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With franchise tag in place, Cowboys will have to move money around

FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have placed the franchise tag on defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, but they don’t yet know how much it will cost them.

Why?

The 2018 salary cap has not been finalized. That should happen by the end of the week or next weekend with free agency beginning March 14.

The Cowboys have a rough idea of how much it will cost to tag Lawrence -- roughly $17.5 million -- and they know that will chew up almost all of their cap space.

The cap is expected to be around $178 million. Based on an adjusted cap value of a little more than $185 million, ESPN Stats & Information projects the Cowboys to have roughly $17 million in space. The Cowboys will carry over an additional $7.8 million of unused space in 2017.

Whether Lawrence signs the tender once the cost is finalized or waits, the Cowboys are on the hook for the $17.5 million.

Last week at the NFL scouting combine, executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team had not yet determined what type of restricted free agent tender they would put on defensive end David Irving. The first-round tender would be in the $4.3 million neighborhood. The second-round tender would be about $3 million.

Simple math says the Cowboys will have to create room in order to add players through free agency just on the moves involving Lawrence and Irving alone.

The Cowboys will restructure the contract of Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick, which could open up around $7.2 million in room. They could get $3 million in room on restructuring the contract of linebacker Sean Lee. Signing Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin to a long-term deal could open as much as $6 million in room with him slated to count $9.3 million on the fifth-year option.

The Cowboys have restructured the contract of Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith from 2015-17 but would not like to do it again in 2018. If they need the space, they could gain up to $7.2 million on the reworking of his deal as well.

The Cowboys could also look to gain room from releasing players like Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick, Benson Mayowa and James Hanna, which could gain them up to $20 million in room.

The Cowboys won’t have to make any moves to get under the cap, which means they won’t have to make any moves to gain space until they want to use it.