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How much cap space do the Dallas Cowboys have in 2021?

We break down the projected available cap space in 2021 for the Cowboys and notable contract situations.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) calls a play in the second quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Salary cap space

As of March 17, 2021, the Cowboys are projected to have $19,422,465 in cap space for 2021.

The Cowboys rolled over $25.4 million in 2020 cap space.

UPDATE: The Cowboys have signed Dak Prescott to a four-year, $160 million contract extension with $66 million paid out immediately at signing. Dak was due $37.7 million if he had been franchised but instead will have a cap hit of $22.2 million, per Adam Schefter. That saves the Cowboys $15.5 million in cap space.

It was clear this season just how much the Dallas Cowboys need Dak Prescott. Before losing their signal-caller to a gruesome ankle injury in Week 5, the Cowboys were averaging more than 32 points per game. They only managed to score more than 20 points in a game four times in 12 games without him. Oh, it was also painfully obvious how much Dallas also needs a defense. They allowed almost 30 points per game this season. Added up, it amounted to a 6-10 record.

The Cowboys have a lot of work to do in the 2021 offseason. It starts with getting a new deal for Prescott, a move that will determine how they approach free agency and the draft... and how much they have to spend.

The NFL powered through its 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The league played without fans in most stadiums, and limited fans in a handful of locations. The decrease in gate revenue is going to result in a decrease in money shared between the 32 teams. This in turn means the salary cap has been decreased. The NFL has announced an official salary cap of $182.5 million, which is sure to result in some tough choices for many teams.

All salary cap information below comes courtesy of the NFLPA Public Salary Cap Report.

Notable contracts

Depending on how they structure an eventual deal with Prescott, the Cowboys might not have much, if any, of that nearly $23 million in cap space to spend. That’s going to make for some tough decisions elsewhere on the roster.

Prescott signed his franchise tender last year, costing the Cowboys $31.4 million in guaranteed salary and the cap hit. They could tag him a second time this season, if they don’t get a deal worked out, but that would cost $37.7 million, even more reason to get a deal done.

Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence has one of the biggest cap hits at $19 million. They can’t really cut one of the few good players they have on that side of the ball, but they could restructure his deal, a move that could save almost $12 million in cap space if done right.

Another candidate for restructuring is guard Zack Martin. He’s got four years left on his contract, and though he’s not due any guaranteed salary money, he carries a $17 million cap hit this season.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper’s $22 million cap hit makes him another candidate for restructure. A more outside-the-box thing to do here could be to deal Cooper, freeing up $14 to $20 million in cap space, depending on whether or not it’s done as a post-June 1 move. It’s hard to actively get rid of offensive talent like that, but with CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup on the roster, they could really use that money, not to mention potential draft picks or players they get in return, to bolster a defense that’s dragging them down.

Two potential cuts include offensive tackle Tyron Smith and linebacker Jaylon Smith. Cutting both Smiths with a post-June 1 designation could save the Cowboys nearly $18 million in cap space. Jaylon Smith is coming off a terrible season, and age is starting to take a heavy toll on Tyron Smith.

The Cowboys are going to have to make some difficult choices this season, but those are the kind tough moves that will guarantee them a franchise quarterback and a defense that won’t keep them from competing in a wide open NFC East.