Cowboys' moves create $23 million in space

IRVING, Texas – By restructuring the contracts of Brandon Carr, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Ryan Cook, the Cowboys are under the $123 million NFL salary cap.

But not by so much that they can be active shoppers when free agency begins March 12 and not enough to where they can place the franchise tag on outside linebacker Anthony Spencer for the second straight year.

The five announced moves Thursday cleared roughly $23 million against the cap, leaving them with about $5 million under the cap. They would have to create another $6 million to fit Spencer's $10.6 million tag under the cap.

The Cowboys have until Monday to tag Spencer.

The $5 million figure does not take into account the restricted free-agent tenders for Phil Costa, Danny McCray and possibly Brian Schaefering at $1.323 million each. It is possible the Cowboys do not tender Schaeferung, a late-season pickup in 2012.

To clarify an earlier report, the Cowboys have the OK to re-work the contract of guard Nate Livings, which would create roughly $740,000 in space, but they have yet to send in the move to the league. They could gain $1 million by re-doing Mackenzy Bernadeau's contract. Because Bernadeau hit on a play-time incentive, his base salary is set to increase to $2.25 million in 2013.

The Cowboys have also talked to the agents of Jay Ratliff and Orlando Scandrick about re-structuring their contracts, which would create another $3.8 million in room.

The moves made Thursday also allow the Cowboys to keep Tony Romo on the books for $16.8 million and Doug Free at $10.02 million in 2013. The Cowboys and Romo's agent have yet to have substantive talks about an extension, but the team is hopeful it can reach one in the near future.