Elliott is under contract through 2026 (italics indicate prorated items).
- 2023 – Base Salary $10.9 million + Signing Bonus $1.5 million + Option $2.6 million + Restructure $1.7 million = CAP HIT $16.7 million
- 2024 – Base Salary $10.0 million + Option Bonus $2.6 million + Restructure $1.7 million = CAP HIT $14.3 million
- 2025 – Base Salary $15.4 million + Restructure $1.7 million = CAP HIT $17.1 million
- 2026 – Base Salary $16.6 million = CAP HIT $16.6 million
All numbers in italics have to be accounted for at some point – either in the year schedule or advanced into another time frame if cut.
Now a few comments:
One, the Cowboys owe Elliott nothing but his base salary of $10.9 million this year. That’s it. There were some saying that he gets like $5 million over his base if cut but that’s not true. The only new money owed to Elliott is the base for 2023.
Two, if you cut him right now, you technically do save $10.9 million in base salary (against the cap) but in reality, you only save around $4.9 million against the cap. Why? Because in cutting him now, you have to advance all that future prorated crap into this year. So math wise:
- 2023 CAP HIT $16.7 million – Base Salary of $10.9 million + 2024 Option $2.6 million + 2024 Restructure $1.7 million + 2025 Restrucure $1.7 million = NEW CAP HIT of $11.8 million (or the "dead cap" number).
Subtract the original 2023 cap hit from the new cap hit and there is your cap savings for 2023 = $4.9 million.
The math changes slightly if you make him a June 1 cut because it allows you to spread the dead money over two years. Essentially a June 1 cut would result in the cap savings equaling the $10.9 million base salary and then all the prorated stuff gets split between 2023 and 2024. Basically all the prorated stuff for 2023 is charged in 2023 and then all the remaining prorated stuff is a cap hit in 2024.
Now as it comes down to how to deal with Elliott, there are two thought processes here. One is, just get him off the books and not have to deal with him anymore. Two is, maximize the cap savings THIS YEAR if you want free up as much cap space pre-June 1 to sign a quality free agent. One is just a cut and then determine if you need that $4.9 million savings NOW or you can wait (and move some other contracts around) to pocket the $10.9 million after June 1.
*** Another myth – a June 1 cut means the team still has to carry Elliott’s contract on its’ books until June 1. You can’t cut him now, call him a June 1 cut and get his $10.9 million savings now. Elliott’s contract has to be on our books until June 1 and we have to be cap compliant up until that point ***
Now if you are looking for maximum cap savings at the start of FA, getting him to take a massive pay cut is the best option. Because in a pay cut, you don’t change the structure of the prorated stuff. It still is charged against the cap in those future years according to the schedule above. The only thing that changes is the base salary and that’s a direct savings against the cap. So if you cut his base from $10.9 million to $2 million, that’s a direct savings now of $8.9 million.