IRVING, Texas – So free agency has finally begun.
All across the league, big names are getting signed or at least agreeing to terms.
And that's exactly what the Cowboys did ….. last year. Yeah, back in 2012, the Cowboys were big-time players in the first few days of free agency. Brandon Carr, Kyle Orton and Dan Connor all signed rather quickly into the free-agent signing period.
Well, that's last year. And 2013 is a different story, especially here in early March.
The Cowboys entered Tuesday's start to free agency with about $177,000 worth of salary cap space.
Because of the salary cap rules, stating that only the top 51 salaries are counted on the books, the Cowboys could possibly sign one or two players at the veteran minimum, but nothing too noteworthy. Certainly nothing close to what they did last year.
Now that could change, but probably only if the Cowboys work out a deal with Tony Romo in the near future. Romo has one year left on the contract he signed in 2007, which has been re-negotiated twice since then. But it's been reported that Romo is seeking a new deal in the neighborhood of $16-18 million per season. As lofty as that sounds, it would still be structured in a way that would lower his cap charge, which is currently about $16 million this season. [embedded_ad]
Giving Romo a new contract could open up as much as $7-10 million, depending on the structure and some of the guarantees.
The Cowboys definitely have some holes to fill, especially on the offensive line. If they get into a situation where cap space is needed desperately to sign a particular free agent, it could speed up the Romo negotiations. But at the same time, this is likely Romo's last opportunity for a big contract, so it can't and won't be done without it being fair for both sides.
Up to this point, the Cowboys really haven't done much renegotiating with these other contracts that have helped the team get under the cap. These moves are scheduled restructures that were placed in the contract at the moment of signing. Both sides knew from the start there could be some provisions to these contracts for players such as Brandon Carr, whose restructured deal saved the Cowboys nearly $11 million. Other players whose contracts were altered to save money include DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Orlando Scandrick.
At one point two weeks ago, the Cowboys were more than $20 million over the cap, but were able to get under in a matter of hours with a few restructures.
But placing the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer for $10.63 million put the Cowboys back under the cap
again until a few more restructures went into place on Monday, along with the release of linebacker Dan Connor.
The Cowboys have 13 of their own unrestricted free agents that are hitting the market, including tight end John Phillips, who quickly agreed to terms on a deal with the Chargers. The Cowboys likely had some interest in re-signing him, but it was rather clear James Hanna would be taking over as the No. 2 tight end next season. Phillips did have some versatility to play tight end and fullback and was a special teams contributors.
Other players from last year's team hitting the market include CB Mike Jenkins, RB Felix Jones, LB Victor Butler, DE Kenyon Coleman, WR Kevin Ogletree, LB Ernie Sims and FS Eric Frampton.