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

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Dec 22, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) scrambles from Washington Redskins outside linebacker Rob Jackson (50) in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. Romo was injured on the play and is out for the season. The Cowboys won 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

What do you do with his $41 million in dead money then? Romo is very likely dead cap money waiting to happen, and it may be sooner rather than later. So it’s prudent to start looking at his dead money liabilities in future years and plan to minimize the harm.

If the Cowboys can refrain from restructuring Romo in 2014, his dead money liability will drop from a catastrophic $41 million to a merely awful $19 million. That $19 million could be spread out over two seasons, if cutting Romo became necessary in 2015. Not ideal, but not a knife through the heart either.

And perhaps not necessary – we’re budgeting worst-case scenario. Romo may have a few good years left despite his age and physical breakdowns. There may not be a tougher player in the league. Romo can beat you at your house with a pair of busted ribs and a punctured lung. Nobody plays with pain like Romo, but the smart move is to budget for the worst.

Gutting up and taking that $21 million cap hit for Romo’s contract in 2014 will severely reduce the dead money risk in future years. It means the Cowboys can’t upgrade all the positions they need through free agency, so it makes finding NFL-caliber talent on the cheap in this year’s draft that much more important.

Based on the team’s draft position, Over The Cap projects the Cowboys will need about $1.9 million in 2014 cap space to sign their eight draft picks. Here’s how the Cowboys can get far enough under the cap to sign their rookies, all without any restructuring:

 

Scheduled 2014 Cap Figure

Action

Adjusted 2014 Cap Hit

2015 Cap Hit

2016 Cap Hit

DE DeMarcus Ware

$16m

June 1 Cut

$3.25m

$5.32m

$0

WR Miles Austin

$8.25m

June 1 Cut

$2.75m

$5.11m

$0

QB Kyle Orton

$4.38m

Cut

$3.38m

$0

$0

T Jermey Parnell

$1.83m

Cut

$333K

$0

$0

C Phil Costa

$1.73m

Cut

$225K

$0

$0

LB Justin Durant

$1.45m

Cut

$200K

$0

$0

 

*Figures courtesy of overthecap.com

 

These cuts give the Cowboys about $3.3 million in cap room, all without kicking Romo’s contract down the road. Word on the street is they’ve already begun down this path, releasing four small-time contracts on Friday with “sources” saying backup center Phil Costa is next.

The Cowboys may not be able to play in the free agent market this offseason. They may not be able to re-sign defensive tackle Jason Hatcher or defensive end Anthony Spencer. DeMarcus Ware won’t finish his career a Cowboy. But all that is the ultimate cost of poor cap managment. The Cowboys can choose to restructure a few contracts and keep borrowing themselves into oblivion, pushing today’s problems into future seasons, or they can take their medicine today and get healthy tomorrow.

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