FRISCO - The NFL has moved the 2021 NFL salary cap to $182.5 million, so for the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL teams, something's gotta give.
So Dallas, in part to accommodate the new four-year, $160 million deal for QB Dak Prescott, even with its team-friendly $22 million cap impact in 2021, some shuffling is needed.
The Cowboys have done just that with the restructuring of the deals of La'el Collins, Zack Martin and Tyron Smith, per a source, who adds that Dallas creates about $18 million in cap space with the move.
Official numbers via NFL Network:
La'el Collins $5.25 million of space
*Zack Martin $7.05 million of space
*Tyron Smith $6.675 million of space
An important sidebar: This would seem to confirm our reports that Dallas expects Smith to continue playing in 2021.
The team could've gone crazy with the axe here and start dumping valuable and viable players left and right. Say goodbye to Tyron Smith and Jaylon Smith, for instance (in post-June 1 moves) and Dallas gains $18 million of room.
Of course, they'd lose two starters and need to replace them, which also costs money.
So for now, the opening up of room via the restructures is enough to get the ball rolling toward being cap-compliant by the March 17 start of the NFL business year.
Cowboys Growing Frustrated With Amari Cooper Injury Issues?
Now, despite his status as a perennial Pro Bowler, is Dallas suddenly dissatisfied with Amari Cooper?
Cowboys Camp: Rookie CB Kelvin Joseph Winning Starting Job?
Brown's edge is his experience. But talent may give Joseph the edge.
Cowboys Injury Update: Gallup Returns To Practice After Fence-Flip Scare
CeeDee Lamb appears primed for a major breakout in his second season - and Michael Gallup is lucky he's not broken as he returns to work
Coming into this progress: Candidates for this option included Amari Cooper and DeMarcus Lawrence, in addition to La'el Collins, Zack Martin and Tyron Smith. Ezekiel Elliott could also be part of this. In round numbers: Restructures of those players could net Dallas almost $50 million in cap space.
That's the solution ... except there is a risk, and maybe even a punishment, for doing so.
Take the case of Cooper. His contract was specifically structured with an "escape hatch'' following the 2021 season. That deal was billed as "five years and $100 million.'' But really, it was "two years and $40 million.'' If Dallas wants to walk away from Cooper after this season, it can.
A Dallas restructure of Cooper means the 2022 "escape hatch'' disappears. ... and means he's more likely to stay under contract for at least an additional year.
Same thing with Elliott. As presently constructed, he'll have guaranteed salaries for 2021 and 2022. ... and then escapability. Creating a restructure makes room now - but would all but tie Zeke to the Cowboys beyond 2022.
These are "restructures,'' which generally means converting base money to bonus money. It represents no sacrifice by the player and no negotiating is usually needed, either; the "switch to flip'' is already built into the contract, to be used at the discretion of the team.
There are those who say "Dallas has plenty of room.'' Or, "the Cowboys are in great shape cap-wise.''
With all due respect: Not even the Cowboys themselves agree with that rosy outlook. Not until, anyway, a great deal of more work, "accounting tricks'' and maybe tough decisions, are executed by the people here inside The Star with The Big Calculators.
At this moment, Dallas might have about $18 million in room - and half of that will be earmarked for draft picks. But more moves are coming.
The Cowboys' plan is to keep the big-name, big-money players ... and to move, if possible, not the players - but just their money. That's what's been accomplished here.