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The cost of doing business: What the Cowboys are paying for all the offseason moves they’re making

Every contract restructure comes with a price.

Dallas Cowboys v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are doing stuff.

The team has retained some key pieces to their defense by extending Donovan Wilson, Leighton Vander Esch, and Dante Fowler, and have at least secured another year of service from some vital offensive players in Tony Pollard, Terence Steele, and Tyron Smith.

While those moves are typical Cowboys front office moves, what has fans on their feet are a couple of new additions via trades in the form of Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore. The team shipped away late-round draft capital to take on the contracts of these proven veterans.

Of course, for this to happen, the front office has to make sacrifices. Some of these sacrifices include releasing long-time running back Ezekiel Elliott or letting the reliable Dalton Schultz leave in free agency. The team has also manipulated a few contracts to cut down the cap hit while sweetening the pot with incentive bonuses.

One of the big moves the Cowboys have made this offseason that isn’t really talked about is all the contract restructures they have worked in order to free up cap space for the 2023 season. This is a common occurrence for NFL teams as converting base salary into bonus money to spread out the cap hit is a bookkeeping trick that happens all the time.

The Cowboys are no different as they use this tool like everyone else, but they hit that switch quite a bit this offseason. The team has restructured four contracts, freeing up a total of $47 million in cap space for the 2023 season.

But with these present-day savings come future costs as the team is pushing out these cap hits into subsequent seasons. And considering that Dallas has already done a lot of that entering this new season, the future bill just got a whole lot bigger. Today, we’re going to take a quick look at these four restructures and get a sense of what it all means.


Initial long-term deal: Four years, $160 million

Restructures: $6.3 million (2021), $18.4 million (2022), and $29.3 million (2023), totaling $54 million

Prescott’s deal is the easiest to use in restructures as there’s a lot of money to free up, but those future debts can build up in a hurry. Here is a summary of Dak’s deals over his career and how much the Cowboys have already accounted for against the cap.

As you can see, the Cowboys still need to account for $96.2 million of his initial $160 million deal after the 2023 season. That means he would be 75% through his four-year deal with the Cowboys only paying for 40% of it. Basically, the team is using a large amount of their available credit from the card with their highest credit limit.

Prescott carries a $59.4 million and $36.4 million cap hit in 2024 and 2025 (void year) respectively despite not even being under contract in 2025. The Cowboys will mitigate this cost by working on a contract extension at some point. While this extra money seems steep now (and it’s nothing to gloss over), it won’t seem quite as costly when it’s being absorbed into future years with larger overall salary caps.


Initial long-term deal: Six-year, $84 million (plus a one-year, $9.3 million 5th-year option)

Restructures: $10.1 million (2020), $9.4 million (2021), $10.2 million (2022), and $11.8 million (2023), totaling $41.5 million

Martin’s contract has been another tool that the team frequently finagles to help free up cap space as they’ve restructured his deal in each of the last four seasons.

This one doesn’t seem quite as bad, but the Cowboys still have to account for $33 million of the $93 million (35%) after the 2023 season even though he will be 6/7 of the way through his contract.


Initial long-term deal: Five years, $105 million

Restructures: $15 million (2020) and $13.3 million (2023), totaling $28.3 million

Last offseason, the Cowboys front office essentially talked Lawrence into adding an extra year to his initial deal for free. Instead of a five-year, $105 million deal, it became for six years. In return, Lawrence was promised more guaranteed money. With a lower yearly cost for Dallas and job security for Tank, both sides got what they wanted.

With another restructure this season, the Cowboys will still need to account for 27% of his total contract cost after this season despite only having the final year of his six-year deal left.

Just to put this all in perspective, Prescott, Martin, and Lawrence will each have one more year left on their contract after the 2023 season, but will collectively still cost the team $157 million in owed cap space. That is the costly cost of restructuring.


Initial long-term deal: Five years, $57.5 million

Restructures: $8.75 million (2023)

The team just signed Gallup to his new deal last offseason, but already the team is using his contract to free up some cash.

Gallup’s first two-year cap cost totals $11.5 million, leaving $45.7 million remaining over his final three seasons. Or to put it another way, if he plays out his contract in Dallas, he’d cost almost $6 million per year for the first two seasons while jumping to an average annual cost of $15 million for the final three years.

For years, we’ve watched other teams make big moves and most of the time, it doesn’t go well. The ones that do are remembered and applauded, but all moves have consequences. The Los Angeles Rams went all-in and won a Super Bowl and they are fortunate to do so as the cost of doing business has reared its ugly head. The team is trading players and dumping salary to help give them a fighting chance in the future. Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff even recently explained to season ticket holders that they are preparing to pay the piper.

While the Cowboys will be struggling with cap space in coming years, they are still equipped with their draft capital, and as we’ve seen, they use it well. Good drafting will help replace more expensive players with those on a cheap rookie deal. The window hasn’t collapsed as it has in Los Angeles, but the Cowboys are sacrificing future resources to win right now. We may have had a leg to stand on before when talking about this organization doing “a little more” to help them make a serious run, but it would be a hard case to make right now. Appreciate it now, and cross our fingers later.

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