That time is now, and so it’s no surprise the club has exercised a restructure clause that was placed in the deal that frees up about $10 million in cap space. It reverts his scheduled $21.7 million base salary down to $11.7 million, and more importantly for the club, helps the Cowboys get closer to the projected $134 million salary cap.
Romo becomes the third player in two days to have his contract restructured for salary-cap relief (see below). The Cowboys did the same with cornerback Orlando Scandrick and linebacker Sean Lee. Those moves saved about $7.5 million.
With free agency set to begin on March 11, which is the start of the new league calendar year, the Dallas Cowboys and all teams must be under the cap.
Last year, the Cowboys found a way to shave about $30 million in cap space to not only get under the cap, but also clear enough room to pay Anthony Spencer his $10.63 million franchise tag. The Cowboys did not issue the franchise tag this year and Spencer is one of nine unrestricted free agents, along with defensive tackle Jason Hatcher.
To try and sign either player, the Cowboys will need to get more room under the cap, but they can do that by cutting a few more veterans.
Wide receiver Miles Austin is expected to be one of them, but it likely won’t happen until March 11. If the Cowboys make Austin a post-June 1 cut, they cannot do that before the new league year. Cutting him now only saves the team about $450,000 in cap space but they can save $5.5 million by designating him a June 1 cut. However, while Austin would be released and free to sign with any team, that money won’t be off the Cowboys’ books until June 1.
Of course, DeMarcus Ware’s future has been cloudy as team owner and GM Jerry Jones said a decision needs to be made on the club’s all-time sack leader. If Ware is released, the Cowboys would save about $7.5 million, but it appears the two sides will first attempt to either restructure his deal or come to an agreement on a lower base salary, possibly one with incentives that can get Ware close to his scheduled $12 million base salary if he performs at a high level. Ware, who underwent elbow surgery last month, has battled through various injuries the last two years, but the three games he missed in 2013 with a quad injury are the only three he’s missed in his career.
Other veterans who could be waived for salary-cap reasons are linebacker Justin Durant, which would save $1.2 million, and center Phil Costa, which would free up about $1.5 million.
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IRVING, Texas – As expected, the Dallas Cowboys have started the process to get themselves under the salary cap, which is now projected to be around $133 million.
The increased cap of nearly $10 million will help the Cowboys, but they’ve still get work to do. It has started with the scheduled restructures of both linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Both players signed new deals and/or extensions last season. But the Cowboys put these scheduled restructures in the language of the contract, knowing they could and likely would, be utilized this offseason.
The moves save the Cowboys nearly $7.8 million in space, by turning the base salaries into signing bonuses and pushing back the bulk of the contract into later years. The same procedure will likely be done with Tony Romo, who also signed a new deal last March. The restructure will probably net another $10 million in cap room, which would put them close to the $133 million.
The Cowboys can still create more room by cutting veteran players such as Miles Austin ($5.5 million if he’s a post June 1 cut) and center Phil Costa, who will save them about $1.5 million. Justin Durant could get released and save the team another $1.2 million.
And it’s likely DeMarcus Ware won’t be playing for that $16 million cap charge. Either he agrees to a lower base or simply a new contract, or Ware could be outright released, in a move that saves the team about $7.5 million.
Restructuring Brandon Carr’s contact is another option but the team did the same last year and after a down season from the veteran cornerback, it’s not a procedure the Dallas Cowboys will be comfortable in making. Pushing back money only makes him tougher to release should he have another season in 2014 similar to last year, when he gave up too many big plays, including a 329-yard performance to Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
The Cowboys need to get under the cap by March 11 and will certainly get there in time, like they’ve done every year.