The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with free agent linebacker Justin Durant, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.
A minor hiccup to Durant joining the Cowboys is that the team is currently around $100,000 under the cap and will need to make a move or two to officially welcome him to the fold.
Durant has spent the last two seasons with the Detroit Lions, where he started 26 of 29 games and posted 171 tackles with 1.5 sacks while earning $5.5 million on a two-year deal he signed as an unrestricted free agent after beginning his career as a 2007 second-round pick out of Hampton by the Jacksonville Jaguars. As the NFL gets set to begin its third week of free agency, Durant's deal is not expected to break the bank, but the deal cannot be signed until the Cowboys create a bit more cap room.
More appropriately, the Cowboys need to move a few more things around as they've already released defensive end Marcus Spears, linebacker Dan Connor and safety Gerald Sensabaugh and renegotiated the contracts of DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff, Jason Witten, Orlando Scandrick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and even backup center/guard Ryan Cook, who surrendered $500,000 in "likely to be earned" playing-time incentives that would have applied to Dallas' 2013 cap.
Even with those moves, the Cowboys are still window-shoppers in free agency, meeting with Durant, cornerback Will Allen and safety Michael Huff, but lacking the financial ability to put pen to paper.
The league-wide cap number of $123 million does not apply to the Cowboys, who are serving out the second season of a two-year, $10 million cap penalty for front-loading cap dollars into the uncapped 2010 season. According to a source with access to league cap figures, the Cowboys' "Adjusted Cap Number" this season is $119,999,156 and while the Cowboys are $100,000 or so under the cap right now, they are more than $7 million over that figure when you count all their contracts, not just the "Top 51" that apply in the offseason.
Dallas will gain an additional $2 million in space on June 2, the day after Spears' signing bonus proration is officially spread out over the 2013 and 2014 seasons. More space could be cleared by signing quarterback Tony Romo and defensive end Anthony Spencer to extensions.
Romo is due $11.5 million in base salary and has a $16.819 million cap number in 2013, the final year of his current deal as years 2014-16 will void. (Even if Romo plays out his contract and is allowed to walk in free agency, Dallas still has $8.181 million in leftover signing bonus proration to account for in 2014, so the cap burden won't be going away after this season.) Spencer received the franchise tag for the second consecutive season at a cost of $10.6272 million in base salary which is now fully guaranteed as the veteran wisely signed his tender on the first day of the 2013 league year, stripping the Cowboys of the opportunity to rescind the tag this offseason.
Right tackle Doug Free is due $7 million in base salary with a $10.02 million cap number, but as "Shutdown Corner" mentioned in our "TPS Report" series, Free's release wouldn't provide the Cowboys with any salary cap relief until June.
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