DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys have an off-season pattern of mortgaging the future to take care of the now.
Now, we’re with a team that was 8-8 the last three years and $21 million over their projected salary cap heading into 2014. Most teams are well under.
So, how can the Cowboys get about $10 million under the cap so they have enough money to sign draft picks and other roster fillers?
One thing they can do is cut players on June 1. By waiting for June rather than cutting right now, the cap hit is spread over two years instead of one. But, it also means the money the Cowboys free up can't be used when free agents become available in March.
So, here are some candidates for the June 1 cut:
- DeMarcus Ware would be the toughest one to make because he's a great player and a fan favorite. But, he’ll count $16 million against the salary cap. Cutting Ware would free up $13 million this year.
- They could cut Brandon Carr and free up a bunch of money, but that's unlikely after they restructured him last year.
- Miles Austin is a likely candidate. He's been injured and ineffective the last couple years. That would save the cowboys $5.5 million.
If the Cowboys cut five players on June 1, they would free up $32.5 million. Keep in mind, they have to free up $21 million simply to get to the salary cap. The leftover $11 million can be used to sign other players.
Another option is to restructure contracts. This has been a favorite option of the Cowboys. Teams can restructure only the amount of the player's base salary for the following year. You can't restructure guaranteed bonus money.
Possibilities for this option include Tony Romo, who just signed a $100-million deal last off-season. By restructuring Romo, the team would save more than $9 million. They could redo DeMarcus Ware and save $8 .5 million.
The problem with restructuring players, especially older ones, is that you guarantee them more money in the future and they aren't getting any younger. But, Jerry Jones has repeatedly shown he’s loyal to his guys and overpays. So, expect a few of the big-money guys to be restructured. If they do these six, they free up just under $33 million dollars.
So, here's what we think the Cowboys should do. Again, these are broad strokes and doesn't include everything.
- We think the obvious choice is to cut Miles Austin on June 1.
- Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick just signed new deals in 2013. By restructuring the two young players, along with 27-year-old Brandon Carr, could free up $12 million total.
- Teams can begin cutting players Feb. 3. If you cut Phil Costa and Jeremy Parnell, you save $3 million.
- And then the big one: We decided cutting DeMarcus Ware on June 1 to save nearly $13 million was a better option than restructuring Tony Romo, a 34 year old coming off back surgery.
It wouldn’t be popular — and given Jerry Jones track record unlikely — but this is what we would do.
Once you do all this, all the Cowboys have to do is draft well and they're on their way.
Of course, that's a whole other conversation.