have much room, if any.
Now it's not as bad as it might seem with the 2011 salary cap in the owners' agreement set at $120.3 million. That's because teams were given two mechanisms to massage that number higher. First, since this is a last-minute thing, teams have a one-time opportunity to "borrow" $3 million from a future cap. So that gets the cap to potentially 123.3 million. Then, the $3.5 million in player performance bonuses usually handed out in the spring can be instead used for veteran salaries. Do that, and now the Cowboys can get the cap to nearly $128 million if I'm reading this right. Meaning they still would be about $10 million over.
So yes, you can restructure contracts, and also cut players with out-of-whack base salaries, but remember, there will be prorated signing bonus to account for, so that sort of mitigates gains made from dropping base salaries.
Doing so helps, but does not totally solve their problem, if you consider they still must sign their draft choices, and knowing Tyron Smith is the ninth pick in the draft, a lower rookie salary scale or not. It's still going to cost. And as I've stated previously, that still doesn't even have them addressing the need for a starting quality left guard and at least one starting quality safety. And we've yet to mention restocking the defensive end spot
Now these rules do give the Cowboys at least a fair shot at keeping Free off the market. They would have three days to exclusively negotiate with him before other teams are supposedly allowed to make offers. I say supposedly. I mean, do you trust agents out there would not jump the gun on such issues?
If they don't get him signed in that time period, he's, uh, free game. Teams with need and gobs of cap space, and there are some that actually do have such space available, can price the Cowboys right out of the negotiations. And then what, since teams have to be under the cap the day the new league year begins?
Can't imagine moving the 20-year-old Smith over to left tackle to start his rookie year without one day of off-season, and who knows, possibly a shortened training camp, along with fewer practices in pads. But if not, then who? Sam Young? Hey, if they can't re-sign Kyle Kosier, the Cowboys might need Young to play guard. And it sure doesn't look as if there is another left tackle of Free's caliber out there in free agency. And you want to cut Colombo?
Tony, you had better be drinking your milk.
You guys know me, I'm not an alarmist, and I learned a long time ago there are ways to massage the cap and tweak existing contracts to create needed space. But they don't let you amputate the sucker. Re-signing Doug Free would seem to be the only thing you have to worry about for now when it comes to the Cowboys.
The rest, pfffff.
And the labor agreement? In due time . . . in due time.
So consider yourself warned, because as Yogi once said, "There are some people who, if they don't already know, you can't tell 'em."
And that scares me, because I think I know what he means.