Dallas, which was penalized $5 million off its cap in both 2012 and 2013, needed to scramble to free up space. By restructuring the deals of star linebacker Ware, tight end Witten, wide receiver Austin, cornerback Brandon Carr and center Ryan Cook, the Cowboys wiped out the $20 million they were projected to be over the cap this year.
The biggest savings will come in the Carr deal. Dallas signed Carr as a free agent last year, and Thursday's moves turn nearly all of the $14.3 million he was due in salary into a signing bonus. Carr will count $3.5 million against this year's cap.
Ware's salary is going down to $1 million for this season, and a $5 million bonus is being spread over the rest of the contract, saving $4 million. Austin's deal also will save $4 million, and Witten's will take another $3.6 million off the cap.
The Cowboys could get further under the cap with a new contract for Tony Romo, who is entering the final year of his deal and counts $16.8 million against the cap this season. Right tackle Doug Free, who struggled most of last season, could save $7 million on the cap if he is cut by June 1.
Dallas is interested in re-signing linebacker Anthony Spencer, an unrestricted free agent, but owner Jerry Jones said at the NFL combine last week he wasn't sure the Cowboys could afford to keep their sacks leader from 2012.
The Cowboys also re-signed long snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a five-year contract. He's been with Dallas since the middle of the 2005 season. He's handled snaps on 562 punts, 245 field goals and 341 extra points.