Lockout starts, but Cowboys' issues remain

With the NFLPA decertifying and the owners beginning their lockout Friday night, several decisions around the NFL -- and with the Cowboys -- will be delayed.

One of the biggest decisions for the Cowboys involves starting right tackle Marc Colombo. When the new league year starts, the Cowboys have 15 days to decide whether to pick up a $2.6 million option bonus on Colombo’s contract.

If the Cowboys choose not to pick up the option, Colombo becomes a free agent. With the uncertainty of the rules, the league could start the 2011-12 league year whenever it wants. Free agency could also begin regardless of the lockout and the lack of a new collective bargaining agreement because the NFL could implement its own rules without input from the union.

There are so many issues that are left up in the air.

The Cowboys have not made decisions regarding several players who are due roster bonuses, such as Marion Barber, who is due $500,000 in June. The Cowboys save $4 million against the salary cap if they cut Barber, their starting running back since 2008, in June. But if they cut him now, they only save around $750,000.

Jason Witten ($500,000), Bradie James ($500,000), Dez Bryant ($1 million) and Sean Lee ($510,000) are also due roster bonuses this spring and summer, but with no league business being conducted it hasn’t been determined when those bonuses will be honored.

DeMarcus Ware is also due a $500,000 workout bonus normally given after the player completes at least 90 percent of the work perscribed by the team.

Releasing receiver Roy Williams would place a $12.9 million cap hit on the Cowboys, but it’s not known if the team would do that given how a new salary cap hasn’t been determined. Also, when the Cowboys released Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin after the 2009 season, the acceleration of the players' signing bonuses might be close to $13 million against the cap in 2011. Nearly $25 million of dead money could be on the Cowboys' salary cap in 2011 for three players not with the team.

The Cowboys could also save nearly a combined $6 million if they release Leonard Davis and Terence Newman. But the Cowboys don’t have any capable backups or starters on the roster to replace those players.

In terms of salaries for the 2011 season, the Cowboys have committed $137.4 million toward the 2011 salary cap and that doesn't include tenders and rookie salaries.

Jerry Jones has said the Cowboys will continue to have the highest payroll in 2011 regardless of who is released.