Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott to have historic 2024 cap hit after restructuring contract

Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys are an ideal example of teams pushing back salary cap decisions to later years, pretty much putting themselves in salary cap hell in the process.

Dallas entered Friday’s business day $18.75 million over the 2023 NFL salary cap, the third-worst number in the league. The team needed to make several moves in order to become cap compliant.

It’s in this that owner Jerry Jones and Co. restructured multiple contracts. That included saving $30 million by reworking the contracts Prescott and guard Zack Martin.

While the short-term savings are great, these moves will have a long-term impact on Dallas’ salary cap health.

According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, Prescott’s cap hit for the 2024 season is now expected to be a record $59 million. That’s roughly $5 million more than what Deshaun Watson is slated to count against the Cleveland Browns’ salary cap in 2023.

Despite missing five games to injury, Prescott finished the 2022 season leading the league with 15 interceptions. It was a surprisingly poor performance from a quarterback who has historically done well avoiding turnovers.

From a larger-scale perspective, the decision to restructure Prescott’s contract creates some issues down the road. However, there’s also a good chance that Dallas opts to simply sign the Pro Bowl quarterback to a contract extension. While it would link him to the Cowboys longer-term, that $59 million cap hit in 2024 just isn’t sustainable.

Related: Dak Prescott and the highest-paid NFL QBs of 2023

Dallas Cowboys have more moves to make after Dak Prescott contract restructure

Dak Prescott
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of the Prescott restructure, Dallas has other decisions to make ahead of the official start of free agency on Wednesday.

That includes running back Ezekiel Elliott’s future with the team. The veteran is coming off a career-worst performance that saw him average 3.8 yards per rush.

He’s slated to count $16.72 million against the cap in 2023. If Dallas were to designate Elliott a post-June 1 cut, it would save $10.9 million against the cap. After placing the franchise tag on fellow running back Tony Pollard, it seems inevitable that Elliott will be released unless he redoes his contract, too.

Related: Ezekiel Elliott and NFL’s most likely salary cap casualties

There’s also an off chance that future Hall of Fame left tackle Tyron Smith will be released. Making that decision with a post-June 1 designation would save Dallas nearly $14 million against the cap. A first-round pick last season, Tyler Smith filled in well with his older namesake injured.

Even then, we’d expect Jones and Co. to continue using restructures as a way to create more cap room and become viable once free agency starts. Restructuring the deals of the aforementioned Smith as well as Demarcus Lawrence and Michael Gallup would create another $23 million or so in cap room.

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