When they were figuring their salary cap future last summer, the Cowboys expected things to be even tighter in 2012 than they were in 2011.
That changed a bit when they made somewhat unexpected moves to release Andre Gurode and Igor Olshansky before the season started. All the cap space they saved in 2011 can be rolled over into 2012.
"We've done an outstanding job. I give Stephen (Jones) a lot of credit," Jerry said of his son, the team's director of player personnel, at the Senior Bowl this week. "This is a year, we thought it would be Armageddon for us - this year. But we were able to do some things with the cap that gives us a chance to have some room to improve this team this year. And we will use it."
The Cowboys will carry roughly $28 million in dead money on this year's cap, the remainder of prorated bonuses for guys like Leonard Davis, Roy Williams and Marion Barber. Still, the team has money to spend, and can create even more room by releasing cornerback Terence Newman, a move that is widely aticipated, and through a few other strokes of their pen.
They expect to be completely out of cap hell by next year, with very little dead money projected for 2013, but should still have around $20 million to spend on this year alone.
The same is true for a lot of other teams, though. The Cowboys are currently in the top half of the league in terms of cap space, and could easily jump into the top third, but will still be well behind some other teams.
Kansas City leads the league in money to spend, currently projected at some $63 million below the salary cap for 2012. Tampa Bay is right there as well, after they found few takers in free agency last season.
So while the Cowboys will be able to do pretty much whatever they want in free agency, just know that they're not the only ones.