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Mailbag: Salary Cap Refresher Before Free Agency?


The more I read, the more I'm confused by the salary cap, restructuring contracts, dead money, etc. Pardon my ignorance, but when a player retires, like Travis Frederick, why are the Cowboys still on the hook for $6 million for the next two years?GERRY HEITMAN / CAMERON, TX

Rob: Glad you brought this up, Gerry, because contract restructures are a popular topic right now given the Cowboys' cap-space challenges. The dead money on the cap after Frederick's retirement (roughly $11 million spread out over two years) results from a previous restructure of his contract. In the short term, a restructure creates cap relief by reducing a player's base salary and making a large part of it signing bonus money. On the back end, it means the player's cap number will balloon in future years. Same thing happened after Tony Romo was released – the Cowboys had to eat millions in dead money for a couple years. Restructures help teams create space without having to cut players, but there's also a long-term catch to a certain extent.

Nick: Technically you're not wrong. The Cowboys could've tried to recoup some of Frederick's signing bonus and lowered the cap charge. Had the decision to retire been with difficult circumstances, perhaps they would've done that. But in this situation, the Cowboys decided against doing that and will absorb the cap hit for two seasons.

I just read Mickey's post about Dak's contract talks. Why would the Cowboys use the exclusive franchise tag on Dak if no deal by March 9? Wouldn't it make sense to use the non-exclusive tag allowing Dak and his team to hear other team's opinions of his value? Could this strategy help Dak and the Cowboys find a common ground?BRIAN SAMBIRSKY / SPRING, TX

Rob: We've gotten a lot of questions about this lately, and I appreciate that fans are looking for solutions. But I'll answer the question with a question: on a contract of this magnitude, why would you want to put the financials in the hands of another team? I get that negotiations haven't gotten anywhere to this point, but that doesn't mean zero progress has been made over the last couple years. There are some sticking points, obviously. But if you want to finalize a deal – and the Cowboys do – why open it up to a third-party negotiator potentially dictating the terms, especially given the precarious nature of the salary cap this year?

Nick: Again, just like the previous question, you're not wrong in your thinking. The Cowboys could do that if that's what they really wanted. If they wanted to somehow gauge the market that Dak might get, then that's one way to do it and let him field offers. But the Cowboys still want to get a deal done. That's still the plan and because of that, tagging him with anything other than the exclusive tag just shows that maybe the Cowboys have thoughts of going in a different direction. And that's not where I believe the situation to be. If they tagged him that way, I think it'll create a bad blood between the two sides that isn't there right now.

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