Cowboys' cap jail not life sentence

IRVING, Texas -- As Adam Schefter reported on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys are projected to be over the 2014 salary cap by a league-high $31 million, but it’s not as if the team did not know it.

With the quick work of the calculator, the Cowboys can shave nearly $37 million off the salary cap with six restructures and just two roster moves.

When the Cowboys signed Tony Romo to a six-year extension worth $108 million last offseason, and Sean Lee to a six-year extension worth $42 million last summer, they did so knowing they would re-work the players’ deals in Year 2. The Cowboys can create roughly $13 million in salary-cap room just with those two moves alone.

Restructuring the deals of DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr, Jason Witten and Orlando Scandrick could create another $17 million in cap space.

They can get another $5.5 million in salary-cap space by making wide receiver Miles Austin a post-June 1 cut, or could come up with less savings by asking Austin to take a pay cut the way right tackle Doug Free did in 2013. The possible release of Mackenzy Bernadeau would give the Cowboys $1.4 million in space, but create a hole on the line, especially if Brian Waters does not want to continue to play.

The downside of restructuring the deals of veterans is that it increases their cap figures in the future. Romo’s 2015 salary-cap figure would balloon to more than $27 million, but the team would simply re-work the contract again and push the due bill out again.

Teams expect a spike in the salary cap in 2015 or ’16 that could make it all more palatable.

By then the Cowboys will have to make decisions on free agents like Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and possibly Bruce Carter.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones, who is in charge of the salary cap, says the same thing every year when it comes to free agency: the Cowboys will be able to do what they want to do in free agency.

And 2014 should not be any different, even if it looks daunting right now.