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With restructure, Cowboys need to preserve Tony Romo

IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo turns 35 in a few weeks and the Dallas Cowboys are at least pondering life without him as their starting quarterback.

But by restructuring his contract, the Cowboys hope to delay the beginning of the post-Romo era for at least three more years. At the very least the Cowboys need Romo to play through 2016.

In their initial offseason plan, the Cowboys did not want to adjust Romo’s $27.773 million cap figure this year. They held firm on DeMarco Murray, but then extended themselves perhaps more than they wanted to sign Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain.

Those moves required the full restructure of Romo’s contract, turning $16 million of his $17 million base salary into a signing bonus to lower his cap figure to $14.9 million.

The restructure has added another $16 million in proration through 2019 to Romo’s contract, increasing his cap numbers from 2016-19 and increasing the potential dead money should the team cut him or if he should be forced to retire.

If something bad happens in 2015 to Romo, the Cowboys could be on the hook for as much as $31.9 million in dead money in 2016. Spreading that hit out over two years with a post-June 1 cut would mean they save $8.6 million in cap room in 2016 but he would count $28.7 million in dead money against the 2017 cap.

If they wait until after the 2016 season, the signing bonus proration would be $19.6 million, which would save them $5.1 million in cap space. Again, that’s a lot of dead money for one player against the cap. For a comparison, the Cowboys are scheduled to have $12.9 million in dead money against the 2015 cap on 32 players, and that’s a lot of cap space.

If Romo can make it through the 2017 season and the Cowboys want to move on, then it becomes much more manageable. The dead money in 2018 would be $8.9 million and create a cap savings of $13.8 million.

Romo will 37 in 2017, still younger than Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. He has back concerns, but if the Cowboys continue to use the style of play they employed in 2014 with a strong running game, it could preserve Romo.

But everything can change with one hit.