The big date for all NFL free agents is March 10th, when the 2015 league year and free agency both kick off at 4 PM ET. That is when free agents can start accepting offers from other teams to find out what their worth is on the market. Teams are able to contact agents to start negotiations from March 7th until the start of the league year, although the players still can't meet directly with any team besides their own. However, there are some other important dates coming up that affect several individual players with the Dallas Cowboys. (For a full list of the league wide dates, see OCC's article containing the league calendar, which is in the Library section for your convenience.)
A former agent, Joel Corry, wrote an article about the dates from his perspective. He covers a lot of significant names in the league, including the following Cowboys:
1. This is the deadline for the Dallas Cowboys to pick up the option on defensive tackle Henry Melton's contract for an additional three years worth $24 million. If the option is exercised, Melton's $9 million 2015 base salary becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the 2015 league year (March 10), which would make him a candidate to lower his $9,308,843 cap number through a restructure. $8,382,311 of cap room will be gained if Dallas passes on the option.
2. The 2015 and 2016 contract years of Dallas Cowboys tackle Doug Free void. He will become an unrestricted free agent when the 2015 league year starts. Dallas is going to have a $3.98 million salary cap charge from the bonus proration associated with Free's 2015 and 2016 contract years.
Given that Melton finished the season on IR, the chances of the Cowboys picking up his option are roughly slim and none. There are lots of things the team can do with over $8 million in cap space. The Free situation is funny in a way, because the voiding is a done deal, but it doesn't really happen until this date. I suppose it is all an accounting thing.
1. This is the first day of a two-week period where teams can designate franchise or transition players. It's practically a certainty that Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston and Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will be franchised if they don't sign new deals with their respective clubs before the end of the designation period.
That two week period makes the deadline for using the franchise tag on Bryant or possibly DeMarco Murray 4 PM ET on March 2nd. Bryant is clearly the most likely to be tagged. It might be just to buy time while working out the long term deal. Some keep mentioning Murray as a player who could be tagged, but given the overall picture, that makes little sense. The tag on a running back is just too high, even if for one year.
$7.5 million of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's $17 million 2015 base salary is already fully guaranteed. An additional $7.5 million, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed.
This is one of those things that makes you wonder where they come up with the specific dates, because the article is full of similar dates for players all around the league. There is no real logic to them. It just makes you wonder.
And effective at this time, Romo of course knows he will be getting $15 million for the year, no matter what. Incidentally, Romo's dead money makes him virtually impossible to part ways with until 2017. That year, his dead money figure is $10 million, but the team can still gain $11.5 million if they were to decide his time has come. In 2018 he only represents $2.5 million in dead money, and there currently is none in 2019. This is why the team would prefer not restructuring his deal. It looks like they anticipate his career ending in Dallas in another few years. It only makes sense given his age, and the team would be wise to keep their options open.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee's $2.5 million 2015 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, becomes fully guaranteed. He missed the 2014 season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
Obviously we all hope the team gets more value out of Lee's 2015 salary than it did from 2014's. Incidentally, although he does not represent nearly as much money, the timeline for when the team could consider parting ways with Lee is identical to Romo's. He could be cut in 2017 with a gain in available cap space as well, and goes to zero dead money in 2019.