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Will the new CBA mark the return of crafty contract structuring by Jerry Jones and the Cowboys?

The rules have changed, but how will the Cowboys front office react to them.

Dallas Cowboys v Chicago Bears Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The carrots are cooked!

Alas, a new collective bargaining agreement has been reached. On Sunday, the NFL players approved a new labor agreement by a vote of 1019 (yes) to 959 (no). That’s only 51.5 percent. Majority prevails, but talk about cutting it close.

Most of the popular meat from the new amendments that will come from the 2020 agreement include things like a 17-game schedule, adding a couple more playoff teams, and bumping the 53 man roster up to 55 players. And there are other things like eliminating a preseason game, pension upgrades, and altering how the league tests/responds to marijuana use. Sure, there are some things that still need to be ironed out, like where that mystery 17th game is going to come from and where it will be played, but they have plenty of time to get those details figured out.

One of the biggest elements of the new agreement for Cowboys fans resides around the team’s ability to use two tags in order to maintain control over both Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. With the new agreement, they only have one tag at their disposal. That means, they’ll need to get busy finalizing one of those guys before free agency opens. But there is another small little caveat to all this that may shake things up a bit - the 30% rule.

You see, Jerry Jones has been known to push the limits of the rules when it comes to contract structuring. In fact, the last time we were in the final year of the CBA was back in 2010, which was supposed to be an uncapped year. Why they opted to let things loose that final year is beyond me, but leave it to Jerry to find ways to take advantage. For example, that offseason wide receiver Miles Austin agreed to a six-year, $54 million deal. No big deal, except that Jones structured his contract in a way that allowed over 30% of that payout to count in 2010, taking advantage of year with no salary cap to free up cap space for subsequent years. Clever move, Mr. Jones, except you got busted!

Apparently, the owners had a “gentlemen’s agreement” to not do anything like that and Jerry and Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder went rogue. The end result came in the form of a $10 million cap penalty (Redskins got hit with a $36 M) for trying to take advantage of the system.

All of that is water under the bridge now. The Cowboys front office has shifted away from cap negligence to a more financially responsible way of operating. But that might change as the elimination of the 30% rule opens some doors. This rule previously prohibits teams from backloading deals to where a players “raise” from one year to the next could exceed 30 percent.

For example, if Dak Prescott’s base salary is $40 million (we’re just using 40 to keep the math simple, so don’t freak out!), his base the following season could not exceed a 30% increase (more than $12 jump) under the previous rule. Now - that’s off the table. Teams now have the flexibility to get crafty when it comes to structuring deals, which will inevitably get some teams to push larger amounts of money into the future.

That is not to say that this is a good thing for the Cowboys. Excessive backloading of deals got them in trouble years ago, resulting in huge dead money hits and cap casualties when teams could not longer justify paying such a high base salary for that players contributions. Players like Marion Barber, Terance Newman, and even DeMarcus Ware were all example of such cases.

What will that mean for the Cowboys? Probably not much in the grand scheme of things as the more financially sound Stephen Jones always seems to keep the future in mind when finalizing deals. But it will have a impact around the league where teams may opt to re-sign more of their own free agents, or even spice up the bidding wars for some players since more “promised” money in the future is now available.

There are a lot of different things with this new CBA, but this 30 percent rule is one that could shake things up more than some realize.

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