IRVING, Texas – For the last two months, we've talked about the Cowboys being around $20 million over the salary cap.
In a few hours on Thursday, they turned it around and are now under the cap.
And they're not exactly done creating cap space either with other deals expected to get restructured by the weekend.
But by the end of Thursday's business day, the Cowboys had officially restructured five players, including cornerback Brandon Carr, whose altered deal now saves the team nearly $11 million in cap space this year. DeMarcus Ware ($4 million), Miles Austin ($4 million) and Jason Witten ($3.6 million) all restructured the wording of their deals and moved some money around to help the Cowboys get under the cap.
Also, center Ryan Cook re-worked his deal and it's expected that guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff could also redo their contracts to give them even more space to be flexible in free agency.
Realistically, the Cowboys could get even further under the cap to place the franchise tag of $10.63 million on Anthony Spencer. Even if that occurred, it's unlikely the Cowboys would let Spencer play this season at that price. Last year, they franchised Spencer and he played all season at $8.8 million. But tagging him this year would likely be to buy more time to work out a long-term deal.
The Cowboys did make their first free-agent signing of the offseason as well, retaining long snapper L.P. Ladouceur. The eight-year veteran, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 12, inked a five-year deal that was worth around $4 million overall. Ladouceur is considering one of the NFL's best snappers, having arguably no errant snaps in his career as the snapper for field goals, extra points and punts.
Last weekend, both owner Jerry Jones and vice president Stephen Jones told reporters the Cowboys could get under the cap without signing Tony Romo to a new contract.
Unlike players such as Carr, Witten and Ware, whose new contracts had provisions already written in the language to redo, Romo's new deal will take some serious negotiations. The quarterback has altered his contract twice before to save some cash on the cap.
This deal is more about Romo getting a fair deal for the market, but one that fits the Cowboys' financial plans as well. [embedded_ad]
It's likely Romo's camp is waiting for Baltimore's Joe Flacco and/or Atlanta's Matt Ryan to re-sign their deals before agreeing to anything the Cowboys are offering. Still, it's expected Romo will probably land a contract that will pay him in the range of $16-19 million annually.
The Cowboys also have tackle Doug Free and linebacker Dan Connor on the books with contracts that might get altered, if not terminated. Free could save the Cowboys $7 million off the cap if he is released and designated a June 1 cut. There also have been talks about possibly moving him to guard. Either way, it's expected the Cowboys will want to lower his cap charge if he's still on the team.
Cutting Connor would save the Cowboys $3 million off the cap, but the club has reportedly approached him about lowering his base salary to return next year.
Overall, this offseason here at Valley Ranch could be considered a slow time, but Thursday was definitely an exception.