Free’s cap charge complicates Cowboys’ decision

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For weeks, the Cowboys have been dancing around the issue of squeezing right tackle Doug Free to take less money in 2013.

The problem for the Cowboys comes from the money they’ve given him in the past.

For 2013, Free’s contract puts $3.02 million in prepaid bonus money against the cap.  With his $7 million base salary, Free accounts for over $10 million in cap space this year.

Cutting him either after June 1 (or cutting him now with their one remaining post-June 1 designation for the year) would prevent future bonus allocations from hitting the current cap.  Still, the Cowboys would carry $7.08 million in dead money on their 2014 cap, if Free is cut loose.

A pre-June 1 release becomes the equivalent of tearing off the Band-Aid in one motion, with the future cap charge exceeding by $80,000 the base salary Free would have earned this year.  While it would save $7 million in cash and also clear him off the books, it’s not the best way to deal with a season in which the Cowboys have had $5 million in cap space stolen from them because they treated the uncapped year of 2010 as, you know, an uncapped year.

The delay likely is driven by a genuine desire to keep Free around at a lower salary, and to ensure that, if/when he becomes a free agent, there will be no one left to pay him anything close to what the Cowboys are offering.

With each passing day, the Cowboys’ leverage grows.  At some point, that reported pay cut of $2 million will look like a bargain, because Free likely will have a hard time finding $5 million on the open market — especially since former Falcons right tackle Tyson Clabo, a 2010 Pro Bowler who has missed only one game since the start of the 2008 season, recently got only $3.5 million on a one-year deal from the Dolphins.

25 responses to “Free’s cap charge complicates Cowboys’ decision

  1. Even though I bleed Burgundy & Gold, I think this bullsh!t that Mara/Goodell pulled on the Cowboys and Skins is just that…bullsh!t. The contracts they doled out in the “uncapped year” were approved by the league, other teams did the same thing although not as aggressively, and no punishment was handed out? Why? Because they don’t play in the NFC East…period! Poetic justice was served when the Gints had epic fails last year and I pray that they fail again this year. Can’t wait until both teams get their cap money back and I can root against the Cowboys once again…but for now, I will be pulling for them against the Gints…

  2. With each passing day, Free’s leverage grows, as the free agent market for tackles continues to dry up. Dallas can’t afford to cut him. Free shold refuse to take a pay cut and force JJ’s hand.

  3. The COWBOYS leverage grows? How is that? They are so cap strapped they cananot simply cut him and sign someone else. Half the team reworked their contracts just for this year so they could sign their draft class and some FA’s. With nearly all Tackle options gone, it only reinforces Free’s leverage. Do some research you freakin hack.

  4. Free is not worth 5 Mil…he would be lucky to get 2-3 mil as a backup which he always was

    Cowboys cut bait and run from this guy..he sucks

  5. The Cowboys would have more money to work with if they didn’t overpay for a perennial 8-8 quarterback.

  6. I love this lmao, how does this mediocre player count that much against your cap? They new for a long time that he wasnt that good, yet he gets this type of contract. Thank you Jerry, I hope you get to live forever.

  7. The only one to blame for this mess is the Cowboys. Free was given a contract worthy of a Pro Bowler when in fact he is below average. Since the inception of the CAP both Cowboys and Redskins have proven awful at managing it and have made an inordinate amount of ignorant personal decisions. The Redskin have been better of late because of Bruce Allen, the Cowboys not so much.

  8. tony is way over paid also. hes an average qb makeing mvp level money. 3 years from now the boys will be in cap trouble again. than who’s to blame ? not the nfl.

  9. It’s time to cut bait with this dude I know he has a 10 million dollar cap hit this year but that can be spread over 2 years if the Cowboys choose to do so. I think the reason they maybe asking him to take a pay cut is because they want to take a look at him at guard but not at 10 million dollars. If he takes the pay cut and moves to guard the cowboys could then sign a Winston or Justice and also possibly fortify the middle of the line that’s assuming Free is a better guard then Bernadeau who stinks in my opinion!

  10. That’s what happens when you put a goober from Arkansas in charge of the finances. Jerry will never have the patience it takes to get rid of his mistakes and wait on good player to come up. Every damn year he thinks the Cowboys are in the “HUNT” for a return to the Superbowl. Right now there so far out he’ll never get them back in. He’ll just keep blowing his cap money on has beens and neverwases because he thinks he is just 1 or 2 players away. BS he is at least 10 good players away now and cant afford to sign even one.

  11. Kind of missed a point, what is the Cowboys cap space, because if you cut Free you then have to find and sign a new RT. So the leverage might not be as much with the Cowboys as you think

  12. First of all, Mara did not take money away from the Redskins or the Cowboys. This was approved by the NFL Owners. Mara happened to make a comment on the record voicing his approval of this penalty.

