Next Monday, June 1st, is one of the mile markers of the NFL offseason. It’s often when teams make some roster moves to clear salary cap space, creating some new options for other teams in free agency. Given where they are currently in 2020, will the Dallas Cowboys be involved at all in next week’s activity?
The key driver in June-1st cuts is whether or not the player has at least two years left on their current contract and offers significant cap relief. Instead of having to absorb the entire dead money hit in one season, his team can spread that out over two years.
For example, let’s look back to when the Cowboys released QB Tony Romo in 2017. Dallas still had $19.6 million in dead money on his contract at that time. They chose to make him a June 1st release to split that over two years and better manage the financial dead weight.
The move gave Dallas $9.9 million in additional cap space in 2017 but added $8.9 million in dead money charges to their 2018 cap. Some would argue that it’s “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” but spreading it over two years can be a smart move depending on your other needs each season.
Do the Cowboys have any players who make sense for this provision in 2020?
The only player who you could say makes sense for a potential June-1st release is Punter Chris Jones. His has a current cap hit of $2.4 million with $1 million in remaining dead money. Dallas could get back an additional $500k by releasing him next week and push $500k to the 2021 cap.
That sound like small potatoes, sure. But an additional $500k would help pay for one of the 2020 rookies. It’s not nothing.
Jones’ cap hit is high coming off a down year, but it would be a bargain if he can get back to his previous form. With no other punter prospects currently in house, Dallas appears to be banking on Chris to bounce back under John Fassel’s coaching and as he recovers from some nagging 2019 injuries.
The only two big-money veterans whose contracts would offer major cap relief in 2020 are OT Tyron Smith and DL Tyrone Crawford. But at this point, neither appears likely to happen.
Dallas could get back $8.3 million if they released Tyron Smith now and $10 million if he’s cut on or after June 1st. But with a difference of just $1.7 million, the Cowboys would’ve already made that move if they needed the cap space this year. Then they could’ve used those funds during the major 2020 free agency period.
Of course, the Cowboys aren’t parting with their Pro Bowl offensive tackle. Thankfully, the team’s better management of the cap has made it so it’s not even a thought.
The real question is with Tyrone Crawford, but June 1st is meaningless for him as there’s only one year left on his deal. Whether he’s cut next week, late August, or three months ago, Crawford gives Dallas $9.1 million in cap relief.
Some are surprised that move hasn’t happened already. However, until the Cowboys know for sure what they have in Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory, Tyrone is the leading candidate to start at defensive end after Robert Quinn’s departure.
It could be that Dallas finally parts ways with Crawford as they form their 53-man roster for 2020. But they have no incentive to do it now.
Could anything happen next week that changes things? Could another team release a player that the Cowboys want, prompting them to cut Tyrone to help fund the contract?
It doesn’t seem likely. Honestly, Dallas probably needs Crawford as the insurance policy at DE more than they need help at most other positions.
So while June 1st could be a big day for a few players or teams throughout the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys shouldn’t be affected. With the exception of Dak Prescott’s contract negotiations and signing their rookies, Dallas’ offseason business is likely done until training camp.