Breaking Down Dallas Cowboys' Salary-Cap Situation Entering the Offseason

Chris ImperialeCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2014

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 9:  Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys encourages his team before a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on August 9, 2013 at Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Along with preparing for the NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys must make roster moves in order to get under the salary cap for 2014. According to USA Today, every team was notified at last month’s NFL meetings that the projected salary cap for 2014 is $126.3 million.

Although this number won’t be finalized until February or March, the Cowboys are one of four teams that currently are over the limit. As of right now, Dallas’ 2014 salaries would total $149.5 million.

For those of you who don’t like doing math, Dallas needs to cut $23.2 million this offseason to get under the projected cap.

Obviously the team would like to upgrade the roster via free agency, even though it doesn’t appear the Cowboys will be landing any big names given their situation. To get the team under the $126.3 million mark, there are several steps owner Jerry Jones will have to take.

The first move is to try to restructure some contracts that are particularly high for next season. For instance, Tony Romo is set to make nearly $21.8 million, according to spotrac. The Cowboys clearly aren’t going to force Romo to take a pay cut; however, it is possible to rearrange his contract so he gets more of the money later, rather than now.

Ware's contract will need to be adjusted.
Ware's contract will need to be adjusted.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Other players who could be in a similar situation are DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr, Jason Witten and Miles Austin. They all are projected to earn more than $8.2 million next year. They are also the next four highest salaries behind Romo.

Dallas will without a doubt be restructuring some of these players’ contracts. Moving numbers around will allow the Cowboys to make the cap this year and worry about the back end of these contracts later.

What would significantly help is if management can get a few guys to agree to actually take a pay cut. Right tackle Doug Free did just that last spring and saved Dallas around $3.5 million against the cap.

The two players who I think are the best chances to agree to such a pay cut are Ware and Austin. This is based mostly on their age and lack of production this season.

After the regular-season finale, Ware said he would agree to restructure things for the sake of the team, but wouldn’t take a pay cut. Unfortunately for Dallas, Ware will count for more than $16 million against the 2014 cap and only totaled 40 tackles and six sacks this year. These are very mediocre numbers for someone being paid so generously.

Austin didn't do much this year.
Austin didn't do much this year.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Austin’s contract might be even worse. The wide receiver is signed through 2016 and easily had his worst season since signing his extension. He had only 24 receptions for 244 yards.

It may not be the easiest thing to do, but Dallas will need to find one, if not a few players to agree to a pay cut.

Along with not being able to sign other free agents, the cap situation doesn’t allow them to sign their own free agents.

Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Ernie Sims and Danny McCray are all free to leave. The Cowboys would love to re-sign Hatcher, who was one of the most consistent players they had all year, but it doesn’t seem likely to happen with the amount of money he’ll be asking for.

It’s a very long offseason, but Jerry Jones and the Cowboys need to start making some roster adjustments to be ready to compete in 2014.