Snaps Lost: Dallas Cowboys
The “Snaps Lost” series is a detailed look at the playing time void created by players that have left each team this offseason, whether they were traded, cut, left in free agency, or retired.
Because each unit plays a different number of snaps over the course of the year, we have created the “Full Time Equivalent” metric. FTE is the total number of missing snaps divided by the number of plays the team ran on that side of the ball. This is an equivalent measure of how many full time players (100% snap count) the team would need to add on to make up for their offseason losses, even though very few players actually play a full snap count.
For example, if a team had 1,100 snaps on offense and then lost seven players who combined to play 2,200 snaps, their FTE would be 2.0 (2,200/1,100). This ensures that a team who lost a high volume of players only has a high FTE if those players racked up some significant playing time. FTE can only fall between zero (no players left the team) and 11 (fire everyone!) for each side of the ball.
Each team will have a ranking following their FTE, with the first-ranked team in each category (offense, defense, and total) representing the team with the smallest portion of their playing time in need of replacement.
A few caveats before getting into the good stuff:
-Suspensions and injuries that may limit 2015 snap counts are not considered.
-Biggest Losses are purely in terms of snap count, not necessarily in terms of impact.
-All snap counts are Regular Season only.
Overall FTE Lost: 4.18, 9th
FTE Lost: 1.25, 3rd
Biggest Losses: DeMarco Murray (800), Jeremy Parnell (388)
Summary – All the offseason banter was about whether the Cowboys would be willing and able to keep Murray. While they could not afford him in the end with Dez Bryant on the franchise tag, their third place ranking here indicates that they kept almost everyone else instead. One of 2014’s best offenses should continue to be productive, as losing Parnell to the Jaguars was the only other real blow on that side of the ball.
Replacement Plan – Parnell is easily taken care of if Doug Free stays healthy, and in terms of performance, the two are comparable even if Free is getting up there in age. Dallas’ offensive line does much of the heavy lifting in the running game, but someone is still on the hook for Murray’s 800 snaps. Darren McFadden was scooped up after a few subpar years in Oakland, and if he continues to play as he has in the past we’ll be seeing a lot more of Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle in 2015 instead.
FTE Lost: 2.93, 18th
Biggest Losses: Sterling Moore (752), Bruce Carter (527), George Selvie (515), Henry Melton (433), Anthony Spencer (384)
Summary – The Cowboys aren’t quite so fortunate on the defensive side of the ball, where they find themselves in the middle of the pack in FTE. Moore (+6.0) turned in a solid year and has joined the Bucs for 2015 on a short term contract. Carter joins him in Tampa, but on a four-year deal. Along the defensive line, Melton’s back-loaded contract all but ensured Dallas would cut him after his initial season. Melton hit the market again, and as has become the theme, he too will be a Buccaneer for the 2015 campaign. Selvie and Spencer open up the defensive end position, as both took low cost deals elsewhere this offseason.
Replacement Plan – With Moore out, the nickel corner position will likely be an open competition between first-round pick Byron Jones and former first-round pick Morris Claiborne. Claiborne hasn’t exactly lit it up in the Cowboys’ secondary, so this should be an interesting position battle. Rolando McClain played just under 70% of the snaps in games in which he was active, and if he becomes an every-down linebacker and stays healthy he could nearly make up for Carter’s loss on his own. Greg Hardy was brought in to replace Selvie and Spencer, but with a massive suspension for the 2015 season he’ll need help from second-round pick Randy Gregory, though DeMarcus Lawrence could easily double his 223 snaps from last year. Tyrone Crawford and Nick Hayden could each see a modest increase in snaps, but Melton’s departure will more likely be covered by Terrell McClain or another rotational tackle.