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Cowboys Could Make Tony Romo A June 1 Cut - But There's A Catch

The Cowboys can create up to $14 million in extra cap space in 2017 if they designate Romo a June 1 cut. But the decision may not be quite as straightforward as it appears.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It looks like Tony Romo will be released on Thursday. The Cowboys now have the choice of accounting for Romo's full cap hit in 2017, or spreading out the cap hit over 2017 and 2018.

In principle, if an NFL player is cut before the end of his contract, the entire unamortized signing bonus money (the remaining prorated bonus money) accelerates immediately and counts against the current year's cap as "dead money". In Romo's case, that would be $19.6 million of dead money that'll count against the 2017 cap. That's a big lump of money, but because Romo's cap hit in 2017 would have been $24.7 million, his release actually results in a cap saving of $5.1 million.

But in 2006, the NFL instituted a rule change that allowed teams to spread the dead money over two years if a player is released after June 1. The rule has since been amended and allows teams to release up to two players before June 1 but still designate them as June 1 cuts.

If the Cowboys were to make Romo a June 1 cut, only the unamortized bonuses for 2017, $10.7 million, would accrue in 2017, while the unamortized bonuses for 2018 and 2019, $8.9 million) would only accrue in 2018. A June 1 designation would lower Romo's cap hit from $24.7 million in 2017 to $10.7 million, a cool $14 million saving, though that would come with $8.9 million worth of dead money in 2018.

But there's a catch: unfortunately, no matter when a player is cut, whether before or after June 1, if he is designated a June-1 cut the team cutting him does not realize any cap savings until after June 1. That means designating Romo as a June-1 cut won't have any effect on the cap right now, but only after June 1 when all the free agent action is long over.

But June could be a good time to sign Zack Martin to a long-term contract, along with perhaps DeMarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens (both would be free agents in in 2018).

The Cowboys could also choose to swallow all the dead money this year, which would at least create $5.1 million in extra cap space immediately.

For now, the Cowboys will have to make do with the $9.3 million in cap space they had already created via various cap moves over the last few days. That may not feel like all that much, but it's plenty for what the Cowboys want to do in free agency.

The Cowboys apparently won't get any compensation from another team for Romo, and getting some extra cap space from his release doesn't feel like much of a consolation, but it's better than nothing at all, I guess.

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