Cap ramifications of Jay Ratliff move

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys waited too long to cut Jay Ratliff, but by clearing him off the salary-cap books as soon as possible by cutting him today they made the best decision for the future.

Looking back, the decision to extend Ratliff’s deal another five years in 2011 for $40 million (with $18 million guaranteed), was a poor one. Never pay age and Ratliff had just turned 30, but the Cowboys got the better end of their first extension with him: five years, $20.9 million in which he out-performed the contract.

Last March the Cowboys guaranteed $3.66 million of Ratliff’s $5 million base salary to provide salary-cap relief in 2013. The team hoped Ratliff would rebound in Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 scheme and produce at a high level even if his sack total had decreased in each of the last five seasons. He never rebounded from the injury.

Had the Cowboys cut Ratliff in the spring, they would have saved $1 million against the cap this season and been free from dead money. By cutting him now the Cowboys save $625,000 against the cap immediately but he will count $6.9 million in dead million in 2014.

Already scheduled to count $8.232 million in 2014, the Cowboys net an overall savings of $1.304 million next year.

Had the Cowboys waited to cut Ratliff after this season and designated him a post-June 1 cut to create more 2014 savings, then he would have hampered their cap in 2015.

The 2015 season means a lot to the Cowboys in terms of their cap.

Dez Bryant is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2014 season. If the Cowboys want, they could use the franchise tag on Bryant. The Cowboys could pick up the fifth-year option on Tyron Smith's contract, which would see his cap figure jump up close to whatever the transition tag would be for the offensive tackles, for 2015 but would like to extend him before that if possible.

Ratliff was due to count $11.02 million against the cap in 2015, so that money, in effect, can be designated for Bryant, Smith or even Bruce Carter.