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Should Cowboys Restructure WR Dez Bryant’s Contract?

Jess Haynie

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Dez Bryant

You've probably already read somewhere that restructuring Dez Bryant's contract is one easy way the Dallas Cowboys can improve their 2017 salary cap issues. While I have no issue with this when it comes to some other players, moving money on Bryant's deal could wind up being more trouble than it's worth.

Right now, Dez is scheduled to count $17 million against the Cowboys' 2017 cap. He has $25 million left in dead money, the guaranteed bonuses that have to be paid out through the life of the contract. His deal expires after the 2019 season.

Dez Bryant

Wide receiver Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant Has Red Flags

Dez Bryant turns 29-years-old in November. He has missed 10 games over the last two seasons and played hurt, with limited effectiveness, in others. He still has moments and whole games where he looks like an elite receiver, but most Dallas fans would admit that he's not quite as explosive or dominant as in the past.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not here to bash Dez. However, the good of the team always comes first no matter who we're talking about. Restructuring Bryant's contract may be good for Dallas' in the present but could cause problems in the future.

When contracts get restructured, guaranteed money gets pushed into later years to create immediate cap space. That means you lose flexibility in those later years when the cap hits are at their highest. Even if the player isn't performing to the level at which you're paying him, releasing him either doesn't save you anything on the salary cap or even limited savings simply aren't worth the penalty.

Dez Bryant, Tony Romo

Tony Romo's current contract situation is a warning for what could happen with Dez Bryant. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Comparison to Tony Romo's Contract

Romo's contract situation is a good example of potential problems.  The Cowboys have restructured his deal several times and now can't trade or cut him without a $19 million penalty. Granted, Dallas didn't expect to be in this position so soon with Romo. Still, this shows the value of preserving your flexibility for when unexpected things happen.

Now, compare that to Jay Cutler and the Bears. Despite his being signed through 2020, Cutler's deal only has $2 million left in guaranteed money. The Bears will almost surely be cutting him this offseason and saving $14 million in salary cap space off of the scheduled $16 million cap hit.

Cowboys Need to Preserve Salary Cap Flexibility

Within the next two years the Cowboys will need to give guard Zack Martin a long-term deal. They may also be looking at new deals for guard La'el Collins, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and safety Byron Jones.

Oh, and some kids named Zeke and Dak are going to be needing more money in a few years, too.

Can the Cowboys afford to keep pay Dez like an elite receiver if he continues to decline and miss games? Here's a look at the final three years of Dez Bryant's contract:

  • 2017 - $17 million cap hit ($25m dead money)
  • 2018 - $16.5 million cap hit ($8m dead money)
  • 2019 - $16.5 million cap hit ($4m dead money)

One smart thing that Dallas did was keeping the later years of the deal from having escalating cap hits. Even with that, though, Dez is still currently scheduled to have the highest cap hit of any NFL wide receiver in 2017.

If the contract remains untouched, Dallas can save $8.5 million in 2018 or $14.5 million in 2019 by releasing Bryant. Those numbers will drop significantly if his deal is restructured, limiting the Cowboys' flexibility and the value of parting ways.

Even if he's no longer elite, Dez Bryant will still be a quality starting wide receiver for the next few years. If you were to cut him, replacing him might cost about as much as you'd be saving.

Dez Bryant

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

These decisions are never easy and especially when they come to beloved players. Dez means a lot to the team and its fans, but what just happened with Tony Romo is a warning that you should always be prepared for things to change. All it takes is one season for some little-known player to soar up the depth chart and demand a new contract, like Miles Austin in 2009.

Or, like Dez Bryant himself in 2010, you never know when a talented receiver might fall to you in the late first round. Dallas could find Dez's replacement sooner than they think, making it all the more critical to preserve their ability to release him.

~ ~ ~

So, what's the final verdict? To be honest, I don't know if there is a definitive answer at this point. I believe the ideal solution is to try and avoid restructuring Dez Bryant's contract this year if you can.

See how 2017 goes; can Dez stay on the field and maintain a high level of play? If so, perhaps you can do some things in 2018 and 2019 free up salary cap space without the same worries.

However, this March there could be a much-needed pass rusher, defensive back, or some other free agents that the Cowboys want to sign. If you can't make those deals without restructuring Dez Bryant then you simply may not have a choice.


Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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4 Comments
  • deal with it

    I think we need to work more on the process (yeah,Ihate that phrase too) rather than the “name”.the Patriots never seem to have cap issues & can pug-n-play year in & year out.

  • John Boy

    Cut Dez. He sucks. Look at the last two years of production. Way overpaid for nothing.

    • Jess Haynie

      Can’t cut him right now with his contract, but I can’t disagree with the notion that he’s not performing up to that level consistently. It’s definitely why the need to keep their option open for the future and not restructure.

      • John Boy

        Or trade him to get rid of the baggage.

Player News

Is Terrance Williams Roster Spot Safe with Dallas Cowboys?

Sean Martin

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Is Terrance Williams Roster Spot Safe with Dallas Cowboys?

This will hardly be the last article written about the wide receivers of the Dallas Cowboys entering the 2018 season. However, we can only hope it's the last off-field incident that will factor into the difficult decisions the Cowboys will make on their final depth chart at WR. Yesterday, veteran Wide Receiver Terrance Williams was arrested for public intoxication after leaving the scene of a crash involving his Lamborghini.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys WR Terrance Williams released a statement on his recent arrest detailing several facets of the incident: "I have always been an upstanding citizen and handled the situation the best way I know how.

Details concerning the severity of the incidents that led to Williams arrest remain somewhat unclear. His on-field production certainly has not been though, putting himself in an expendable position by failing to catch a touchdown in 2017 and only going for over 100 yards once.

