We all know that the NFL Salary Cap is funny money at its finest. The Cowboys are reportedly high above the cap threshold for 2013, even though it was reported yesterday that the cap could go as high as $123 million. In order to get below that number, Dallas will need to do some shuffling of current contracts and they made the first move today, restructuring the contract of DeMarcus Ware.
Dallas restructured contract of DE DeMarcus Ware, converting $5 million of his base salary into signing bonus, saving $4 million against cap— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 28, 2013
Of course, the Cowboys are paying DeMarcus the exact same amount of money that they intended to per his contract, it's just that now the impact on the salary cap is moved around to the two remaining years on his current contract.
In 2009, the now 30-year-old Ware signed a 7-year, $78 million contract with Dallas. Here's a look back at how the original deal was structured and the salary cap hits for each individual season. Since then, Ware has had his contract restructured each year since 2011, making this the third consecutive season of pushing money into future cap years. While the Cowboys are saving $4 million against the '13 cap, Ware will be taking up a lion's share of the '14 and '15 caps.
Ware: "You can't do it yourself. You have to help the team. When the team wins you win. We need to get other players in."— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) February 28, 2013
Before the new deal, Ware was scheduled to count approximately $15m against the '14 cap and $16.5m against the '15 cap. Now, there will be an additional $1.67 million tied onto each of those years' hits.
Many folks were concerned with Ware's injury-laden season being a sign of decline. Most analysis says that pass rushers productivity declines after the age of 30, but those are general trends and do not guarantee anything about an individual player. Some even thought that this would be the right opportunity to trade Ware for a bundle of draft picks in order to kick-start the next era of Cowboys football. The Dallas front office obviously does not agree with that sentiment.
On the flip side, since Ware's original contract was for 7 years, the proration of the original $20m signing bonus expires after this season. That means that the only remaining proration against the cap is for the three restructures.
Prior to today's deal, Ware's restructure bonuses would have counted $2.72m against each remaining season ('14 & '15). Now each number is bumped up an additional $1.67m, for a total of $8.8 million ($4.4 million each season). That would be the "cap hit" should Dallas feel the need to move on from Ware following this season. If they choose to keep him, he will count $16.7m and $18.2m against the '14 and '15 caps.
Supposedly this is the first domino to fall in the Cowboys quest to get under the salary cap by the deadline of March 12th, the first day of the new league year. You can probably expect Dallas to make several moves to follow up on this one. They are expected to restructure Brandon Carr at the least, and extending Tony Romo as well. Those two moves could free up an additional $16-$20 million of cap space to bring Dallas under the threshold.
Other candidates for restructures include Jason Witten, Doug Free and Miles Austin. Dallas could also release one or more of their players to get further flexibility. The team also has the option of designating a player as a June 1st cut, which will lessen the initial impact of accelarated signing bonuses, but not help them in the quest to be below the cap before the league year begins.