Todd Archer's figures basically match up with the figures John Clayton had last week when he estimated that the Dallas Cowboys would be about $18.2 million over the salary cap right now assuming the cap is roughly the same as last year's. This creates a significant problem as the team begins to assess its needs in advance of free agency, and as Todd points out, the Cowboys are not denying this. But there are moves they can make, and Brandon Carr's contract in particular is built to help them out:
The Cowboys have a built-in trigger in Brandon Carr’s contract that will lower his $16.3 million cap number and save about $10.5 million based on how they structured his contract when he signed last year. They can re-work the deals of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Miles Austin to roughly save another $11 million.
The restructuring does not add money to a player’s pocket, nor does it take any out of it. It’s simply an accounting tool to help teams with the cap.
The downside of these moves is that it adds to the cap charges in future years. And from all accounts, there will not be a significant bump even when the new television deals kick in next year, so the Cowboys will have to figure out if they're worth doing.
To that end, Todd names a few players, including Jay Ratliff, Marcus Spears and Doug Free, who are candidates to be cut. Free would have to be a June 1 cut in order to avoid a massive cap hit, which means they wouldn't see the savings until well after most of the league's free-agent money is spent. And if all of these moves are made in an effort to fit Anthony Spencer under the cap, you're left to wonder what the Cowboys then do about their needs on the offensive line and elsewhere on the roster. So there are no perfect solutions here, and there's bound to be some pain. Unless Spencer's going to give them a discount because he wants to stay, it's still hard to see how they keep him and simultaneously address their other needs. And after the year he just had, I don't see Spencer doing that.
There's also the likely Tony Romo extension to help free up 2013 cap room, but at the expense of future years. So you get the sense of what the Cowboys are facing this offseason, and it's not pretty.