Jerry Jones knows how to make money. Stephen Jones has demonstrated with his handling of the salary cap some ability to know how to spend that money. I previously wrote in Take It From the Beginning that there were several moves the team can make to free up cap space. It is becoming more clear decisions have been made and the team is moving right along.
Redoing Carr's deal saves about 10.5 million. A new deal for Romo along the same lines; moderate signing bonus and big guaranteed second year salary to be converted to bonus, could save the Cowboys roughly seven and a half million dollars. KD Drummond has previously used a similar number. If you release Marcus Spears, who doesn't look look like he fits in the new defense after June 1, then you have over nineteen million dollars to bring the team down to the 122 million number now being speculated will be the cap number for this year.
Of course, you still need money to pay the practice squad and free agents you sign during the season. That would be about seven million more. You also need about three million for rookie signing bonuses. Remember that rookies usually receive minimum salaries so when they make the team, their salaries replace the salaries of players already under contract. You can create ten million or so by redoing Austin's and Witten's contracts. I don't think Austin will be released because there is little depth at receiver. I also think both players will play out their contracts so there will be no dead money, here. The only concern is that you would raise their cap hit next year and the following about 3 million combined. That's fixable.
I don't think DeMarcus Ware is a candidate to be extended this year because the team is probably looking forward to next year when his prorated bonus money drops and he has a 12 million dollar salary. You will need to reduce that to have money to resign the 2014 free agents. I also think Dan Connor will have his deal redone instead of being cut. His three million salary is a lot but he plays a position, linebacker, that has little depth. I wouldn't be surprised to see a linebacker taken as a high pick. You can lower Conner's cap hit by extending him a couple of years with a two or two and a half million dollar bonus that would be prorated three years and save about 1.7 million dollars on the cap. One more name who could be on the proverbial bubble is Cook the former Miami third team center. If you draft one of the very good guards first round, you could move Bernadeau to center and Cook's release would save you close to a million dollars.
You still don't have the money to resign Spencer, Ladouceur, or McCray, and you may have a couple of other low-priced veterans you want to bring in. Since the Cowboys have made it clear that Ratliff will be part of the team that really leaves only a few options. Reducing Sensabaugh's salary is a possibility but I don't think he would be cut since the Cowboys have identified safety as a position of need. There is only one other possibility to make a big difference cap wise. That is Doug Free. I just read Archie Barberio's article about Parnell. I thought it was clear last season when Free and Parnell alternated that at least a drastic salary reduction was in order. The only way I would see Free staying is that he agreed to play for a million or less. That six million would just be enough to sign Spencer, and I see him getting a deal like Carr's but with less total money so that he would count three million or so against the cap, McCray and Ladouceur who likely together will add up to three million or so. Cutting Free after the draft in June, when you may have another tackle to become the swing man or signing a veteran in the summer for that role would reduce the worry about depth.
Finally, there are some veterans who might come back with a one year minimum which means they would count against the cap like a rookie and not affect the cap at all. I think if you want Sims, Phillips, or Frampton and they don't get a better offer they would fit here.
The cap will be tight, we won't be very active in free agency, but there is real possibility of being a much better team.