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How Anthony Barr signing hardly affects Cowboys’ cap space, but is big for defense

Whether one agrees with the philosophy or not, and rest assured most Cowboys fans on social media fall in the latter category, one thing is for sure. Dallas executive VP and CEO Stephen Jones fully commits to his philosophy. After years of chasing the big free agent prize such as CB Brandon Carr in 2012, Greg Hardy in 2015 and a failed attempt at Sammy Watkins in 2018, Jones has kept the Cowboys near the cap limit by signing mid-level deals with mid-level free agents. But in 2022, he avoided the Keanu Neal, Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy types and just stacked his chips for another day.

He still made the judicious low-risk signings that barely impacted the cap like he did in uncovering Jayron Kearse and rediscovering Malik Hooker last season. That was attempted with guys like WR James Washington and FB Ryan Nall. He even reached an in-between, bringing in Edge Dante Fowler, Jr. for just under $3 million. Jones wants to carry as much cap space as possible into the future for signing young talent such as CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs — both eligible for extensions this coming offseason — and eventually Micah Parsons. But he is sticking to his word that if the opportunity to improve the team comes along for the right price, he’d jump. And he did so by bringing in four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr for relatively little expense.

Details of Barr’s deal

Barr’s deal is reportedly for only one season, with a base salary of $2 million. He has incentives (as of yet undisclosed) that could increase that total up to $3 million.

The amounts make him Dallas’ second-most expensive free agent of the 2022 class, but it’s a far cry from what he was scheduled to do in Minnesota before his departure.

Coming off his fourth-consecutive Pro Bowl, Barr agreed to a five-year, $67.5 million deal heading into the 2019 season, but he never again reached that peak performance. He played just 16 games over the next two seasons, including only two in 2020 and restructured the last three years of his deal down to a single-year, $10 million deal that led to his 2022 free agency.

Impact on Cap Space

The Cowboys began the day with around $22.5 million in cap space, and unused space can be rolled over to next year’s league-wide cap totals. Earlier in the day, Dallas released rookie UDFA LB Aaron Hansford, an indication a move was on the way.

Depending on how Barr’s incentives are structured (likely or not likely to be earned based on his 2021 stats), the deal will at most move Dallas down to $19.5 million of remaining cap space.

The club could still add at other needed positions, including at wide receiver where things are dangerously thin after Washington’s injury. But the club expects to get both him and Michael Gallup back before midseason, so they may instead choose to keep the purse strings tight.

What Barr brings to the table

We checked in with Vikings Wire managing editor Jordy McElroy to hear from someone who covered Barr last season. Here’s what he had to say.

“Don’t let the age fool you when it comes to Anthony Barr’s abilities as a playmaker, particularly when he’s dropping back into coverage. Just last season, he totaled five pass deflections and three interceptions, despite playing in only 11 games.

He’s also a viable pass-rusher when given the green light to run loose. The eight-year veteran has built a career off his versatility, and if he stays healthy, the Cowboys will benefit from that immensely.

But the important word here is “if.”

Barr spent a good amount of the offseason recovering from a lingering knee injury. You’d also have to go all the way back to 2017 to find a year where he played for the entire season. He’s only played 13 games in the last two seasons combined.

Age and attrition are starting to set in, but even when the 2021 Walter Payton Man of the Year award finalist is not on the field, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better locker room leader and flat-out human being than Barr .”

How Barr’s role may differ in Dallas

It’s the pass-rush role that is most intriguing to some, especially this writer. Mike Zimmer ran a 4-3 defense and utilized Barr as a strong-side linebacker who occasionally rushed the passer but was never featured that way.

With the Cowboys? Barr will be reunited with George Edwards and get to work with Dan Quinn, who just last season sculpted the hybrid role for Micah Parsons. The Cowboys now have a former Pro Bowl player capable of backing up Parsons.

Should an injury occur, the Cowboys didn’t have anyone who could come close to mimicking Parsons’ flexibility, but now they do in Barr. He can rush, he can drop into coverage and he can pursue ball carriers.

The Cowboys had depth for virtually every defensive position, except for someone to do what Parsons does. Now, they do and for just $2 million of insurance who can also be on the field in a more typical LB role, that’s a huge deal. In a little one.



Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire