The Dallas Cowboys have pulled the trigger. No, there’s no violence happening, they’ve just executed clauses in two of their bigger contracts to create some much needed salary cap room. With the new league year starting next Wednesday, Dallas had to create some space so that they would be cap compliant. Even with the league setting the cap at $224.8 million and Dallas rolling over an additional $5.5 million of unused 2022 space into this next season, the club was still over the threshold.
Adding the pending franchise tag for Tony Pollard increased them to being over $16 million above the cap. But thanks to those triggers, Dallas now has a little more than $14 million in cap space to make moves once the league year opens. Dallas converted the base salaries of QB Dak Prescott and RG Zack Martin to create an additional $30 million of space.
Prescott’s getting the same money this season
More details to come about exactly how much base salary was converted, but the way it works is simple. Bonuses, whether signing or restructuring, are still paid in the current year but are allocated across the seasons remaining on the deal. For Dak Prescott he had four years remaining on his deal; 2023 and 2024 are real years but he also has 2025 and 2026 years on the contract where he isn’t actually under contract.
Those are fake years that are in the deal, but void out before they take place. They literally exist for the sole purpose of being able to place some of the cap hit from the deal in years the player is no longer under contract.
As is Zack Martin
Martin had the exact same thing, void years in 2025 and 2026. Before the conversions, Prescott was set to make $31 million in base salary with another $18.1 million in cap hits from his original bonus and a 2022 restructuring.
His base salary was lowered, which lowers his cap hit this year but increases it in 2024, 2025 and 2026.
Martin was originally scheduled to see $13.5 million in base salary and had an additional $6.4 million in cap hits from prior bonuses.
This is yet another annual reminder that NFL accounting is nothing but funny money.
This does not mean that the Cowboys are closing the door on extending Prescott’s contract. It simply means that it was not likely to happen prior to the start of the league year and Dallas needed to be compliant.
The team can still, and likely will, look to add real years to the backend of Prescott’s deal, which will likely bump him back up near the top of QB salaries around the league. When he signed his deal, he ranked second in average value. He’s already down to seventh two years later.
An extension would turn the two void years into actual years where he’s under contract and likely add a couple void years that will allow Dallas to reduce his cap impact in 2024 as well.
More moves coming?
Dallas may not be done shaving off new space. It’s possible an extension for tackle Tyron Smith is on the way, even in the form of void years, to reduce his $13 million cap hit. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is also a prime candidate to have something done with his deal and his $10.9 million base salary. Elliott could see a reduction in salary or even an outright release if a number cannot be agreed upon.
Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire