According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk the Dallas Cowboys are prepared to sign RT Eric Winston, arguably one of the top right tackles left on the market. Of course then that leaves the question as to what the cap strapped Cowboys do with current RT Doug Free. Free is set to count for $10.02 million against the 2013 salary cap but due to a prior restructure in 2012 will also count for $10.02 million in dead money if released. That leaves Dallas with a situation where they either need Free to accept a paycut to remain in Dallas or to designate him a June 1 cut.
Dallas currently has about $4.5 million in cap room which is enough to fit both Free and Winston on the team for the time being. The problem comes once July rolls around and the Cowboys need to sign their rookies and earmark funds for the season when the cap calculations expand to 53 active plus all other paid players. Marcus Spears will come off the books on June 2nd, freeing up an additional $1.7 million in cap space, but that will not be enough to cover the cap space needed for the season.
Designating Free a June 1 cut or simply waiting until June to release him would save the Cowboys $7 million in cap space in 2013. That $7 million would need to be accounted for in 2014. While on the surface that sounds like a bad thing for the Cowboys, considering Free does not factor into the teams long term plans anyway his 2014 $7 million dollar hit was going to hit the books in 2014 whether or not he remains in Dallas in 2013. Considering the Cowboys cap starved position over the next two years cutting Free now if probably the more prudent option rather than paying him a salary in 2013 that eats into the teams carryover, however limited it may be, making the navigation of 2014 that much more difficult. The one option Dallas can not consider is restructuring his contract to prorate more money and damage the future salary cap that much more.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.