Dak & The Cap: Drastic Cowboys Contract Moves To Gain $42M In Room?

The Cowboys’ present cap math doesn't add up. Are drastic measures coming to make the puzzle pieces fit?
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FRISCO, Texas -- The NFL has moved the 2021 NFL salary cap floor up to $180 million. Given the fact that the Dallas Cowboys presently have about $14 million in space, but need to prepare for Dak Prescott to count at $37.7 million ...

The math doesn't add up.

Are drastic measures coming to make the puzzle pieces fit?

The Cowboys could go 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.

But, for the sake of argument, as colleague Bobby Belt points out, there is a way to gain well over $60 million worth of room ...

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More viable (as Belt acknowledges): Restructures of deals involving players who the club feels it can count on, long-term.

Candidates for this option include Amari Cooper, DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott. In round numbers: Restructures of those five players could net Dallas about $42 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.

If Dallas restructures Cooper, the 2022 "escape hatch'' disappears.

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.

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There are other, smaller helpers. A release of punter Chris Jones is a $2 million savings. A restructure of La'el Collins, who is just 27 (and hopefully healthy, could net a reported $6 million in room). But the smaller helpers don't help enough - and that's even if Prescott avoids the tag and signs a long-term deal. In that circumstance, the QB's cap hit for 2021 might be in the range of $25 million.

And today, the Cowboys don't even have room for that.

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.

Dallas does have a plan here; none of this is a surprise to the guys inside The Star with The Big Calculators. But - short of tagging and then trading Dak, a complex transaction but a clear path to cap room - as you can see, the plan is a painful one, fraught with risk.

The Cowboys not only need to guesstimate correctly on Dak's worth here, they need to guesstimate on the future worth - and health - of a host of their other big-name, big-money players as well.

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