Alright, can you guys make sense of it for us? Last week Zeke's contract was "restructured" and now Dak's has been. As best I can see and understand it, not a dime of money was changed in either contract, it was just moved from one pocket to another. Seems to me it's a bit of a shell game. Can you please spell it out so those of us without a PhD in finance can understand it? — RUSSELL WHITE / ORANGE CITY, FL
Rob: It's just an accounting move that all teams use. With a contract restructure, the Cowboys convert a portion of a player's base salary into signing bonus money that reduces that player's salary cap level for that year. The team then gets some cap space for that year (or the next year if they choose to carry over to 2022). It's basically kicking the can down the road, because it does mean the player's cap hit will balloon in future years. So when the Cowboys do a restructure, it's typically with star players on long-term contracts who are likely to play out their entire deals.
David: It's easy to get excited and assume the front office is making this decision with an upcoming move in mind. In reality, they're just thinking about their needs in the short-term and long-term. There's no telling what could come up during the season that might require them to make a signing or a trade. And obviously they'll need cap space in 2022 for a variety of reasons. Dak isn't going anywhere for a while, and his cap number is going to be huge, regardless. So it makes a lot of sense to do this with his deal.
When healthy, it seemed like last year's struggles weren't only predicated on the defense, it was the performance in the turnover battle. Do you see the 2021 Cowboys being better with their turnover differential each week? — THOMAS NARRO / ARLINGTON, MA
Rob: If the last month of 2020 is any indication, then yes, they should be better in this area. Honestly, there wasn't anywhere to go but up, because the Cowboys had a minus turnover differential in eight of the first 11 games, and they were minus-13 in the first seven games alone. The defense has taken a lot of criticism for lack of takeaways in recent years, but the offense turned the ball over a lot early in the season, too. Vast improvement down the stretch, though (plus-10 in the final five games).
David: Forgive me if this isn't hard-hitting analysis, but they just have to be. They must be better, or this season isn't going to go any different from last season – regardless of who's healthy. It gets lost in the shuffle of all the injuries, but their turnover differential was mind-bogglingly bad for an NFL team, even prior to Dak's injury. Ezekiel Elliott takes a lot of the criticism for that, but Dak had a hand in it, as well. It can't happen again – not at that rate.