Cowboys Should Use New $10 Million In Cap Space To Pay Off Debt

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Dec 1, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (96) rests during a timeout in the first quarter of the game with the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Vikings win 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Friday’s news that the NFL’s 2014 salary cap will go north of $133 million has many organizations looking for cool new toys to buy, but not the Cowboys.

GM Jerry Jones already spent that money. He spent it last year when he restructured the contracts of defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Brandon Carr, tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Miles Austin.

Jerry spent it years before on ill-advised contracts for players now long gone. Here is a list of the former Cowboys Jerry will write checks to in 2014, according to Over the Cap:

Former Cowboys

Dead Money

DT Jay Ratliff

$6.9m

G Nate Livings

$2.1m

DT Marcus Spears

$1.4m

DT Sean Lissemore

$1.2m

15 other players

$181K

Total Dead Money

$11.8m

Jerry is in debt. Jerry should use this $10 million windfall to pay off dead money from released players and guaranteed money for active players pushed forward through contract restructuring in previous years.

Ten million won’t come anywhere near to covering the full balance due, but it’s a start. Revenue from the league’s new TV deals should push the cap even higher in 2015. The rising cap figure, coupled with some tough player cuts and absolutely no contract restructuring in 2014 can possibly have the team out of cap jail and on parole in two years.

Stop borrowing (restructuring contracts) and pay off your debt (dead money and guaranteed money pushed forward by previous restructures). Good advice for everyone. The biggest challenge for Jerry will be quarterback Tony Romo’s contract.

Romo will count $21.7 million against the cap this season. The temptation will be to restructure him and save as much as $10 million against the 2014 cap. But Romo’s contract carries a future dead money liability of over $41 million – this for a quarterback who’ll be 34 years old on opening day and has had two back surgeries in the past year.

The qualities that helped make Romo a quarterback who merits $20 million a year – mobility, athleticism, creating plays outside of the pocket – are not the type of physical assets that age gracefully. The slow creep of years will almost certainly affect Romo’s playmaking ability, and the threat of injury may further diminish his play by making him timid.

And that’s just a moderate assessment of what to expect for an eight-year NFL starter on the wrong side of 30 coming off major surgery. Worst-case scenario is he goes down in Week 1 with another back injury and never plays again.

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