The NFL has announced the Salary Cap for the 2015 NFL season today, and set the amount at $143.28 million. This is an increase of over $10m from 2014’s cap limit of $133 million per club. Even though there have been estimates floating around for weeks and months, things in the NFL’s Business Season (it’s never really an “off”-season) don’t get moving until this important piece of information is distributed. Today is the NFL’s deadline to place the Franchise Tag on a player, and as such those amounts are not official until the salary cap is set in stone. As a result, on the final day of the window, the Dallas Cowboys have placed the Franchise Tag on Dez Bryant.
Cowboys COO Stephen Jones tells us: "We just don't want to lose his rights. We think Dez is a unique player and certainly a big part of what we do in terms of what we've done, our success, and certainly going forward. We've got a long period of time where we can work, continue to work on doing something long term for Dez."
Agent Tom Condon tells SiriusXM: "Dez understands this is business. We're going to try to figure something out here and work with Jerry and Stephen and get something done.''
Now, the timer has started on working out a long-term deal with Bryant that will lessen the impact on the 2015 cap. Teams are free to negotiate with other club’s free agents as of March 7th, and can sign them as of March 10th. If Dallas wants to be players in free agency, it will need to lower the huge cap hit that the Franchise Tag causes.
There are two types of Franchise tags, the Exclusive and the Non-Exclusive. While the Non-Exclusive is by far the tag most often placed on players, the formulas to determine the amount of the tenders are often misused. The Non-Exclusive Tag nets Dez Bryant a $12.823 million tender. The Exclusive Tag would net him $14.1 million. (This move is about the Non-Exclusive Tag, Stephen Jones tells us.)
The Exclusive Tag means that the player is under complete control of the team and is not able to negotiate a contract with another club. The Non-Exclusive Tag means that the player can negotiate with other clubs, but the original club has a chance to either match the contract offer, or accept the compensation of two first-round draft picks. The tender amounts for each differs.
For the Exclusive Tag, the average of the Top 5 salaries at the player’s position is given to the player for a one-year deal. For the Non-exclusive tag, it is done differently. First, the league sums up the Franchise Tag tenders at the position for the five previous seasons. Then that is divided by the sum of the Salary Caps for the five preceding years. That percentage is then applied to the current year’s salary cap number. That is why CowboysHQ has referenced percentages in previous articles discussing the Franchise Tag on Dez Bryant. The 2015 percentages have been known since the tag amounts were announced for 2014. Only the actual 2015 cap remained evasive, until today.
Basically, clubs would shell out a little more coin to ensure that a player isn’t given a contract they are bound to which they didn’t negotiate. That has to be a concern for Dallas, as Dez Bryant would probably be sought after by clubs like Seattle and New England; teams at the bottom of the draft rounds with big WR needs.
Offering two first-round picks for a player that you are signing to a huge contract is not something that often happens in the NFL, but teams will have the opportunity come March 10th. (Condon, in his interview, slyly notes how a contending team giving up two late first-rounders might be compelled to examine this.) Other players that have been given the tag as of this moment are Denver WR Demariyous Thomas and Kansas City OLB Justin Houston. Rumor has it that Houston will choose to wait until the last possible moment, Week 10, to report to the team if a long-term deal isn’t reached. A player must be active for six weeks of the season in order to log an accrued season in the league. At this point, this doesn’t seem to be on the mind of Dez Bryant and his agent Tom Condon, but it is within the realm of possibility.
According to OverTheCap.com, Dallas’ true 2015 cap space sits just under $19 million. The “Top 51” rule of the offseason means that only the top 51 salaries are counted towards the cap. After carrying over unused space from 2014, and then paying out “Not Likely To Be Earned” incentives, Dallas has $148 million in 2015 cap space. They currently have $116.2 million allocated to their Top 51, plus they have $12.9 million in dead money from players no longer on the roster.
That puts Dallas at $129 million of used cap space ... plus Dez' $12.8 mil hold ... equals $141.8 million. But the cap is at $143.28 million? Yes. Now add the $5 million carryover from 2014 (that essentially makes Dallas' cap $148 mil) ... and there is about $6 mil of room at the moment. The team also has a few restructure and release options at their disposal should they want to create more room. This would include restructuring Tyron Smith and/or looking at QB Tony Romo to create more space. (We'll break all that down in the coming hours). There are a handful of other moves that could create a million or so of additional wiggle room. ... all simply a part of what is, as Condon accurately says, "business.''
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