Over the Salary Cap: Not a Problem for the Dallas Cowboys (Part 1)


Dec 22, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) throws the ball against the Washington Redskins in the second quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL season is almost over and the Dallas Cowboys have finally been put out of their misery. As we head into another NFL offseason, we look to free agency and the draft for reasons for optimism. But standing somewhere around $21M+ (low-end projection) over the salary cap, Dallas will be hard-pressed to find the quick fix. But it is fixable.

In this 2 Part Series we will look at the adjustments and tough decisions the Cowboys must make to get under the Salary Cap in 2014.

Part 1

Dec 22, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) scrambles from Washington Redskins outside linebacker Rob Jackson (50) in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. Romo was injured on the play and is out for the season. The Cowboys won 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Romo

$21M over the salary cap isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. It’s bad enough to qualify as the worst in the league, but it is manageable. 2014 is the first year on Romo’s massive extension so the Cowboys can easily move the money owed to later years.

This will not reduce the overall value of his contract but rather, “kick the can” down the road a bit further (See also, US long-term economic strategies).

This strategy isn’t sound policy but it does give year-to-year flexibility for a while. The Cowboys (and many other franchises) have been doing this for years already, so continuing the practice is expected. Romo currently stands to make $21,773,000 in 2014 so moving 75% or so, would do wonders for the Dallas Cowboys and is easily achievable.

Note: IF the Cowboys do not restructure Romo’s deal we should see this as a big red flag waving in front of our faces. The only reason they would not restructure Romo is if they think he may not make it back after his back surgery. If they thought that would be the case, they would keep money on the 2014 season in order to spread the cost (and total cap impact into 3 seasons). The $51M guaranteed on his deal would then be spread over those three years.

Nov 24, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin (19) is unable to catch a pass against New York Giants strong safety Antrel Rolle (26) during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Miles Austin

After the Tony Romo restructuring, taking care of the Miles Austin situation becomes top priority. Once upon a time Miles Austin was thought of as one of the great up-and-coming WRs in the NFL. On top of his physical talents, he’s a fantastic person and teammate.

But sadly none of that is enough.

Since signing his mega-deal, Austin has been perpetually injured (See, Miles Austin Donates Hamstrings to Science). He’s missed games every season since, and when he has been cleared to play, injuries limited his effectiveness.  His contract and cap number have been so large it has been impossible to cut or trade him – until now.

Realistically, 2014 is the first year the Cowboys can cut Austin and save money. When a player is cut or traded all guaranteed money becomes due. His cap charge in 2014 is a paltry $8,248,400. If he is cut or traded (although he has no trade value with this contract) he will still cost $7,855,600 in dead money. That’s why fans should expect him to be a designated June 1st cut. Doing so would spread the cap hit of dead money over 2014 and 2015.

Restructuring Romo and cutting Austin could clear around $15M in cap space. But additional moves will be needed not clear the $21M mark. Even worse is the fact that while the Cowboys are projected to be $21M over the cap, the reality is they need to clear at least another $10M to fill in some roster holes and to sign draft picks. Clearing $31M is a whole lot harder than clearing $21M wouldn’t you say?

In Part 2 we will look at the next round of players that need to be addressed. Players like Ware, Witten, Carr, Lee, Scandrick and more… Later this morning we will look at those plays and their impact on the Cowboy’s Salary Cap.