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Cowboys have cleared $27 million in cap space as they prepare for Dak Prescott contract negotiations

The Cowboys are moving money around, but what are they up to?

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

On Friday, the Dallas Cowboys converted $15 million of DeMarcus Lawrence’s $16.9 million 2020 base salary into restructured bonus money. This breaks up that portion of his base salary and spreads it out in $3 million installments over the next five years, including a voidable year in 2024. This effectively clears a total of $12 million in cap space.

The Cowboys did a similar move on Wednesday when they converted $10 million of Zack Martin’s base salary into bonus money. This spread out those funds into $2 million increments over five years, clearing a total of $8 million in cap space.

And let’s not forget that three weeks ago, the team converted nearly $9 million of Tyron Smith’s base salary into a restructure bonus as well. This spread out that lump sum into $1.78 million hits over the next five years.

In less than a month’s time, the Cowboys have cleared nearly $27 million in cap space. They have gone from having almost no additional cap space this year to having the fourth-most cap space in the league with just over $29 million.

With all this shuffling of money, people are left curious as to what this all means in the grand scheme of things. While initially some thought the team was preparing to clear up space to sign a player like say, Earl Thomas, the team has long since had the money to do so, but never pulled the trigger. Instead, they just keep freeing up more and more space as if they are saving for something expensive.

And that big purchase would be the services of Dak Prescott who disappointingly didn’t get a long-term deal worked out before the July 15th deadline. The Cowboys front office is going to have to figure it out next offseason. So, one may be wondering how does freeing up money this year help with the Prescott contract? Not only that, but when Prescott eventually signs his new deal, that first-year cap hit isn’t all that big, so why bundle up this huge amount of savings?

Well, the first part of this is the fact that any unused cap from this season will rollover into next season. What they save now, they save tomorrow. The Cowboys are just freeing up cap resources for the 2021 season.

The second question is where things get a little tricky. Yes, a new deal, regardless of how lucrative, will come with a considerably lower base salary in year one. So in terms of Dak’s actual extension, they don’t need that extra space, so what’s the point in freeing up all that room?

From the looks of this, the front office is setting the table for what appears to be Part II of the contract battle between them and Prescott’s agent, Todd France. The Cowboys are slowly approaching the cap space to be able to cover the $37 million cap hit that comes with a second franchise tag. This protects the Cowboys from allowing their franchise quarterback to test the open market in free agency. Only this time around, we’d hope the tag would just serve as a placeholder until the eventual long-term deal was completed.

Quarterbacks are being extended left and right, with the Cowboys still sitting on their hand with Prescott. The front office certainly has a plan, and all this money moving around is geared to support that plan. What they are actually up to is still a little bit of a mystery, but all signs point to preparing for a battle between the team and Team Dak.