The Cowboys performed a simple restructure of Ezekiel Elliott’s contract to free up cap space ahead of the 2021 season.
Dallas converted $8.6 million of Elliott’s $9.6 million base salary for the ’21 campaign into a signing bonus, which clears $6.88 million in cap space, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported, per sources informed of the situation.
The restructuring maneuver is a normal one every team does to free up cap space. It’s become particularly prevalent in COVID seasons as clubs kick the can down the road. The accounting solution spreads the bonus over the remaining years of the contract to lower the cap number in the present.
The restructuring provides the Cowboys with $12 million in cap space for 2021, which is plenty to get through the normal yearly transactions. It could also offer cushion if there is a higher-priced player that Dallas wants to chase via trade at any point during the season. Or the Cowboys could be planning ahead and looking to rollover cap space into next season when it’s still not expected to fully rebound to pre-COVID expectations.
The move increases Zeke’s 2022 cap number by $1.72 million to $18.22 million, per Over The Cap, but since his salary for next year was guaranteed anyway, the slight bump makes little difference for Dallas in the grand scheme. The earliest the Cowboys could move on from Elliott’s contract is 2023, which would still cost $11.86 million in dead money.