IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are wielding a credit card more than they are wielding a pair of scissors as they make salary adjustments to slice more than $20 million from the cap in order to slide under the NFL’s expected 2012 salary cap of $123 million.
Three major moves were the results of levers already installed into players contracts that were simply pulled: That goes for cornerback Brandon Carr (with $13 million of his $14 million base salary converted to a bonus, saving the team more than $10 million), for tight end Jason Witten (a cap savings of $3.6 million) and for defensive end DeMarcus Ware (a cap savings of $4 million).
The team also restructured deals with receiver Miles Austin (a $3 million savings), with center Ryan Cook and with guard Nate Livings. Dallas is working on more of the same involving defensive back Orlando Scandrick, guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and linebacker Dan Connor (the only one in the group likely subject to an outright release).
The Cowboys also signed their free-agent long-snapper L.P. Ladoucer to a deal that gives him a $600,000 signing bonus and a non-guaranteed salary near the vet’s minimum for the next five years.
“We are going to get under the cap,” team vice present Stephen Jones said last week. “That is a non-issue.”
It’s a non-issue because it’s a requirement — and Dallas’ approach has been the same for the last three seasons despite a February existence in “cap hell”: The Cowboys convert potential base salary into guaranteed bonuses and then spread that money out over the life of the contract. That creates a credit-card problem for later. But it creates room to sign their own restricted free agents, to pay for the draft and to negotiate with free-agent standout Anthony Spencer.
The Cowboys also wish to extend quarterback Tony Romo (four more seasons in exchange for cutting his present cap number in half from $16.8 million) and are working to re-negotiate down the $7 million base salary of underachieving tackle Doug Free.