Moves help put Cowboys under cap

IRVING, Texas -- By cutting one player and restructuring the contracts of three others, the Cowboys were able to get under the salary cap Monday, but not by very much.

The Cowboys released linebacker Dan Connor and reworked the deals of defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, cornerback Orlando Scandrick and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, creating about $7.8 million in savings. The Cowboys were $6.8 million over the cap entering Monday, according to a source.

In order to be active in the free agent market that opens Tuesday, the Cowboys would have to extend the contract of quarterback Tony Romo and/or sign linebacker Anthony Spencer to a long-term deal. Romo is counting $16.8 million against the cap as he enters the last year of his deal. Spencer is counting $10.6 million against the cap as the Cowboys' franchise player. New deals would greatly lower those figures.

The Cowboys saved $3 million by cutting Connor, who signed a two-year contract last year as a free agent. He started eight games in 2012 after the team lost Sean Lee and Bruce Carter and finished with 58 tackles.

The Cowboys lowered the base salaries of Ratliff, Scandrick and Bernadeau and turned the difference into signing bonuses to save money this year, but the decisions increase their future cap costs.

Ratliff played in only six games last year because of injuries and had an offseason arrest for drunken driving. Scandrick is coming back from wrist surgery that limited him to 11 games last year. Bernadeau started 16 games last year at right guard and center.

So far this offseason, the Cowboys have reworked the contracts of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, Miles Austin, Ryan Cook, Brandon Carr, Ratliff, Scandrick and Bernadeau, while cutting Gerald Sensabaugh and Connor in order to create room.