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Cowboys were first team to use NFL’s new Veteran Salary Benefit tool when they re-signed Joe Looney

Great to see the Cowboys getting creative.

Dallas Cowboys v New England Patriots Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have spent most of the first week of free agency figuring deals out for their own players. That’s not to say that they haven’t brought in anybody from other teams, the Cowboys have agreed to terms with Gerald McCoy, Maurice Canady, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Among the re-signings that the Cowboys have made is offensive lineman Joe Looney. Over the course of the last four years Looney has started 20 games which obviously includes the entire 2018 season that Travis Frederick missed.

Needless to say Looney is highly valued by the Cowboys and keeping him strengthens their depth. It was clearly a priority for Dallas to retain Looney, especially after Xavier Su’a-Filo left for the Cincinnati Bengals, but the way they went about it should be commended.

The Cowboys were the first team to use a tool in the new CBA

Just before free agency started, the NFL and its players finalized a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that runs through the 2030 season. There is officially labor peace throughout the National Football League.

There are a few things that will come of the new CBA. The league will soon enough have a 17-game regular season schedule, there is going to be an additional Wildcard team in each conference, so on and so forth.

One of the more interesting developments from the new CBA is the Veteran Salary Benefit which is similar to the mid-level exception rule in the NBA. This is what the Cowboys used on Joe Looney.

Each team is allowed to employ the VSB up to twice per year, which allows clubs to exclude up to $1.25 million in total on the salary cap. Teams can divvy up the $1.25 million between the two players, or, as the Cowboys did, use it all on a single player.

To be eligible for the VSB, a player must have continuous service with a team for four seasons (he cannot have been cut any time), be a free agent re-signing with the franchise, and can only sign a one-year deal.

The Veteran Salary Benefits pot increases every two seasons: $1.35 million in 2022, $1.45 million in 2024, $1.55 million in 2026, $1.65 million in 2028, and $1.75 million in 2030, the final year of the current CBA.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo noted that Looney is also eligible for the VSB next offseason, so it’s possible that there is a wink-wink sort of situation in place for the Cowboys here. Looney wins, they win, last I checked that is called a win-win.

In totality, Looney’s deal is worth $2.44M so saving $1.25M of it is certainly not a bad thing. It should also be noted that the Cowboys are the only team, given the parameters of the Veteran Salary Benefit, that Looney is eligible to receive this with which might be why he ultimately chose Dallas.

Garafolo also previously reported that the New York Giants, with new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, were in on Looney but given that the G-Men could not match what the Cowboys could by way of the VSB that sort of made the decision easier. New York agreed to terms with Cam Fleming shortly after Looney did with the Cowboys.

Well done, Dallas.