How the Cowboys can create salary-cap space

IRVING, Texas -- Until we know how the new collective bargaining agreement shakes out, we are all living in some sort of fantasy world regarding free agency, the salary cap and how teams can restructure contracts or cut players to create more room.

Let’s just go with the assumption the rules will remain the same when talking about restructuring contracts.

If so, the Cowboys can create nearly $17.5 million in salary cap room by reworking the deals of DeMarcus Ware, Tony Romo and Miles Austin.

Romo’s base salary in 2011 is $9 million. Austin will pull down $8.54 million. Ware will take home $6.7 million. The Cowboys can knock those base salaries down to the veteran minimum ($765,000 in the case of Romo and Ware; $640,000 for Austin) and turn the rest into signing bonus.

Romo’s cap figure would go from $12.962 million to $7.472 million. Ware’s cap figure would go from $11.348 million to $5.952 million. Austin’s cap figure would go from $8.54 million to $1.956 million.

The Cowboys were shrewd in their extension with Austin last year, by paying him $17 million in base salary, thanks to having no cap in 2010. There is no existing proration, so by lowering Austin’s base salary, they can turn $7.9 million into a bonus and prorate it through 2016.

The players would not oppose the move because it means more guaranteed money in their pockets now. The only downside is how it raises the future cap figures of Romo and Ware by $2.745 million and $1.187 million, respectively, in the future.

Regardless of how much the 2011 cap figure will be, the Cowboys will almost certainly have to make these accounting moves either to create room to sign free agents -- theirs or new players -- or to fit every contract under the cap.