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Where Your Cowboys Cap Dollars Are Going

IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) – As recently as February, the Dallas Cowboys were $20 million over the NFL salary cap and existed in "Cap Hell.'' A spring of financial tinkering has Dallas now $9.7 million under the cap.

What's the plan now? How much of that savings will the coming rookie signings impact? How much room will Dallas have going into the 2013 season? With the help of a prominent NFL front-office source and our friend 'OCC' from Blogging the Boys, a detailed dollar-by-dollar breakdown:

Understand that more savings could be on its way if Dallas signs Anthony Spencer to a long-term deal. (Teams have until July 15 to do so with franchise-tag players; a source suggests that the Cowboys could shave as much as $5 million more off their under-the-cap depending on the structure of the contract). Another $1.2 million might be available if fullback Lawrence Vickers is healthy and then waived.

The $9.7 million under number is part of the "Rule of 51,'' whereby only the top 51 salaries of a team count against the cap. Currently, Darrion Weems is that 51st Cowboys player.

Do rookies could against the cap? Of the three rookies signed as of Wednesday, B.W. Webb counts against the cap, but Joseph Randle and L DeVonte Holloman do not because they have a lower cap total in 2013 than Weems – again, the application of the "Rule of 51.''

The remaining four draft picks – who a Cowboys source says the team plans to have inked between now and the June 11 start of minicamp -- will count against the "Rule of 51'' cap with their 2013 base salaries ($405,000 each) and the prorated part of their signing bonuses as follows:

  • *Travis Frederick: projected signing bonus of $3,376,384, prorated number $675,277
  •  Gavin Escobar: projected signing bonus of $1,442,180, prorated number $360,545
  • *Terrance Williams: projected signing bonus of $619,472, prorated number $154,868
  • *J.J. Wilcox: projected signing bonus of $586,068, prorated number $146,517

That totals $1,337,207.

Once they are signed, each of those draftees will likely replace the lowest player in the Top 51, who currently is making around $480,000.

So the effective cap hit of the four remaining rookies will only count an extra $1.4 million.

That changes once the final 53-man roster is set. Once we get to the regular season, all 53 players plus the eight practice-squad players plus anybody on IR or PUP must fall under the cap.

Assuming no more significant roster changes until the cut-down to 53, here's how the current $9.7 million will look at the start of the season:

  • Current: $9.7 million
  • Minus remaining rookies:  - $1.4 million
  • Add two extra players to get to 53:  - $1.0 million (approx.)
  • Minus cost of practice squad:  - $0.8 million

Total cap space at start of season:   $6.5 million

Again, that number can change depending on other moves made, particularly with Spencer. It's also value that can carry over to next season if the Cowboys choose to keep it. However, team sources have indicated that a primary summer goal is to extend Sean Lee …

So that $6.5 million that was difficult to foresee existing just a few months ago is going to come in handy a few months from now.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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