Dallas Cowboys: Best Roster Value in the NFC East

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 8, 2013

Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (97) prepares to rush the passer during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

There are literally hundreds—if not trillions—of ways to measure the success of NFL players, coaches and teams.

People who don't like to compute or use their brains will tell you that there's only one. That is, whatever is in the win column. However, things are never that simple.

Since none of the NFC East's four teams won the Super Bowl this past season, we're forced to find other ways to quantify their progress. 

Pro Football Focus has become quite good at doing that, and their latest awesome pursuit has delved into the value NFL teams got out of their rosters in 2012. 

Interestingly, while the Dallas Cowboys finished in third place in the division with an 8-8 record, PFF concluded that the Cowboys got more value out of their players than anyone else in the NFC East and any other non-playoff team in the league

They use their grading system to determine a player's worth and then compare that to his cap number in order to determine his performance-based value.

For example, Jason Hatcher counted only $2.1 million against the cap in 2012, but the defensive lineman was worth $8.9 million based on his 25.7 rating. That's some serious value.

Ultimately, PFF found that the Cowboys had 10 undervalued players (Hatcher, Sean Lee, DeMarco Murray, Anthony Spencer, Bruce Carter, Nate Livings, Tony Romo, Josh Brent, Jason Witten and Ryan Cook) who had a positive value of $2 million or more. Only three overvalued players (Jay Ratliff, Doug Free and Marcus Spears) had negative values that exceeded that plateau. 

Ultimately, they wound up with a team value differential of plus-$18.4 million, causing PFF's Nathan Jahnke to conclude that "the Cowboys are actually doing a decent job of getting the most out of their players."

Reading comments from Cowboys fans on this blog, you'd never believe that to be the case. 

Of course, PFF ratings aren't perfect and cap numbers don't always represent what a player is actually being paid over the course of his contract, but this is still an indicator that Dallas is doing something right. 

Consider all of the injuries the Cowboys dealt with in 2012, particularly on defense, and it makes sense. It's amazing that this team was in contention right up until the final week of the regular season, and I think that's a big reason why they're going all in for 2013. 

The only five teams that drew stronger performance-based value totals than Dallas were the 49ers, Patriots, Seahawks, Broncos and Texans, and the only other team to make the top 10 but not the playoffs was Oakland

Washington came in second place in the division and was almost smack dab on the median with a value differential of plus-$0.1 million. The Giants were just below the middle of the pack at minus-$4.3 million, while the Eagles were, unsurprisingly, dead last in the NFC East and ninth from the bottom of the league at minus-$8.7 million.

With that being said, things are looking up in Philadelphia. Five of the 10 players on the Eagles' "overvalued" list have either been released or have restructured their contracts.