Stacking Cap Bundles: Cowboys convert Lawrence salary, restructure Tyron Smith
The Dallas Cowboys have been very busy with their own on the official opening day of free agency. 24 hours prior, the club locked in two of their own free agents, returning defensive starters Leighton Vander Esch and Donovan Wilson to keep Dan Quinn’s unit primarily in tact. They upgraded the one player of note they seem okay with losing, moving from Anthony Brown to five-time Pro Bowler Stephon Gilmore.
But Wednesday brought about a different kind of house tending. Dallas said goodbye to running back Ezekiel Elliott, releasing the former face of the franchise in a move that will provide them cap space to sign rookies and carry into the season. Then they went about creating room to continue their free agency shopping by reworking the contracts of veterans Tyron Smith and DeMarcus Lawrence.
Lawrence's new base salary
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The Cowboys cleared out an additional $8.9 million of space by reworking the 2023 base salary in Lawrence’s deal. Converting $13.35 million of his $15 million salary made plenty of sense, as outlined here, because the entire amount was already guaranteed. All the move does from the cap perspective is give Dallas more room now to sacrifice space in 2024; but that space will be a lower percentage of next year’s cap after the annual increase.
Cowboys completed an automatic conversion on DE DeMarcus Lawrence's contract. No money added or removed from deal. Lawrence had $13.35M of his $15M salary converted into signing bonus, creating $8.89 million in cap space for 2023, a person familiar with the procedural move said.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) March 15, 2023
Smith's new structure
Smith was a little more difficult, but also expected.
The numbers aren’t in, but the reports say that he could even see more money than the $13.6 million he’s scheduled to make, but it’s based on incentives instead of base salary. And since Smith only played in four games last season, it stands to reason a large chunk of his incentives will be considered not-likely-to-be-earned.
That means they only count against the cap if he achieves them, and then only at the end of the season. Dallas will be protected there because they’ll be taking a ton of cap space into the regular season.
Cap Space Recap
Making Elliott a post-June 1 cut means that Dallas will get back the hold of his entire $10.9 million base salary. He’ll cost them $6 million in dead money in 2024, but this move allows them the $3 million in cap space needed for the addition of their 2023 draft picks, and also allows them another $8 million to sign summer and regular-season free agents.
But if Dallas wanted to make anymore moves this spring, they needed to add more space. Dallas entered the day with $4.3 million of space. Lawrence’s restructure moved things to $13.2 million and Smith’s could add as much as another $12 million once all of the details emerge.