IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are now under the salary cap after cutting the center many thought could be the starter prior to last year’s draft.
The Cowboys cut Phil Costa and renegotiated the contract of Mackenzy Bernadeau on Friday, putting themselves in better position financially prior to the start of free agency on March 11, which is the beginning of the new league year and the time all teams must be under the cap.
The restructuring of Tony Romo, Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee already saved the Cowboys more than $16 million in cap space, and the move to release Costa saves another $1.5 million. Despite their continual cap restraints, the Dallas Cowboys will have no issue being under the new cap figure next week.
Costa appeared in only six games the last two seasons after starting all 16 games at center in 2011. He started three games at center in 2012 before injuries cut his season short. Costa, who signed a two-year deal worth $2.7 million last year, appeared in three games in 2013, but rookie Travis Frederick started all 16 games at center.
Costa’s been with the Cowboys since signing in Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of Maryland, playing in a total of 26 games with 20 starts. He didn’t take a pay cut, and the Cowboys decided to part ways with the center to help get under the cap.
The Cowboys also saved cap space by renegotiating Bernadeau, who came on strong at the end of the 2013 season after getting replaced by Brian Waters. Bernadeau started the first three games of the season before the change was made, and the offensive line remained a strong point of the team when Bernadeau returned to the starting lineup for the final eight games of the season. Bernadeau will challenge for a starting guard spot in 2014.
The Dallas Cowboys sat high above the projected cap figure just weeks ago but figured out a way to get under the cap relatively smoothly and much more easily than many (in the media) anticipated.
If nothing changes, Ware will count $16 million against the cap and Austin will count $8.25 million against the cap. The Cowboys can save $7.4 million by releasing Ware and $5.5 million by designating Austin a post-June 1 cut. Of course, the Dallas Cowboys could also rework Ware’s deal to save cap space if he’s willing to cooperate on a reduction.
RELATED: DeMarcus Ware will listen to Dallas Cowboys offer
Former Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Ware doesn’t want to take a pay cut but will listen to the Dallas Cowboys thoughts about a restructured deal.
He also hopes for a quick resolution.
The Cowboys informed Ware and representatives earlier this week about their need to lower his salary and cap figure. Ware is due a base salary of $12.25 million in 2014 with a salary cap hit of $16 million. The team would save $7.8 million if they cut Ware.
However, the Cowboys say they want the team’s all-time leading sacker back in 2014.
Ware will be 32 next season and recently underwent surgery for second consecutive off season. He had a career-low six sacks in 2013 when he has hampered by neck, quad and elbow injuries.
Ware expects to be back to his old dominant ways after surgery to repair nerve damage in his elbow last month. He will listen to the Cowboys thoughts on a restructured deal but remains hesitant about taking a major shave in salary.
Ware, who is shoo-in for the Cowboys’ hallowed Ring of Honor and likely future Hall of Famer, is expecting to draw a lot of interest on the free-agent market if he is released.
A decision on Ware would allow them to set a game plan for the start of free agency.
The Cowboys must address the defensive end position in the draft and free agency. Without Ware, it makes the situation even more acute because there are no players on the roster with his talent or prior production.
Even during an injury-plagued and limited 2013 campaign, Ware was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the ninth-most productive 4-3 defensive end as a pass-rusher and third in run-stop percentage. Ware was picked 11th overall by the Dallas Cowboys in 2005 NFL Draft. He has 117 sacks in nine years to rank first in team history and 18th in NFL history.