FRISCO, Texas – The accounting measures continue as the season draws closer.
The Cowboys signed DeMarcus Lawrence to a one-year, voidable extension on Friday morning. The move was largely in regard to the salary cap, as the deal converted $15 million of Lawrence's 2020 base salary into a signing bonus. It also tacks one, voidable season onto Lawrence's contract in 2024.
Most notably for the Cowboys, it cleared $12 million on their current salary cap.
This comes just a few days after the team restructured Zack Martin's contract, thereby freeing up another $8 million in salary cap space. They did something similar with Tyron Smith last month, creating another $6.6 million.
Anytime a team frees up roughly $27 million in extra cap space, it's bound to get people buzzing. But the reasoning for these maneuvers likely has nothing to do with a splashy new acquisition.
Rather, it's more about players specifically on the roster – like an expensive young quarterback, for example.
It would be tough enough to pay Dak Prescott in 2021 if things were normal. Putting another franchise tag on him next year would cost the Cowboys $37.7 million, and signing him to a long-term extension would obviously be much more expensive than that.
Factor in the effect of COVID-19 on league finances, and it's an even dicier situation.
It's hard to project just what the salary cap will look like in 2021. It's too soon to know how many fans will be allowed at games – and for a lot of teams it's too soon to know whether fans will be allowed at all. The NFL proposes a salary cap floor of $175 million back during the summer. But that's a far cry from the figure of $210 million that looked likely before the pandemic.
Obviously, it's fair to say there might be a bit of a financial squeeze. That's where these accounting moves come into play. The Cowboys can carry much of this cap space into 2021, which should help them sign – or tag – Prescott, in addition to handling other contract situations.
It also provides some security for some of the team's more veteran players. Lawrence admitted at the start of training camp that he considered opting out of the season, while Martin and Smith are two of the most decorated players on the roster.
Converting their salaries into signing bonuses guarantees them – which provides some financial security in the event that COVID-19 shortens or otherwise affects the season.