One of the constants in recent years during the offseason is the Dallas Cowboys cap situation leaving them with 0 flexibility in the free agency market. In the 2017 offseason things seem to be quite different.

The Cowboys are likely to be $11 million over the projected 2017 salary cap, but that’s before you consider their ability to restructure deals and most importantly dump the salary of Tony Romo. Jerry Jones doesn’t want to do it, and probably hopes he can somehow convince Romo to stay on board for less money, but that isn’t happening. Romo has a $24.7 million cap number for next season, and Dak Prescott is the starting quarterback. There are at least four teams around the league waiting for the offseason to start to see what Romo would cost. Romo might have to take money off his deal to start somewhere else, but he’s not going to be staying in Dallas.

And the Cowboys can further help their cause by working around the deals they currently have with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Sean Lee and even Jason Witten. The Cowboys plan on keeping this offensive line intact for as long as possible. Smith, signed until 2023, sees his cap hit rise from $6.8 million to $15.8 million in 2017. It’s even more drastic with Frederick: From $2.1 million to over $14 million. The Cowboys will probably look to work around these and backload the deals, which shouldn’t be that big of a problem as both players are 26 and under. 

Lee, who is signed through the 2019 season, sees his cap number double: From $6.2 million to $12.4 million, and the Cowboys can work around that. Witten is entering the final season of his deal with a $12.2 million cap hit. Extending the tight end who’ll be 35 in three months might be a bit of a loyalty move by Jones which has burned the Cowboys in the past, but it could open up some funds for the Cowboys now, as they attempt to add pieces to a 13-3 team so their season won’t end on the first night of the playoffs, even if it was cruel way to go.

The Cowboys don’t have a fifth round pick in the upcoming draft, but they do have a couple in the 7th round. Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M is reportedly urging them to trade up and pick him, regarded as the best defensive end in the draft. He’s a possible number one pick, while the Cowboys’ first selection comes at 28. That might be too much of a leap for them to make, even if their financial situation will allow them to absorb such a deal on top of signing an impact free agent or two.

The Cowboys have become smarter when it comes to their cap situation since Stephen Jones has gotten more of a say in how things are run. However, as the Patriots have shown for years, smart cap handling and reading into the future doesn’t have to come at the expense of contending every year. The Cowboys might have hit the jackpot with Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and a massive offensive line. This offseason isn’t just their opportunity of improving what needs to be improved for another impressive run, not to mention rare back-to-back playoff appearances. It’s also an opportunity to position the team for a place at the table for years to come.

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