The Dallas Cowboys should rework these deals to create much-needed Salary cap room
By Matthew Postins
Earlier this week we profiled the overall salary cap situation for the Dallas Cowboys today we start maneuvering to get the Cowboys under the cap. Then we looked at five players the Cowboys should consider signing to contract extensions.
Now, we’ll look at five players that the Cowboys should consider asking to restructure their deals. The Cowboys have several players who count for large cap numbers in 2014 and their contracts could be reworked. Of course, that means deferring the pain until later on down the line, but the Cowboys really have no choice, given they’re up to $25 million over the salary cap.
So which five players should the Cowboys approach to re-work their deals? Here’s our list.
QB Tony Romo (counts $21.7 million against the 2014 salary cap). This one is a given. In fact, when the Cowboys signed Romo to his contract extension last year they smartly worked in a large amount of base salary. That’s important because when taking a player’s contract and reworking it, the easiest way to do so is to take their base salary and convert it into guaranteed money. By doing that a team that can take that converted base salary and spread it out over the length of the contract. It will inflate the player’s cap hit down the line, but sometimes it’s necessary. Romo’s base salary is $13.5 million. Some or all of that could be converted. Use Brandon Carr’s reworked deal a year ago as a guide. Last year Carr had a base salary of $14.3 million for the 2013 season. The Cowboys lowered his base salary to $715,000 for 2013, converted the rest to a signing bonus and saved $13.5 million. Of course, Carr’s cap hits at the end of the deal are rather beastly. But a reworked Romo deal for 2014 could save the Cowboys about $12.5 million, assuming the Cowboys pay Romo a veteran minimum base salary for 2014.
DE DeMarcus Ware (counts $16 million against the 2014 salary cap). There is a school of thought that the Cowboys will cut Ware instead of restructuring his deal (and we’ll explore that in our five players to cut article later this week). Ware told reporters after the season that he was comfortable reworking his deal for cap space, but not taking a pay cut, a la Doug Free a year ago. Ware reworked his deal a year ago and it would be no surprise to see the Cowboys ask him to do it again, working under the assumption that elite players like Ware stay elite longer than other players. Right now Ware’s 2014 base salary is $12.250 million, so, like Romo, much of that could be converted from base salary to a restructure bonus. He could help save the Cowboys up to $11 million. But, the Cowboys will probably use a lower figure, if history is a guide. Ware has reworked his deal for three straight seasons, accepting restructure bonuses of $6.515 million (2011), $3.675 million (2012) and $5.16 million (2013). So the Cowboys will probably ask him to rework is salary in that range for the second reason. This offseason is the first of four offseasons where Ware counts at least $14 million against the salary cap each season. His deal is already pretty dangerously backloaded, given his age and injury issues the past two years.
LB Sean Lee (counts $7.5 million against the 2014 salary cap). Didn’t Lee just sign a contract extension? Yep, sure did. Six years, $42 million. But given that Lee is just starting the deal, the Cowboys could ask him to accept most of his $5.5 million base salary as a bonus and apply the difference to cap savings. Lee is entering his fifth NFL, which means his veteran minimum base salary is only $730,000. So a reworked base salary for 2014 could save the Cowboys more than $4 million.
TE Jason Witten (counts $8.4 million against the 2014 salary cap). The Cowboys restructured Witten’s deal a year ago, giving him a $4.65 million restructure bonus and lowering his base salary to $940,000. With $5 million in base salary for 2014, the Cowboys could ask Witten to do the same thing and save about $4 million in cap space.
CB Brandon Carr (counts $12.2 million against the 2014 salary cap). The Cowboys could restructure Carr for the second straight season and save about $6.25 million in cap space, converting his $7.5 million base salary into a restructure bonus. The downside is that Carr’s deal becomes dangerously backloaded.
Next: The five contract the Cowboys could cut.
Information compiled from Spotrac.com, Overthecap.com, the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, ESPNDallas.com, CBSSports.com and USAToday.com was used in this report.