The Cowboys and quarterback Tony Romo have agreed to a restructured contract that will create $10 million in salary-cap space and bring the team to less than $1 million over the cap, according to ESPN.com.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday the Cowboys will convert $12.5 million of Romo's $13.5 million base salary into a signing bonus, dropping his salary-cap figure from $21.773 million to $11.773 million.
Last year, Romo signed a six-year contract extension worth $108 million that included $55 million in guaranteed money, giving the team about $5 million worth of cap room for the 2013 season.
With NFL free agency starting March 11, the Cowboys have been crunching numbers to get under the $133 million salary cap for the 2014 season.
Romo is rehabbing from back surgery performed last December. The Cowboys anticipate he will be able to take part in the full offseason program that begins April 21.
ESPN Dallas also reported the Cowboys will finalize the restructured contracts of linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Orlando Scandrick on Tuesday, which created $6.8 million in cap room. The Cowboys signed Scandrick to a two-year extension late last season that guaranteed him $9 million. Lee signed a six-year extension worth as much as $51 million last summer.
Romo is expected to be healthy and ready to go when the Cowboys begin their offseason program April 21, according to vice president Stephen Jones.
Romo had surgery to repair a herniated disk on Dec. 27 and according to Jones, his rehabbing is going well and is on schedule.
"All I can go off of is what the doctors and trainers tell me, which is they think he'll make a full recovery and be fine," Jones said. "He's obviously on a timeline, but there's no concern on his timeline this year missing anything like he did last year."
This is the second straight offseason Romo has undergone back surgery.
He had surgery to remove a cyst in his back last year and didn't take part in the offseason program or minicamp. As a result he was out of shape heading into training camp.
Romo still passed for 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2013 but will be ahead of the game this season as far as his conditioning goes.
"I'm sure any player wants to be in even better condition than they were, but I don't think it was an issue with Tony," Jones said. "I thought Tony had an outstanding year, and his injury was a freak deal. He twisted out of a tackle trying to make a play and had an issue with his back."
--Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted during an interview on ESPN that defensive end DeMarcus Ware could be released in order for the team to save money against the salary cap.
Ware's salary for 2014 is $12.25 million and his cap number is $16 million.
Jones said, "There's no question when you are where we are on the cap, even though we've had some new cap space added, and you have a defensive player that's your highest paid defensive player, and he hasn't been on the field much the last two years, that has to be considered. You can't have it all.
"He's had a tough time getting on the practice field because of various injuries. All of that we have to weigh with how much of that has impacted him for the future as well as where he is in his career and with his age. Those are the ingredients in the stew. Now we've got to stir it up and see where we're going. It will be a very difficult call for us because of how much salary cap he uses."
--Club vice president Stephen Jones says the team has to avoid forcing a high draft pick on the defensive line just because that could be a major need.
"You start targeting something and drafting for need, we all know that'll get you in trouble," Jones said. "It'll be nice to come out of the draft at some point with a defensive front guy, defensive lineman or two. But no, I don't think we can just say, 'Hey, we're going to take the first two picks and it's got to be defensive linemen.' I think you get in trouble that way."
The Cowboys are in trouble in the defensive line right now partly because of the miscommunication of a year ago when they passed on defensive tackle Shariff Floyd with the 18th pick despite him being ranked fifth on their draft board.
The scouts had him rated high but the coaches didn't think he was a fit for their 4-3 scheme.
"That was unfortunate with Sharrif," Jones said. "I don't want to single a guy out, but I think that can happen when you change a system. You move from what we were doing and we were so into that, and then all of a sudden you move to a 4-3 and you've got new coaches in the room and what they're trying to accomplish and that kind of slipped through the cracks and bit us. It won't happen again."
The Cowboys' have spent time this offseason making sure the coaches and the scouts are on the same page regarding the types of players they are looking for. Part of the blame last year was because the Cowboys made a change in defensive schemes, switching from the 3-4 to the 4-3.
"I feel like we had him graded right, yes," Jones said. "Did we have him graded right for our system? That's debatable. You have some players that you have issues with because they don't fit your system necessarily. Even though Sharrif may have been a first-round type player in our old system, he might not have been a first-round player for what we want in our system as an under tackle. I mean, we think in our system we can find nose tackles later in the draft that do a good job. I think under tackles are hard to find, great ones are."
It should be noted that Floyd was drafted by the Vikings and had just 2.5 sacks last year.
--The Cowboys won a coin flip with the Ravens for the 16th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The coin flip was held at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The Ravens will have the 17th pick in the draft. The first round will be held Thursday, May 8. The two teams will then alternate positions for the remainder of the draft with the Ravens going first in the second round and the Cowboys first in the third round. Both rounds will be held on Friday May 9. Rounds four through seven will be on Saturday, May 10.
Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said getting the 16th pick is valuable to the Cowboys when trading based off of trade charts. The tie-breaking coin flip was necessary because both teams finished last season with 8-8 records and also had the same strength of schedule.
The Cowboys will likely focus on defense for the 16th overall pick. They set a team record for yards allowed for the second straight season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Scheduled to be unrestricted in March
--G Ryan Cook
--DT Jason Hatcher
--DE Edgar Jones
--QB Jon Kitna
--S Danny McCray
--LB Ernie Sims
--DE Anthony Spencer
--G Brian Waters
--DE Jarius Wynn
DEFENSIVE END: Anthony Spencer is coming off microfracture surgery and is a free agent. DeMarcus Ware is broken down, coming off the worst season of his career.
DEFENSE TACKLE: After passing on one in last year's draft, the Cowboys have no choice but to target one if not two in 2014.
FREE SAFETY: The Cowboys continue their yearly search for a solid contributor if not a playmaker at safety. The position was a huge liability last year and was often targeted for big plays.
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