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Offseason | 2022

Cowboys' 10 Biggest Cap-Saving Contracts For 2022


When it comes to the coaching staff, the Cowboys were able to retain both coordinators – something that didn't seem that possible even a few weeks ago.

But as for the players, that might be a different story. This team has 21 unrestricted free agents, including about 10 who were regular starters.

Factor in that the Cowboys are around $20 million over the cap right now, and it seems likely that more than a few of these key contributors will be playing on other teams next year.

With free agents such as Randy Gregory, Dalton Schultz, Jayron Kearse, Michael Gallup, Connor Williams, Leighton Vander Esch, Bryan Anger and Cedrick Wilson, there's probably no way the Cowboys can keep them all.

So how do they start getting under the cap? For one, restructuring contracts will always be a tactic. Players like Dak Prescott can expect his contract to be redone, which would free up close to $10 million on the cap.

But the other way is to release some players on the roster who are still under contract, especially the ones that are counting a hefty price against next year's cap.

Here's a list of 10 players who would save the most money off the books if released or traded before June 1.

  • Amari Cooper – $16 million
  • DeMarcus Lawrence – $8 million
  • Tyron Smith – $5.4 million
  • Anthony Brown – $5 million
  • Blake Jarwin – $ 3.8 million
  • Zack Martin – $3.14 million
  • Connor McGovern – $2.54 million
  • Greg Zuerlein – $2.4 million
  • Jourdan Lewis – $2.3 million
  • Tarell Basham – $1.7 million

For those who are looking at players such as Ezekiel Elliott, remember that cutting him would actually save no money towards the cap. In fact, doing so would cost the Cowboys an additional $11 million on the cap with more than $30 million in dead money.

So not all players are good options to save money. For example, Prescott's cap number would jump from about $34 million to $77 million if he were released or traded.

But those previously listed 10 might make more sense. However, there's another factor that needs to be considered when talking about saving money: These players usually need to be replaced, which of course costs money as well.

Look at the left tackle position. Tyron Smith is counting about $17 million on the cap next year, but if he were to be cut, it saves the Cowboys around $5 million. While his entire contract, which expires after 2023, would be wiped off the books, the Cowboys still need a replacement.

Yes, the Cowboys would save $5 million if they cut Smith, but looking at tackles who make $5 million per season, that would link them to a player such as Cam Fleming, who was here in Dallas in 2020.

Once again, not all players make sense to release. Just look at Zack Martin. He ranks sixth on this list at $3.14 million, but considering that he's arguably the most consistent player on the team and is usually an All-Pro when healthy, those savings don't make sense for the Cowboys to even consider such a move.

Another factor in this topic is the post-June 1 release. If players are cut after that deadline, there is a bigger savings on the cap this year because the proration or "dead money" is spread out over the next two seasons.

Teams usually don't wait until June 1 to cut players. NFL rules allow teams to designate two players for a June 1 cut, meaning they can be released in March, but the savings can apply to a post-June 1 release.

Here are the top-10 player-savings for post June 1 cuts:

  • Amari Cooper – $20 million
  • DeMarcus Lawrence – $19 million
  • Tyron Smith – $13.5 million
  • Zack Martin – $11.8 million
  • La'el Collins – $10 million
  • Anthony Brown – $5 million
  • Blake Jarwin – $ 4.8 million
  • Jourdan Lewis – $3.4 million
  • Connor McGovern – $2.54 million
  • Greg Zuerlein – $2.4 million
  • Tarell Basham – $1.7 million

The big differences here on this list are Lawrence, whose savings jumps from $8 million to $19 million. And there's La'el Collins, who wasn't even on the previous list, since his savings before June 1 would only be around $1.7 million. But if they did it after June 1, it'd be $10 million.

And with Terence Steele proving to be a capable starter on the right side, it would be something to consider, especially if they don't do anything with Tyron Smith's contract.

All of this is just another example of although the month of February might be a slow time for most teams, for the guys behind the scenes working the numbers, it will be some sleepless nights as the Cowboys definitely have some big decisions to make.

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