By Matthew Postins
From the perspective of the Dallas Cowboys it’s an acknowledgement that Ratliff’s injury will leave him unable to help the team this season and that his salary is no longer worth carrying. In fact, it could well be an admission that Ratliff’s career might be in serious limbo.
Ratliff may or may not have rehabilitated his sports hernia the way the Cowboys wanted. In fact Ratliff’s agent, Mark Slough, characterized the injury as something much different than the Dallas Cowboys have characterized it since the offseason began.
“This was a very serious injury – muscle was ripped off the (pelvic) bone in two places,” Slough told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. “Tendons attached to the pelvis from inside the leg, from the abdomen at the top of the pelvis, were both ripped apart. It was a very vicious injury and takes a long time to heal. The expectation from the beginning was that it would take about a year.”
Ratliff’s release came after head coach Jason Garrett’s Wednesday press conference and no comment accompanied the team’s press release on Ratliff’s departure.
There may or may not have been miscommunication between Ratliff and the team, as widely reported earlier this season. Slough said there was none during the call. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said earlier this season that Ratliff was, at times, in charge of his own rehab. Slough says that wasn’t the case, though he admitted Ratliff’s relationship with the Cowboys’ medical staff could be characterized as strained.
He may or may not have been the right fit for the under tackle position in Monte Kiffin’s Cover 2 defense.
We’ll never really know. But one thing that is perfectly clear is that the enormous contract the Dallas Cowboys signed Ratliff to before the 2011 season was a stupendous mistake.
Ratliff received a five-year, $40 million contract extension with $18 million guaranteed. Ratliff was 30 years old when the Cowboys extended him. At the time, thanks to terrible drafts in the post-Bill Parcells era, the Cowboys had little depth at the tackle position and really had no choice but to overpay and hope that Ratliff could play out the contract.
He didn’t even get through the second year of the extension. He missed 10 games last year and never stepped foot on the field after pulling a hamstring during a conditioning test at the start of training camp.
This may go down as one of the worst contracts in Dallas Cowboys history, in terms of return on investment. And Jerry Jones and company has written some bad contracts.
So what now?
Well, on the field the Dallas Cowboys remain frightfully thin at defensive tackle. Jason Hatcher has been a revelation in the position that Ratliff was supposed to dominate. Journeyman Nick Hayden has been a nice surprise at the one-technique, but he’s likely not a long-term answer. Behind them? Well, there’s Drake Nevis, a third-year pro who was signed a month ago. He’s backing up Hatcher. Jarius Wynn, a former Super Bowl champion with Green Bay, was signed earlier this week to back up Hayden.
In other words, no one else needs to get hurt, especially with Anthony Spencer out for the season and DeMarcus Ware likely out at least this week with a quad injury.
By the way, Hayden is the only one under contract next year. So the Cowboys have to put together a plan for the future at defensive tackle, either through free agency or the draft.
Off the field, Ratliff’s contract will continue to have a residual impact on the Cowboys’ 2014 salary cap.
ESPNDallas.com reported on Wednesday that by cutting Ratliff now the Dallas Cowboys don’t save much money – just $625,000 in cap space in 2013. Based on remaining “dead money,” the Cowboys can expect to have to deal with a cap hit of $6.9 million from Ratliff’s onerous contract.
Numbers compiled by sports salary site Spotrac.com would seem to back that up. While NFL salary numbers are never quite absolute, let’s assume the cap hit is accurate. Ratliff’s $6.9 million in dead money joins the rest of the dead money on the Cowboys’ 2014 salary cap ledger.
The grand total? Right now it’s $11.67 million, according to Spotrac. That includes money that was committed to Nate Livings, Marcus Spears and Sean Lissemore. That goes on the end of the $130 million the Cowboys already have committed to players that are still under contract for 2014, meaning the Cowboys are already sitting on $142 million in cap money.
The 2013 NFL salary cap was $123 million. The 2014 cap is not going up by $20 million.
Ratliff’s contract will be a drag on the 2014 salary cap. But it will be gone by 2015. It’s temporary pain for long-term cap space.
Small consolation for a Cowboys team that desperately needed a healthy Ratliff this season.
Jay Ratliff’s statement to the media after his release:
“First, let me say thank you to the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones for taking a chance on me in 2005. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Cowboys, and it was always my desire to begin and end my career here in Dallas. But I understand this business, and now it’s time to move on, turn the page and begin again. To all my teammates, I want to wish them nothing but the best. Stay strong, keep fighting and always believe. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you, but I will always support you and value our time together. And lastly, to all the Cowboy fans, I want to say it was an honor to play for you. Cowboy fans are the best fans in the NFL, and I thank each and every one of you for the support and love you have shown to me these past nine years. I will miss you.”