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Cowboys news: Some salary cap maneuvering may be in store for Dallas

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3 Contracts Cowboys Must Prioritize in 2024 Offseason - Joe Tansey, BleacherReport.com

Decisions on the offensive line need to be made heading into next season.

The Dallas Cowboys do not have many holes to fill during the NFL offseason.

The biggest issue Dallas could have is on the offensive line, where Tyron Smith and Tyler Biadasz are set to become free agents.

Dallas can justify losing some of its other free agents, including running back Tony Pollard, so that it can get better at those positions.

Dallas has two choices when it comes to the offensive interior. It can either retain Smith and Biadasz, or it can rebuild the offensive line through the NFL draft and free agency.

The Cowboys do not have a ton of salary cap space to use in free agency, so landing young prospects on cheaper deals through the draft may be their best acquisition method this offseason.

Pro Football Focus rated Smith as its No. 14 overall free agent. That could lead to a big payday elsewhere, or a shorter deal to remain in Dallas to chase a title.

The Cowboys had eight players make over $10 million last season, including Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs.

Smith will not be added to that list for 2024 because of the team’s salary cap constraints.

Dallas would love to have Smith anchor the offensive line again, but if a contender comes in with a big contract offer, it could mean the end of his time with the Cowboys.

Tyler Biadasz’s familiarity with Prescott and the rest of the offensive line would be great to hold on to.

Dak Prescott Salary Cut to $1.21 Million? Inside the Cowboys ‘Switch-Flip’ Cap Trick - Anthony Licciardi, Sports Illustrated

Converting salary to a signing bonus may be necessary for Dallas’ cap troubles.

However, an extension is not yet done and, with a no-trade clause and a no-tag clause in his current deal, Dallas risks losing Prescott for a mere compensatory pick. There’s a chance the two parties enter next season without an extension in place.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cowboys will be on the hook for that exorbitant price tag.

As Michael Gehlken pointed out, the “automatic conversion” - or what we’ve long called “flipping a switch’’ - allows teams to turn part of a player’s salary into a bonus, which – for cap purposes – gets spread out throughout the duration of the contract. (Again, the phraseology we’ve often used when the Cowboys do this normally: “Converting base to bonus.’’)

With two void years (largely a formality to help teams manage the cap) attached to Prescott’s deal, nearly $28 million of his salary can be converted and thus pushed into the next three seasons at a little over $9 million per year.

Some back-of-the-napkin math says that would free up a maximum of $18.53 million and bring his cap hit to $40.93 million, less than other stars like Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.

And as a technicality but an eye-popper, as Gehlken points out, Dallas would pay Prescott his $29 million due (most of it in “bonus’’) but could make Dak’s “base salary’’ a measly $1.21 million. Again, a math trick ... but an eye-popper!

Perfect Cowboys 2024 NFL Draft plan: Fortify OL, add complementary RB and more ways Dallas can ace next class - Garrett Podell, CBS Sports

Dallas may choose the cheapest and rebuild through the draft.

Draft a top offensive line prospect early

“I think the biggest thing for Tyron is, talking about the path of the season and the training plan that was in place for him, this is clearly his best season that I have experienced with him since 2020,” McCarthy said Thursday at his end-of-season press conference. “So, he felt good about that. I think the fact that he’s not going into the offseason with offseason surgeries is a plus. We’ll continue to talk as we move forward.”

Whether or not he returns, it would make sense for Dallas to prioritize long-term stability at the left tackle position. The Cowboys could also use improved run-blocking. Here are a few options at that spot.

Amarius Mims — listed at 6-foot-7 and 340 pounds — allowed only seven quarterback pressures and no sacks in 377 total pass block snaps across 30 games (eight starts) at Georgia. He predominantly played right tackle in college, but he is a physical specimen whom Dallas could train to play left tackle in place of Smith. He made his first career start against Ohio State in the College Football Playoffs in the 2022 season and mauled the Buckeyes up front. Dallas could use this kind of blocker in its run game as well.

Jordan Morgan was an All-Pac-12 offensive tackle in each of the past two seasons, and he will be at the Senior Bowl. He only allowed just three sacks and 24 pressures in 2022 and 2023. As evidenced by the video footage below, he can hold up against NFL-caliber talent. Morgan and Tyler Smith could lock down the left side of Dallas’ offensive line for the next decade.

Troy Aikman on Cowboys’ QB: ‘I still believe in Dak’ - Patrik Walker, DallasCowboys.com

The former Cowboys QB has faith in Dallas current signal-caller.

“I still believe in Dak,” said Aikman, speaking at an event honoring the City of Dallas for being recognized as the No. 1 Sports Business City by Sports Business Journal. “I feel like until you do it, there are always those criticisms. Peyton Manning heard that his first three years — he didn’t win a playoff game — and then you look back at it now and you can’t imagine anybody would question whether or not he could win a playoff game.”

Prescott and the Cowboys have taken the NFC East crown in two of the last three seasons to go along with a regular season record of 36-15, but they’re also now 1-2 in the tournament that followed.

Their loss to the Green Bay Packers was as demoralizing as you’ll see, and the accountability can be spread nearly evenly across the board — offense, defense, special teams and coaching — raising questions on if Prescott, who produced an MVP-frontrunner season before the wheels came off of the offense in January, can end the Super Bowl drought that extends back to Aikman’s days in the driver’s seat.

“I do know that we all draw on our past experiences,” said Aikman. “And when we don’t have great experiences, then those become hard to overcome, and I think that’s the challenge for Dak. The question for him, and really for the team, isn’t so much what happens in the regular season but rather how you play once you get into the postseason. That makes for a long year when that’s the way it works.

“And I’ve been there as well, as far as when the expectations are high. … The Cowboys have been through that earlier in their franchise history, so the pressure gets higher, for sure, as they go into this offseason and next season. It makes it hard to come back and put themselves in position to do it all over again.”

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