I’ve talked extensively about Romo’s contract and the Cowboys options with him, but today the Cowboys finally pulled the trigger according to the Dallas Morning News. The Cowboys converted $16 million of Romo’s $17 million base salary into a signing bonus that will be prorated from 2015 through 2019. The move created $12.8 million in cap space for the Cowboys this season and will add an additional $3.2 million per year in every season thereafter. The potential dead money in Romo’s contract increases considerably with the move, essentially tying the Cowboys to Romo though the 2017 season.
The fact that Dallas waited so long to make this move makes me believe that this wasn’t something they necessarily wanted to do, but were prepared to do if the situation called for it. Dallas only had about $1.6 million in cap room as of today, which was not even going to be enough to sign their rookies this summer, let alone fit Rolando McClain under the cap, who they just agreed to terms with today. So this became a necessity. Dallas may have also wanted to sit on their cap space in free agency as a method to try to negotiate a more team friendly contract with DeMarco Murray, who eventually signed with the Eagles a few weeks ago.
Though there will be much speculation about what this means for other Cowboys possible transactions, namely looking to acquire Adrian Peterson, really all this move does is give Dallas the ability to pay for a full season of Greg Hardy. If Hardy hits his incentivized roster bonuses his cap charge will rise considerably this winter and the Cowboys needed room for that move. More would need to be done to bring in a player like Peterson, even if he agreed to an incentivized or deferred money contract. The Cowboys would still likely need to do something with the contract of Brandon Carr to make that happen. Carr could still be a June 1 (or I guess now a May 12) cut to help with that, but it would not help getting McClain signed now.
If Romo continues to play well there is little danger in this move. His cap hit in 2016, at $20.835 million is manageable, though the $24.7 million cap hit in 2017 is a bit more worrisome, depending on how the cap continues to rise. It is possible that when Romo reaches one of those last few seasons on the deal that Dallas can approach him about pulling a Brady or Manning and reducing his salary for the good of the team. If Romo’s back flares up and he goes downhill then the contract becomes much more troublesome for the Cowboys.
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.