources and can.”

Bryant and Murray are entering the final year of their contracts. The Cowboys picked up the fifth-year option on Smith’s deal in the spring, guaranteeing him a spot through 2015 but they would like to sign him to a long-term deal as soon as possible.

The Cowboys have had talks with the agents for Bryant and Smith but things have been quiet with Murray, who is coming off his first 1,000-yard season.

By waiting until July to release Orton, however, the Cowboys passed on a chance to either keep DeMarcus Ware or Jason Hatcher or another player when free agency began. For all of the talk of salary-cap hell, the Cowboys could have operated under what had been their normal operating procedures and restructured Ware’s deal and offered a ballooned deal to Hatcher.

The Cowboys were bargain shoppers in adding guys like Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Brandon Weeden. While they would not have offered Ware the deal he got from the Denver Broncos, they could have made him a Terrell Suggs-like offer in Baltimore ($16 million guaranteed). The Cowboys never made an offer to Ware before cutting him and he quickly signed with Denver, getting $20 million guaranteed.

It’s clear the Cowboys believe Ware is a descending player, but given the additions they made, would you bet he has more sacks than any of them in 2014?

“I know on paper -- on paper -- we’re a better team with our defense than we were, on paper, that was lined up against Philadelphia in our last game of the year,” Jones said. “We’re better, we’ve got better players. Now, DeMarcus wasn’t on the field when we lined up – not the DeMarcus you and I know was not on the field. We’ve got guys that are in this training camp that can run this defense and make us a better defense that alone than the one that lined up against Philadelphia. Now, last year at this time when I was talking to you and we had those guys lined up across there – DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Hatcher, we had yet to see Hatcher have that big year like he had, and Spencer. Boy, that looked good on paper. So I think we’re a better team there and can play better defense apart from the fact that the way our staff is planning to manage it.”