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What the restructuring of Tyron Smith’s contract could mean for the Cowboys

Are the Cowboys setting the table for a personnel move?

NFL: Preseason-Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The front office of the Dallas Cowboys have just freed up cap space by converting some of Tyron Smith’s 2020 base salary into bonus money. Entering the season, Smith had a $10 million base salary and a total cap hit of $13.5 million. Prior to this restructure, the 29-year-old left tackle only had $5.2 million left from previous restructures that has yet to be accounted for. That money would’ve come off the books after the 2021 season, meaning Smith’s final two years of his contract would’ve been free of restructure money and come with no dead money hit should the Cowboys suddenly decide to part ways with him.

All that has changed now, as the Cowboys are shifting some money around and have now converted $8.9 million of this year’s base salary to be spread out across the final four years of his contract. It will add another $2,225,000 to his cap hit for the next three years, but it frees up $6,675,000 worth of space for the team this season.

This is the second instance this year that they’ve restructured one of their tackles. While some expected DeMarcus Lawrence or Zack Martin to be a prime restructure candidate this offseason, the Cowboys instead opted go with La’el Collins. The team converted $5 million of his base salary into bonus money back in March.

A restructure candidate is typically a sign of faith the team has in players who they believe have a strong chance of sticking around and playing through the length of their contract. This is because it lessens the chances of getting stuck with a big dead money hit if they are released. It speaks to how confident they are in the Collins investment.

However, using Smith’s contract as a pawn to shift money comes as a little bit of a surprise. They 10-year veteran has a lot of mileage on that body, and after three straight seasons where he’s missed three games a piece, one has to wonder just how long he can hold up. He’s just not a guy that you’d think the team would choose to use to free up money.

Another part of this that is perplexing is - what are the Cowboys up to? They still had $6 million in cap space, and they have all their rookies signed. That should be enough money to allow them the flexibility to sign players here and there as the need arises. That is unless, they go after a bigger fish. Every year, there always seems to be a disgruntled defensive back stuck on a team that is going nowhere. Teams are willing to let these young, high upside players go in return for some draft capital. Or maybe there’s a veteran defensive tackle out there that would be more valuable to the Cowboys than they are to their current team? The Cleveland Browns have a couple players in Sheldon Richardson and Denzel Ward who would be a welcomed addition to this Cowboys defense should the when the wheels come off of their season.

The Smith restructure may very well just be a bookkeeping move to give the team more breathing space that will likely be carried over into the 2021 season. However, if the Cowboys are making a serious push for a deep playoff run and have a glaring hole, they now have the cap space to pull off a mid-season trade to shore up that weakness. Will it happen? Probably not. But at least now, the Cowboys have options and if it looks like one element of the team is holding them back, don’t be shocked if “one player away” Jerry Jones goes all in with a big move.