    Secondly, The Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins were both docked millions of dollars in salary cap space — $36 million in the Redskins’ case, $10 million for the Cowboys — because they dumped salaries in 2010, when the N.F.L. operated without a salary cap after the collective bargaining agreement expired. Teams had been warned by the league not to dump salaries or front-load contracts to take advantage of the uncapped year prior to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

    An example of the salary dump: in 2010, the Cowboys paid receiver Miles Austin $17 million in salary, which means all of it counted in 2010 and none was prorated over subsequent years, when the salary cap returned after the new labor agreement was reached last summer.

    Whine all you want, but NFL Teams were warned about this, and the Redskins and Cowboys decided to roll the dice – and lost. Remember, actions have consequences.

  13. I’d argue that with each passing day, Free’s leverage increases. With every tackle that is removed from free agency, Free can increasingly have confidence that he can just tell them no, he won’t take the pay cut. They don’t like Winston as much as the media states they do and behind that there is nothing. The Cowboys aren’t going to go into the season with Parnell and Weems as their only RT options and Free knows this.

  14. How is this an issue in any way? Didn’t Jerry approve the contract and Jerry never makes mistakes. I thought every player he vouched for was a guaranteed great value? I’m still looking for answers to my last 20 tough questions for Jerry and he hasn’t answered a single one yet. Therefore, the Cowboys deserve to be made fun of and scrutinized all along their journey to further futility.

  15. myfootballgiants you’re retarded. no rules were violated, half the league was dumpin contracts like chicago with j peppers. only nfc east teams were punished. who hands down punishments? the competition committee, which mara heads. you don’t think the punishments he levied gave his team an advantage in going to the playoffs?!

  16. So, please set the record straight nflfootballgiants and moagecu…who else got penalized? And again, ALL contracts were approved by the league. Was that an uncapped year or was it not? How can they penalize only those two teams and not others? Because MARA is the head of the competition committee, pure, plain and simple. “Warned teams not to do it”…collusion at its finest. Trust me, you would not hear a peep from me IF other teams that did the SAME thing had been punished at all. Only those two…

  17. losntina69 says:
    May 8, 2013 9:56 AM
    I love this lmao, how does this mediocre player count that much against your cap? They new (sic) for a long time that he wasnt that good, yet he gets this type of contract. Thank you Jerry, I hope you get to live forever.
    One thing this CAP thing does is make worms squirm when the cows come home. Pity is the Cowboys’ GM doesn’t have to be responsible to the owner. Double pity that he is still making money hand over fist.

    Who loses? The fans and the team.

    I wish Jerrah would sit in the upper deck and get some feedback from his fans instead of being insulated in his precious box.

  18. Look – it was collusion. I’ve never argued that. The league didn’t reject the contracts, because to do so would have meant that they would have been exposed to an unfair labor charge by the union.

    In addition, there are 9 other members of the competition committee. Mara is but 10% of the voting power. That by itself isn’t enough to penalize the Cowboys and Redskins. They were penalized by the league, and it was signed off by the union. (And later upheld by an arbitrator)

    Keep in mind –

    Team officials around the NFL, however, said there were several warnings — although not in writing — at the start of 2010 advising teams of (1) potential “retroactive accounting” for the uncapped year, and (2) potential discipline for “abuse” of the uncapped year. These warnings obviously went unheeded by the Cowboys and Redskins — and, to a lesser extent, the Saints and Raiders — and were followed by more strident warnings at an NFL owners’ meeting. (Saints and Raiders were not hit with cap penalties, but did not receive the additional cap space given to the other teams).

  19. In the case of the Cowboys and the Redskins – they were penalized by the amounts they exceeded the cap by.

    (Cowboys for Austin’s contract, Redskins for Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall).

    The Saints and Raiders exceeded the cap by a nominal amount – so did not lose cap space.

    If you are so sure there were other teams that should have been punished – List the other teams and amounts that were salary dumps.

  20. I’m not convinced Jerry is gaining leverage from the stand point, he failed to draft a tackle to replace Free and Clabo is off the market now. Once Winston is off the market, who does Jerry replace Free with?

    Jerry is focused on getting Free to play for less money but does that make the team any more competitive or better on the O line?

  21. He’s gotta take a pay cut, he knows it; he played terrible most of the season; huge mistake paying him so much but he looked like gold and turned to lead; get him in camp at half price and get him back in form!

  22. Free is in the driver’s seat here. 2 better FA OL have signed already. Even a $2 million pay cut makes him overpaid. He is in a win-win situation right now because we are going to need that OL depth by keeping him if no one else is signed.

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