Barry Church plans to prove he's a bargain

IRVING, Texas -- It bothered Barry Church to be considered the poster child for Jerry Jones’ foolish spending.

Yes, Church heard a lot of the moaning and groaning after the Cowboys signed him in October to a four-year contract extension worth up to $12.4 million, including $3.8 million guaranteed. He’s well aware that the Cowboys’ front office was heavily criticized for committing to a largely unproven player who had just undergone surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

“Every day, I try to go out there and prove to them -- even in practice -- that they made a good choice in signing me to a deal,” Church said. “I know a lot of people were upset about that, but I’m trying to prove the naysayers wrong.

“At first, it kind of stung, kind of hurt a little bit. Like, at least be happy for me. I got injured. At least be happy I got signed for a contract. But I just use it as motivation.”

At this point, the deal looks like a shrewd business move by the Cowboys.

The Cowboys fully expected Church to make a complete recovery, a confidence fueled in part by the character of an undrafted player who has had to earn every dime he made in the NFL, and fill one of their starting safety spots for years to come. The 25-year-old Church has been at full speed since the start of organized team activities and looked just as good during training camp as he did last year, when he won the starting job in convincing fashion.

The deal has always made financial sense for the Cowboys despite all the noise. As a restricted free agent, the Cowboys would have to commit at least $1.323 million to keep Church this season. Not coincidentally, that’s exactly what he counts against the cap in 2013.

Church’s cap figure next season will be $1.5 million, so the Cowboys essentially got a starting safety for two seasons near the minimum price to retain a restricted free agent. The cap figure grows to $2.25 million and $3.25 million in 2015 and 2016, neither of which is a high figure for a starting safety.

And, if Church disappoints, the Cowboys can cut him and take a relatively painless cap hit. By 2016, Church’s deal would leave only $500,000 in dead money. However, all indications are that the Cowboys locked up a starter in his prime to a team-friendly deal.

"They got me at a good number, kind of a bargain," Church said. "It’s kind of a bargain deal [for] a starting safety. I’m probably one of the lower-paid starting safeties in the league. If I ball out, it’s a bargain for our team.

"You won’t hear anybody talking about, 'Oh, he shouldn’t have gotten that deal.'"