The Cowboys would need to trim close to $20 million from their cap by March 11, and executive vice president Stephen Jones said the club has various paths to do the job.
But in getting to that point, Jones made it sound like the Cowboys will perhaps choose more wisely on what contracts they restructure than they have in the past.
“I think the bigger question is what it does to your future as well in getting there,” Jones said, referring to getting under the cap.
Three players are prime candidates to get their contracts restructured. Tony Romo and Sean Lee will get their contracts done because that is how they were structured. Orlando Scandrick is the other. Those three moves would gain the Cowboys roughly $17.8 million in space.
Age is the biggest factor. Romo turns 34 in April, but the Cowboys cannot get under the cap without re-working his contract. As always, there are different roles for quarterbacks.
“Obviously we’ve got some high-priced players, and anytime you have a high-priced quarterback then you’re going to start getting pressures on your salary cap when you start paying one player a sixth of your salary cap,” Jones said.
Lee turns 28 in July. Scandrick just turned 27 this month.
The Cowboys could gain roughly $5 million in space by re-working the contract of cornerback Brandon Carr. He does not turn 28 until May, but the Cowboys have to decide if it would be worth it. Do they want to push more money out against the cap on Carr, which would make it difficult to cut him in 2015 should he struggle again in 2014.
By re-working the contract of tight end Jason Witten, the Cowboys can gain another $3 million in space, but he is entering the 12th year of his career and turns 32 in May. Is it wise to push money out in the future on him? The same case can be made for quarterback Kyle Orton.
When Jones said Cowboys will be able to do some “efficient” spending in free agency, it means the Cowboys will not be major players in the market. If a player comes to them at their price, then they could look to re-work more contracts later, but they won’t create salary-cap space for the sake of creating salary-cap space.
The Cowboys might be in a “win now” mode, but Jones knows they have to keep their eye on the future when it comes to their salary cap. And they also know spending big in free agency does not guarantee success.