The Cowboys had this card in their back pocket all along, but only a short window of time to use it.
The opportunity to restructure a few high-priced contracts was always in the plan, but the Cowboys had to wait until 4 p.m. on Thursday, the start of the new league year before restructuring any deals.
And it's only a 24-hour window as the NFL gives teams until Friday at 4 p.m. before all teams have to be under the cap. Had the Cowboys redone these deals before the deadline, then Ware and Austin would've been considered to have "new" contracts and would have to sit out of practice like the other veterans who just returned on Thursday.
In all, the Cowboys saved about $11 million in space for 2011, with Ware's numbe dropping from $11.3 to $5.98 this year. Austin went from $8.54 to $2.25 million.
According to reports, the Cowboys were anywhere from $4 million to $6 million over the cap heading into Thursday. These two moves have helped the Cowboys get comfortably under the cap. If more space is needed, the Cowboys do have the option of reworking Tony Romo's deal as well.
Basically what the Cowboys are doing to lower the 2011 cap hit is rolling the player's base salary this year into a signing bonus that is divided out over the length of the deal. So while this year's cap charge is lowered, obviously it increases the figures for the following years. While the Cowboys can get themselves into trouble by this practice, the team also banks on the notion the salary cap will likely increase by each year.
For example, if the Cowboys wanted to create more room with a contract of Romo, who is scheduled to count $12.9 million on the cap. His base salary is $9 million along with a $3.962 million proration amount that stems from his original signing bonus. If the Cowboys lowered his base to $3 million and gave him a $6 million bonus to spread out over the last three years of the contract, the money in Romo's pocket would be the same. But on the cap, Romo's cap charge would drop from $12.9 to $8.9 giving an obvious savings of $4 million.
That's just one way to do it and obvious the Cowboys have several creative ways to get around the cap.