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2014 NFL Salary Cap Projected To Be $130 Million

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After earlier reports had the cap around $126 million, it's actually going to be closer to $130 million. How big of a deal is this for Dallas?

Now we know what Stephen is smiling about!
Now we know what Stephen is smiling about!
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Relatively early Thursday Morning, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted the following little nugget...

This news should come as very big news to those who follow the Cowboys and allows fans, and members of the Jones family, to take a collective sigh of relief. Todd Archer argues that the extra cap room won't affect the Cowboys plans in free agency and I agree with his sentiment there. But I believe that this is a huge deal for Dallas from both a short- and long-term perspective.

The cycle the Cowboys have been on of restructuring contracts, pushing money into future caps in order to get under the current cap, works fine when you have relatively young players who you are confident will play out the full length of their contracts. However, when those guys reach that magical NFL age of 30 (QBs notwithstanding) it becomes a dangerous proposition to push money back into season where a player might be 33 or 34 years of age. This is the conundrum the Cowboys find themselves in. The players they have traditionally leaned on for those restructures, namely DeMarcus Ware, & Jason Witten are no longer spring chickens, and the level of certainty surrounding their on-going tenure with the team has diminished significantly. Thus you do NOT want to have to push money back on guys like that.

This extra cap space makes the team's choices in the next two and a half weeks, leading up to the start of the new league year, much easier. As an exercise, I used the best thing going on the internet, also known as the Salary Cap Calculator, at OvertheCap.com to see what it would take to get the Cowboys below the $130 million mark. These are the moves I made, including the approximate savings generated by those moves.

Restructure:

  • Tony Romo ($10 million)
  • Brandon Carr ($5 million)
  • Sean Lee ($4 million)
  • Orlando Scandrick ($3 million)
Those four moves alone have generated approximately $22 million in cap space for 2014, getting them just below the $130 million mark where they are required to be my March 11. Add to those the following moves.

Cut:

  • Jeremy Parnell ($1 million)
  • Justin Durant ($1 million)
  • Phil Costa ($1 million)
Now the Cowboys have $3 million in cap space to fill some of their depth needs with guys on minimum salary benefit deals, or other bottom-roster-types. And we did all of that without touching Ware or Witten's contracts.

The only real "hard" decision was whether to restructure Brandon Carr or not. He had an up and down year in 2013, but overall has been a pretty decent player when asked to play to his strengths, and has made some HUGE plays in multiple wins the last couple of years (Cincinnati '12, Pittsburgh '12, Oakland '13). His contract was designed to be restructured, so I think they go ahead and make that move.

Now any additional moves will be somewhat icing on the cake. Make Miles Austin a June 1 cut and you have $5 million to sign your rookies, and you are set for 2014. Now you have the capability to keep DeMarcus Ware on your team even at his (highly overpriced) $16 million cap number, and if you are able to get him to reduce his rate, you free up another $5-7 million to either try to re-sign Jason Hatcher, or extend your young core guys like Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith.

The gift of millions in extra cap space makes life MUCH easier from a Cowboys perspective, and might just prevent the cap Armageddon we all feared would come in 2014.