It's easy to look at the Cowboys' annual strategy of clearing up cap space by converting base salary into a signing bonus as kicking the can down the road. At some point, they'll get themselves into so much cap trouble that they'll barely be able to field a respectable team.
Or maybe not.
Believe it or not, there's some sound logic going with this annual ritual. Honestly, it's like kicking a can down a road and having the can shrink when it arrives at its new spot. In a way, the Cowboys are putting the money in a savings account.
Sure, they'll have to pay it. But because the salary cap grows each year, the amount they pay back is actually smaller in proportion to the expanding cap. Think of it this way: $20 off the cap right now is around 14.8% of the current $135 million cap. Some are projecting the salary cap to grow to $160 million by 2016, when new TV deals will be in place. That same $20 million would take up just 12.5% of the cap, which essentially means that $20 million feels more like $17 million.
The downside is the lack of room to make a big splash in free agency, but even that has a bright side. The one truth about free agency is that most of the players entering it are being deemed not worth the money by their current team. Sure, some teams with cap problems let good players go, but usually, you have to overspend to get quality in free agency, which is the main reason why teams get into salary cap trouble in the first place.
Certainly, it's not an ideal strategy. But if the Cowboys can last until that big 2016 cap boost, they may work themselves out of salary cap jail without needing to take a sledgehammer to the roster.