Handling this Terrance Williams situation in whatever the "right way" is will be yet another critical decision the Cowboys make under Head Coach Jason Garrett. A team that has clearly valued continuity under Garrett, there is precedent for the Cowboys keeping a now-troubled player like Williams if the void he'd leave behind is too large.

It is widely believed that this is a Cowboys coaching staff working to keep their jobs in 2018. Losing Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Terrance Williams in one offseason may very well be too much.

Already dealing with a broken foot that expects to keep Terrance Williams out of football activities until training camp though, it is becoming increasingly easier for Williams to become forgotten about in new WR Coach Sanjay Lal's room.

New additions to this unit include FA signings Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, along with rookies Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson. Joined by the likes of KD Cannon, Lance Lenoir, and Malik Earl, all of these receivers are going to stake their claims for a spot on the Dallas Cowboys before Williams even catches another pass from Dak Prescott.

Takeaway Tuesday: What We Learned From Cowboys Loss To Packers

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Once perceived to be fighting for positions below Hurns, Williams, and Cole Beasley as locks on the final 53 man roster, Williams' arrest is the epitome of "next man up" in Dallas. Even if Williams remains with the team in 2018 - as cutting him would only make moral sense for the Cowboys, not financial - his days as a starting receiver may very well be numbered.

As mentioned, this won't be the first look we have at the status of the Cowboys receivers. I'm already on record having high expectations for Michael Gallup, and believe Cedrick Wilson was one of the steals of the draft for the Cowboys in the sixth round. The unproven nature of this pass catching unit (through to TE with rookie Dalton Schultz) is going to make for fascinating training camp battles, competing for spots in an offense that could still be one of the league's best.

Tell us what you think about "Is Terrance Williams Roster Spot Safe with Dallas Cowboys?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Dallas Cowboys

Terrance Williams Arrest: Salary Cap Impact if Released

Jess Haynie

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3 Current Starters Cowboys' Fans Hate, But Shouldn't 1

The news of Cowboys Wide Receiver Terrance Williams' arrest yesterday sent a shockwave through an otherwise quiet mid-May news cycle. Many fans are wondering what the team might do, and what effect decision could have on Dallas' salary cap.

Unfortunately, moving on from Terrance won't bring the team in cap relief. But given their current cap space and where we are in the offseason, the Cowboys should have the freedom to cut the receiver if they choose to.

Depending on who you ask (OverTheCap, Spotrac), the Cowboys have somewhere between $5-$9 million in current cap room. If they release Williams before June 1st, his cap hit accelerates from $4.75 million to $7.25 million in dead money. That means he counts $2.5 million more off the team than on it.

If Terrance is cut on June 1st on later, the 2018 dead money is $4.75 million for a net-zero wash. That extra $2.5 million counts against 2019.

While that may sound cost-prohibitive on the surface, you have to remember where we are in the offseason.  May is very different from March when you're talking about cap space.

Did Terrance Williams' Big Game Quiet His Doubters?

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

Free agency is essentially over. The Cowboys don't need to worry too much about their 2018 cap room at this point, so they can absorb Williams' dead money if they want to cut him loose.

Helping matters should be the eventual new contracts for Guard Zack Martin and Defense End DeMarcus Lawrence.

Martin's 2018 cap hit is currently around $9 million. Once he signs his new long-term deal, which is almost sure to come before training camp, that number should go down significantly. Dallas can do an immediate Year One restructure and potentially create around $6 million in cap space.

That alone would facilitate cutting Terrance Williams, but then they also have the hopeful new deal for Lawrence. The $17 million that Lawrence currently counts as a franchised player will go way down with a long-term contract. If Dallas can get that done, they may not have to touch Martin's deal.

The point here is that while cutting Williams is not a financially beneficial move, the money shouldn't stop the Cowboys if they don't want him around anymore.

If Terrance has proven anything during his five years in Dallas, it's that he doesn't have the talent to step into a primary role. With new arrival Allen Hurns and Cole Beasley both showing they can produce at a high level at times, plus exciting rookie Michael Gallup now in the mix, the Cowboys' season hardly relies on Williams' presence.

Of course, the Cowboys have a history of sticking by their guys during times of personal problems. Josh Brent did way worse than Terrance and remained supported by the organization.

But each situation and player are different, and the coaches may have already soured on Williams after a lackluster 2017. They may have only kept him because of those cap numbers we discussed before.

Terrance's latest dropped ball may have been the final straw, though. If so, the salary cap shouldn't stop Dallas from cutting him.


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Player News

BREAKING: Terrance Williams Arrested For Public Intoxication After Car Accident

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams is in jail after crashing his car, a Lamborghini, into a light pole, per the Star Telegram. The incident occurred approximately at 3:00 AM, according to the reports and Williams, who fled the scene was arrested two hours later. He was arrested for public intoxication and was also charged for leaving the scene.

According to Clarence Hill, Williams was still in jail as of 11:30 AM.

Kate Hairopoulus, from SportsDay, reported that according to Frisco Police, the Lamborghini was found without a driver. After determining that the car belonged to the Cowboys' wide receiver, they proceded to arrest Williams near his residence, where he was riding an electric bicycle.

This certainly explains why T-Will wasn't arrested for DUI instead of public intoxication. Hairopoulus also reported that Williams has been released on a $369 bond.

Without much more details, Terrance Williams' future with the Cowboys doesn't look very promising as of right now. After hauling a lot of receivers during the offseason, the WR room in Dallas will feature a lot of competition.

Williams, who's recovering from a fractured foot and missing the offseason programs, has something to prove. Certainly, an accident like this doesn't help much his cause.

Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with more details about Terrance Williams' arrest.

Last updated at 2:20 PM CDT.

Tell me what you think about "BREAKING: Terrance Williams Arrested For Public Intoxication After Car Accident" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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