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Cowboys’ $30 million in new cap space not as awesome as it sounds

Dallas is still on the lower end of actual spending room compared to the rest of the NFL.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Recently the Cowboys cleared $30 million from their 2023 salary cap by restructuring the contracts of Dak Prescott and Zack Martin. This sounds amazing on the surface, but the reality is that Dallas still only has about $10-$12 million in actual cap space ahead of next week’s start of NFL free agency.

How could this be? Well, you have to remember that the team was already about $7 million over the 2023 cap going into the offseason. So right away, that comes out of the $30 million they created with the restructures.

Then you had last week’s moves to retain running back Tony Pollard and tackle Terence Steele. The franchise tag applied to Pollard counts $10.09 million. The second-round restricted free agent tender given to Steele counts $4.3 million. That’s about $14.4 million, almost half of the $30 million, already spent.

Different sources provide different figures. Spotrac has the Cowboys with $12.38 million in cap space currently. Over The Cap has Dallas at $14.75 million, but that calculation doesn’t appear to include Steele’s RFA tender at this time. Either way, we’re still looking at roughly $10-$12 million of actual spending power going into next week.

That puts the Cowboys among the bottom half of NFL teams in terms of current cap space. While nobody can boast the $75.6 million that the Chicago Bears currently enjoy, 13 other teams have at least $20 million or more in space. Dallas currently sits somewhere around 19th-20th in cap space ahead of free agency.

There are still moves to be made. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence’s contract will likely get restructured as well. As has been discussed for months now, the contracts of tackle Tyron Smith and running back Ezekiel Elliott remain in the crosshairs for either modification or termination. Other potential cap casualties such as cornerback Jourdan Lewis and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore are still out there. And the debate over whether or not WR Michael Gallup should be restructured is a fun topic.

The Cowboys will have to make some additional moves just to finish out the offseason and field a roster in 2023. The cap space we’ve talked about doesn’t even account for what’s needed to pay for Dallas’ upcoming draft class. That can be dealt with later in the summer, closer to training camp, but you essentially have to plan for it now in your budgeting.

While the restructures of Dak Prescott and Zack Martin’s contracts were good moves for the Cowboys, the team is far from $30 million under the salary cap. In reality, these moves were just enough to get the team’s heads back above water financially. The moves still to come are what will really decide how aggressive Dallas can be in its pursuit of new talent, and the retention of its own free agents, as the market opens next week.

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