With the 2023 salary cap now set, the Cowboys can crunch numbers on how to free up space to retain as much of their current talent as possible, while maybe adding some new faces
FRISCO, TX — You've heard it time and again but, lest you forget, it's important to point out one glaring fact about the NFL before the offseason truly gets underway: it's a business. That means money makes it go around and, in professional football, how teams manage their respective salary cap can either help make or break their season — the Dallas Cowboys being non-exempt from this reality.
And with the complete offseason NFL calendar now revealed, including franchise/transition tag deadlines and the opening of the new league year on March 15, the Cowboys must balance filling vacancies on their coaching staff with contract talks on looming in-house free agents.
They can now get to the business of doing the latter after the NFL notified teams on Monday of where the 2023 salary cap will be set — a robust figure of $224.8 million, per multiple reports.
That number is far-and-away the highest on record, as you can readily see:
- 2019: $188.2 million
- 2020: $198.2 million
- 2021: $182.5 million*
- 2022: $208.2 million
- 2023: $224.8 million
*adjusted for COVID-19 impact
The cap has gone up year-over-year with the exception of the pandemic-strapped 2020 season that led to a revenue hit impacting the following year.
The franchise tag amounts have also been set by the league.
- QB: $32.4 million
- RB: $10.1 million
- WR: $19.8 million
- TE: $11.4 million
- OL: $18.2 million
- DE: $19.8 million
- iDL: $18.9 million
- LB: $20.9 million
- CB: $18.1 million
- S: $14.5 million
- K/P: $5.4 million
It's unclear how talks will unfold with top in-house free agents such as Dalton Schultz and/or Tony Pollard, the former having played under his first franchise tag in 2022; meaning a second tag would carry a 20% increase in guaranteed salary for 2023, to the tune of $13.7 million (Schultz earned just over $10 million last season).
As it stands, the Cowboys will roll over roughly $3.9 million, per Spotrac, but still sit at nearly $7.5 million over the cap. This can be rectified fairly easily, however, as they have the ability to pull the trigger on restructures of bigger contracts like Dak Prescott, as one example, and free up tens of millions in one fell swoop (approximately $22.4 million in 2023, per OverTheCap.com).
Mathematically speaking, there's also the option of getting another extension for Prescott done and off of the task list — a move that would instantly free slightly more (approximately $23.9 million, contingent upon the contract structure) without kicking the proverbial salary cap can down the road.
A restructure on either DeMarcus Lawrence or Zack Martin would net more than $9 million per, as another example.
Bottom line? The Cowboys are not cap-flush at the moment, they're also not truly cap-strapped, either.
They have options.
It'll be interesting to see how the front office decides to free up cash ahead of negotiations with a long list of talented in-house free agents, while keeping in mind there will inevitably be some from outside of the building who deserve a look as well.