Football season is finally here, and with it begins my annual hope and frustration with the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys had a great run back in the 90’s, but the last time they won a playoff game was in 2009 vs the Eagles and it’s been close to 20 years since they went any deeper into the playoffs. Which is not to say that it has not been entertaining following them over the recent years. There have been many thrilling comebacks and heartbreaking last minute losses. This year there have been some big changes in the defense, and the salary cap has played a larger role than in years past.
I created this visualization to provide a graphical overview of the differences. You can click on the image to see the full size version. The area of each player’s box is proportional to their salary. Similarly, the players are grouped into positions, and then into Offense/Defense/Special Teams. A few things jump out right away:
- Overall spending on defense (as defined by the left column in each year) is way down in 2014. This is mainly due to the departure of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher from the lineup, and overall spending on the defensive line is down significantly this year, spread over a larger number of lesser known players. Only time will tell if the new line is able to be effective, but it does seem that the Cowboys were not getting the production that they were previously accustomed to from Ware last year.
- Star linebacker Sean Lee does not show up on the Defense in the 2014 season, because he has been moved to the Injured Reserve category (X-IR). This, combined with dead money space (X-DEAD) from the departure of Ware and Hatcher has created a huge dead money space for the Cowboys this year. This is money that cannot be used to play active players and that counts against the salary cap.
- The 2014 offense looks very similar to the 2013 offense, as seen in the next column to the right of the defense column. Miles Austin left for Cleveland so spending on receivers is down a bit, and spending on Tight Ends and Offensive Line is up a bit.
- The Cowboys still have a bit of free cap space to catch a player during the season. Like Michael Sam who they seem to be in the process of signing.
There’s my quick visual analysis of the changes for the Cowboys this season. My prediction for them this year: it could be a thrilling offense to watch, but unless some of the unproven defensive linemen can step up in a big way the could be in big trouble trying to stop opponents. As a lifelong Cowboys fan I would like to think they are a 11-5 division champion, but as a betting man I can’t give them much better than a 9-7 record with a possible wildcard spot.
[UPDATE: replaced visual with a better one having a horizontal layout and better color map]