This week at the Senior Bowl, Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones decided to shine a light on Dallas’s offseason priorities regarding players like DeMarcus Lawrence and Dak Prescott among others. While the Cowboys would love to keep all or most of their players, establishing a pecking order is crucial to successfully managing the salary cap in a way that will allow Dallas to maximize its potential and lock the core of its roster in for the foreseeable future. So how exactly did Stephen Jones rank Dallas’s priorities?
Starting things off, Dallas will work to reach a long term deal with Pro Bowl Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. Should Dallas fail to reach a deal by the deadline, it is prepared instead to place the franchise tag on him for another season, though it seems clear this isn’t the preferred choice for either party. There seems to be a very real chance Lawrence will be the next defensive player to break the $20M/year plateau.
Next, Dallas will look to lockdown Pro Bowl Quarterback Dak Prescott to a new deal. Over the past three years, Prescott has been one of the most undervalued and underpaid players in the league despite multiple Pro Bowl and playoff appearances. Technically, Dallas doesn’t have to extend Dak this Summer, but they’ve made it clear they intend to do so now rather than let the quarterback market continue its rapid inflation before reaching the eventual new deal. By signing him now, Dallas will likely pay anywhere from $25-$30M per season. And while that number undoubtedly scares a great number of fans, rest assured another solid season would place next year’s figure even further north of that mark.
From there, we turn our attention to the newest Cowboy on this list, Amari Cooper. Like Prescott, Cooper is not yet a free agent, though Dallas would benefit from extending him now as opposed to waiting until next offseason. Cooper, a three time Pro Bowler in his four seasons in the NFL will surely slide into that payroll gap between guys like DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans and Sammy Watkins of the Kansas City Chiefs, coming in somewhere between$16-5-$17M. Considering he’s already slated to make $13 million in the final year of his current deal, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem for fans and management.
To the surprise of many perhaps, we at last reach Dallas’s All Pro running back, Ezekiel Elliott. Since being drafted 4th overall by the Cowboys in 2016, no running back has rushed for more yards than Elliott’s 4,048. What’s more, Zeke is one of just two backs in league history to average better than 100 yards/game (101.2) on the ground on 4.7 yards a carry. The problem for many is that Zeke still has two years left on his existing deal.
Following in Rams running back Todd Gurley’s footsteps, Elliott and his camp are looking to get a new big money deal signed now before the back can face potential injury or incur significant mileage that lowers his value. The reason? In 2014, Dallas seemed to make a conscious decision to get every drop they could out of Pro Bowler DeMarco Murray ahead of free agency. His reward? A paltry offer from the front office that sent him instead to the division rival Eagles. Elliott and his people are determined to avoid a similar fate.
Gurley’s 4 year, $60M contract he signed last season came with a $45M guarantee, and in a surprising admission from Stephen Jones, Dallas yields that the starting point in their negotiations will begin there.
Lastly, Jones mentioned Cowboys Pro Bowl corner Byron Jones. With Kris Richard coming over from Seattle this season, Byron Bryon Jones’s career seemed to take on a new life as the once considered disappointing first round pick became a phenomenal press corer and was rated by Pro Football Focus as the league’s best corner last season. Though he doesn’t produce turnovers, Jones proved he can be that rare lockdown corner in today’s NFL. While Dallas would love to keep him, the moves they make in the aforementioned negotiations above will determine whether a new deal can be reached. Unfortunately for Jones, his body of work is by far the smallest of those at the table and it’s because of that he may or may not get the new deal he’s seeking this Summer.
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