The bad news is that the Cowboys, expected to be a playoff contender this season, went 6-10 for their fifth non-winning season in the last six seasons. The good news is they have two first-round picks and could have as much as $20 million in cap space.
The Cowboys have their own No. 11 pick, and they also have Buffalo's 20th choice for the trade last April when the Bills selected quarterback J.P. Losman.
But owner Jerry Jones said room under the cap doesn't necessarily mean the Cowboys will be big spenders.
"I'm not saying that we're going to pay a high price or give up a lot of our future to instantaneously be a Super Bowl contender," Jones said. "I'm not ready to do that because I'm skeptical that it's there for us."
Nevertheless, changes are coming for the Cowboys.
Coach Bill Parcells laid down the edict during a 30-minute meeting with Cowboys players and assistant coaches Monday morning at Valley Ranch. His message was, not surprisingly, strong and emotional, coming on the heels of a last-second, 28-24 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday that slapped an ugly bow on an uglier 6-10 season.
"Things are going to be different," he told his players. "Changes will be made."
He wasn't simply talking about signing a few free agents in the offseason. In "changes," Parcells included cutting Cowboys players who were not earning their fat paychecks. He told his players the team had the salary-cap room necessary to trim the unnecessary pork.
He also hinted changes are likely to his coaching staff and elsewhere in the organization.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did not attend the meeting, but Jones and Parcells are expected to sit down later in the week to begin formulating an offseason plan. Parcells, like Jones, was practically dripping with disappointment after Sunday's game.
"He couldn't even really speak to us last night after the game, he was so emotional," cornerback Lance Frazier said. "He was really disappointed. He just saved all the talking for this (Monday) morning. He just really let the team as a whole know where we all stood.
"He didn't single anybody out, and he wasn't disrespectful in any way. He spoke to a lot of different classes of people on the team. He just went down the line and put it out there and let everybody know as a team where they stand."
Parcells did not speak to the media Monday nor is he expected to in the near future.
He said plenty Sunday, though, when he eviscerated some of his players for lacking mental and physical toughness, smarts, heart and just about everything else necessary to be a successful football team.
"I'll tell you what I told the players," Parcells said. "The team hasn't changed since the preseason. They are pretty much the same all year long. Inconsistent, a pretty good percentage of the guys fighting to do well and then another percentage that is more than you can tolerate."
The intolerable elements are as good as gone, which likely means there is a greater-than-zero chance defensive end Marcellus Wiley will not return. If his lackluster season did not guarantee his release, his remark "if everyone would have told me all this would have occurred, I would not have stepped foot in Texas" did.
Neither right guard Andre Gurode nor left tackle Flozell Adams took a verbal flamethrower to Parcells, but they could be on shaky ground. Adams added another uninspired performance to his collection Sunday. Gurode did not start the season finale and has yet to show coaches he can do the job.
Another player who might have played his final game for the Cowboys is linebacker Dexter Coakley. Not only does his salary cap figure leave him vulnerable, but the Cowboys have been trying to replace him with Bradie James all season. He is likely gone if the Cowboys decide to abandon the 4-3 defensive scheme in favor of the 3-4.
"Ever since I got here, somebody has been always challenging me for my position," Coakley said. " ... I would have liked to make more plays, but you know, circumstances maybe didn't allow me to -- but that's just football."
Coakley, like most of his teammates, realizes that when you have a season like the Cowboys had, changes are coming.
Parcells simply reinforced that idea with his speech Monday. Everybody who left the meeting, players and coaches alike, realize Parcells will not tolerate a repeat of 2004. He is going to rebuild this team in his image with physically and mentally tough playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Retool or Revamp?
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