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17 million or 12 million? Cap Space and Free Agency

I caught KD’s YouTube post yesterday where he stated the Cowboys currently have 17 million in cap space and can create upwards of 30 million by cutting Newman and restructuring the contracts of Free and Scandrick.

The available cap space number I have seen reported is 12.6 million, so I decided to do a little research.

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reported on February 12, 2011 that the Cowboys had 17.14 million of cap space. That number carries over to the 2012 season, but that 17.14 million was BEFORE the Cowboys signed free agent Kenyon Coleman, and signed Marcus Spears, Orlando Scandrick, and Gerald Sensabaugh to contract extensions. When you factor those contracts into the cap equation you arrive at the most consistently reported number of available cap space as of today, approximately 12.6 million.

The Cowboys can create another 6 million of cap space by releasing Terrance Newman. That gets the team to 18.6 million. By restructuring the contracts of Doug Free and Orlando Scandrick and converting part of their 2012 base salary to signing bonus, the Cowboys can create an additional 8.6 million of cap space. This puts the total number of possible cap space available to the team at approximately 27.2 million. So let's breakdown some of the deals that the front office is discussing and how they could factor into the available cap space.

27.2million

8.8 million Spencer Franchise number
2.0 million McBriar resigned to a contract similar to his current contract
1.3 million Fiammetta tender
1.0 million Veteran Backup Quarterback
4.0 million Rookie signing bonuses and salaries
10.1 million Available cap space remaining

There is obviously some possible variance to the 10 million number based on the actual contracts of McBriar, if he is in fact resigned, actual rookie salaries and bonuses, and the to be determined contract for a solid veteran backup quarterback. The team could also end up cutting Kenyon Coleman, creating a little more space.

Dallas is reportedly targeting Brandon Carr or Cortland Finnegan in free agency. These are two of the most coveted defensive backs in a free agent market flush with money.

Jonathan Joseph signed a 5 year deal worth $48,750,000 with a 12.5 million signing bonus and 23.5 guaranteed. This contract offers a baseline for the contracts Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan will be looking for in free agency. Joseph’s base salary for 2012 is $7,250,000 with $2,500,000 signing bonus counting against the cap for a total cap figure $9,750,000. I personally think either Carr or Finnegan's contract will be for more money than Joseph's contract, but for the sake of discussion, let's work from Joseph's numbers.

Jonathan Joseph signed a 5 year deal worth $48,750,000 with a 12.5 million signing bonus and 23.5 guaranteed. This contract offers a baseline for the contracts Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan will be looking for in free agency. Joseph’s base salary for 2012 is $7,250,000 with $2,500,000 signing bonus counting against the cap for a total cap figure $9,750,000.

With only approximately 10 million of available cap space (after factoring in the house keeping deals from above and the required space for rookies) Dallas would look to structure a deal with Carr or Finnegan that would backload the salary to keep the base salary low the first year. In order to make this work for the player, the team would need to offer a signing bonus larger than 12.5 million, likely closer to 15 million, possibly more. You divide the signing bonus by the years in the contract to get the cap number, leaving you approximately 3 million, plus the league minimum for Carr is $700,000 and Finnegan is $825,000, so splitting the difference gives us the best possible contract/cap scenario for these two at a $3,750,000 cap hit.

10 million of available cap space minus 3.75 million 2012 best case scenario cap number for Carr of Finnegan leaves 6.25 million of remaining cap space to address safety, guard, center, and linebacker depth . This amount of money is not exactly a carte blanche shopping spree, as I discussed in a recent post Your Card Has Been Declined: Anatomy of a Cap Problem.

I'm sure this post will spark much debate and look forward to your thoughts and input.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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