The Cowboys avoided restricted free agency with Phil Costa by signing the center to a two-year deal Saturday.
Instead of giving Costa a $1.3 million restricted tender for this year, the Cowboys signed him through 2014 in a deal that lowers his cap charge and helps save money on the cap this season.
Since Thursday, the Cowboys have gone from more than $20 million over the cap to now about $4-5 million under after restructuring several players, including Brandon Carr, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Miles Austin.
Costa only played three games in 2012, but finished just one. However, that game in Baltimore was arguably Costa's best of his career as he helped pave the way for 227 rushing yards, which set a Ravens club record for an opponent. Owner/general manager Jerry Jones indicated at the NFL Combine that although Costa wasn't signed at the time, he envisioned the center to be in the Cowboys' future plans.
"If we can get in better shape with our guards, then Costa is going to be a good center for us," Jones said. "I can see going with Costa at center for several years."
A back injury that lingered all through camp forced Costa out after three plays of the season opener. He didn't play until the fifth game against Baltimore but then suffered a severe ankle injury against Carolina and eventually went to IR.
Signed as a rookie free agent in 2010, Costa has started 20 games in his career, including 16 in 2011.
Ryan Cook started 11 games at center last season, entering for Costa after one series in the opener. Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau shifted over to center to start the other two games.