Cowboys Leaning Toward Using Franchise Tag On Dez, Not In A Rush To Decide

INDIANAPOLIS– Given the slow trickle of news that's come out of Valley Ranch since the 2014 season ended, it'd be fair to hope that this week serves as a milestone for major offseason developments.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones wouldn't necessarily count on it, though.

Monday marked the first day that NFL clubs are allowed to use the franchise and transitional tags on players, thereby removing them from the free agency market. Given that two of their All-Pro players – DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant – are set to enter free agency next month, the Cowboys seem like prime candidates to use the tag.

In speaking to reporters ahead of this year's NFL Combine, though, Jones said he's not in any hurry to use the tag too soon.

"We're still working through everything," he said. "Usually, we'll probably use the full amount of time before we decide to do whatever things we want to do with the tag. We'll probably wait until the midnight hour to make that decision."

The deadline to use the tag is March 2, which gives the Cowboys another two weeks to decide what to do. If they were to make that call today, Jones said it'd likely be used on Bryant, who is seeking to become one of the league's highest-paid receivers.

"Right now, I'd say we'd probably be leaning that way, but it doesn't mean it won't change," Jones said.

The other obvious candidate is Murray. Both players will seek to be handsomely rewarded for back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances in 2013 and 2014. The franchise tag, if used on either one of them, would secure them for at least the 2015 season to a one-year deal worth the average of the top five salaries at their respective positions.

It would also give the Cowboys until July 15 to work on a long-term contract for the eventual Franchise Player.

"Just because we tag him, you've still got a negotiating period that you can sign him – we'll leave all options open," Jones said.

Regardless of what they decide to do, the prospect of free agency opening in roughly three weeks looms large for the Cowboys. One of the two of Bryant or Murray is bound to hit the open market unless the team can secure long-term deals for both in the near future – an unlikely scenario.

Jones was quick to point out, however, that even if long-term contracts aren't agreed upon in the next month, the Cowboys could still wind up securing signatures – potentially for both players.

"We'll just see as we move forward and try to get done what we can get done," he said. "Another thing I would say is, just because we don't get a guy done doesn't mean he isn't going to end up here.

"Darren Woodson and Jay Novacek all went through free agency and all ended up back in Dallas. The fact that we don't get something done doesn't mean we don't want him, it doesn't mean we're not ultimately going to get something done with them."

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