Back in 1989, Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys didn't have many good established players. The one great player they had was Herschel Walker. So they traded him to the Vikings for 7 draft picks, and 5 players. We all know what came next. Flash forward to 2018, and the Cowboys already have a bunch of good young players, but they need Salary CAP space in 2019 & 2020 - a lot of salary CAP space - to resign that good young talent base. So, a choice was made to part with Dez Bryant this season, and eat his entire Salary CAP hit. That reduces the Cowboys salary CAP hits by about $25M over two seasons. Witten's retirement frees up another $26M over the next 4 years. The Cowboys parted ways with Romo last year, freeing up $54M in CAP space planned for 2017-2019. Similar to the Herschel Walker decision, these choices allow the team to commit to younger talented players, and they hope is that a similar result will happen to when the Cowboys made a similar commitment to youth 29 years ago. The Cowboys have a number of players that will likely take a large chunk of the salary CAP in 2019 with much higher salaries than they currently are being paid. Dak Prescott - will command a contract worth $18-$22M per season, perhaps more. Zack Martin - the Cowboys are trying to sign Martin to a long-term deal this year. If they are unsuccessful, he'll be the franchise tag player a year from now. If they do sign him this year, his salary CAP hit next year will be substantial DeMarcus Lawrence - if he repeats his performance from last year, will command a long-term contract worth slightly less than Prescott's deal David Irving - this physical freak of nature hasn't yet put together a complete, unsuspended, uninjured year. If he does, the Cowboys will want to keep him around, and he might want a contract similar to the one the Cowboys anticipate giving Lawrence. In 2020, these players will have their contracts coming up for extensions or renewals. Byron Jones - the Cowboys picked up his 5th year option, and new DB coach Kris Richard calls him the "prototypical" cornerback for his system. That means the Cowboys will be paying Jones a lot more in 2019. If he breaks out over the next two seasons under Richard, he'll command top dollars in 2020. Ezekiel Elliott - while the Cowboys will almost certainly exercise the 5th year option on Elliott, his contract will be subject to renewal in 2020. Since entering the league, he's led the NFL in per game rushing yards each of his first two seasons. The Cowboys will be in talks with him in 2020, just as they are talking to Zack Martin now. La'el Collins - Collins current contract will expire after the 2019 season, and he'll be a free agent. If Collins develops into one of the better Right Tackles in the NFL, the Cowboys will want to lock him up on a long-term contract. Jaylon Smith - Smith will be a restricted free agent in 2020, and the Cowboys can keep him by giving him a 1st round tender offer. If he's fully healed, and back to performing like the top 5 pick many thought he'd be, then the Cowboys may choose to give him a long term extension earlier to potentially save money over time. Randy Gregory - Like Jaylon Smith, Gregory will also be a Restricted Free Agent in 2020. Like Jaylon, he was considered a top 5 talent in the draft that fell to the Cowboys in the 2nd round, and like Smith, he missed some seasons because of those reasons. But if he also comes back and performs at his talent level, the Cowboys will be talking about how to keep him with the Cowboys on a long-term deal. So, the Cowboys potentially have at least 9 big new contracts over the next two seasons to keep their young talent base intact. Managing the Salary CAP now also includes planning for 2019 and 2020. Those focused only on this year's Salary CAP are missing the bigger picture.