Two people familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Monday that the Cowboys and Redskins will lose salary cap space over the next two seasons because they paid exorbitant amounts two years ago to get more spending room for the upcoming season. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because the league did not identify the teams.
Both teams say they complied with NFL rules during the uncapped year.
The NFL said in a statement that "a small number of clubs during the 2010 league year created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance, particularly in light of the relatively modest salary cap growth projected for the new agreement's early years."
To fix that, the league said adjustments are being made to teams' salaries for the next two years. The NFL did not identify the teams, but the people familiar with the reductions said Dallas and Washington are the only clubs affected.
"The Dallas Cowboys were in compliance with all league salary cap rules during the uncapped year," the team said through spokesman Rich Dalrymple. "We look forward to the start of the free agency period where our commitment to improving our team remains unchanged."
The Redskins' statement from General Manager Bruce Allen said the team had not received written notification from the NFL of a salary cap adjustment for 2012.
"Every contract entered into by the club during the applicable periods complied with the 2010 and 2011 collective bargaining agreements and, in fact, were approved by the NFL commissioner's office," he said. "We look forward to free agency, the draft and the coming football season."
With free agency starting Tuesday, Washington is about $40 million under this year's cap. The Redskins saved more than $3 million in cap room Monday when they released cornerback Oshiomogho Atogwe - one of their big free agent signings from last year - and fullback Mike Sellers.
Dallas is about $5 million under the cap.
So Washington has 16 players who could leave, plus tight end Fred Davis, who received the franchise tag and would bring two No. 1 draft picks if he signs elsewhere.
Dallas has 15 free agents, including quarterback Jon Kitna, who has announced his retirement.
AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Washington contributed to this story.