IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) — The Cowboys on Tuesday began the execution of their year-long plan to get under the NFL salary cap of $134 million by “flipping the switch’’ on clauses in the contracts of Tony Romo, Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick that move Dallas to within $1 million of the $134-million cap.
With the planned release of Phil Costa, the Cowboys will erase another $1.5 million of cap commitment and will be under the cap well before the March 11 deadline.
Romo’s deal is the only one that merits controversy. But as owner Jerry Jones says, the quarterback is this franchise’s “big ticket’’ to potential playoff success, and the Cowboys’ financial ties to him reflect that. The reworking of Romo’s deal includes the conversion of base salary into bonus in a way that cuts in half his $22-million cap figure and gives Dallas $10 million worth of room. The Lee and Scandrick restructures will give Dallas about $7 million worth of room.
There are other Cowboys contracts that include this same sort of “flip-the-switch’’ option, but if Dallas avoids doing that (especially with older players like Jason Witten) it can avoid so-called “cap hell’’ – problematic when a team is financially over-committed to paying fading talent. But the Cowboys are not planning on activating the Witten clause or the Brandon Carr clause at this time.
Instead, the next order of business is to negotiate a new deal with DeMarcus Ware, whose $16-mil cap impact can be cut in half with his outright release. The Cowboys would prefer to tear up his old contract and negotiate a new deal that impacts the cap in that same manner.
Also, Miles Austin is on the to-do list, with the top option being to make him a post-June 1 cut, thus creating $5.5 million of room.
For all the sound and the fury about “cap hell,’’ the Cowboys are where they want to be a week ahead of the deadline – under the cap and in position to make more moves that might allow them to bid on their own free agents (like Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer) or other teams’ (like Chicago’s Henry Melton).
And all it really is taking today is the flipping of three switches.
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