INDIANAPOLIS– When it comes to the business of contract negotiation, executives and players tend to take center stage – as evidenced by the sparring between the Cowboys' front office and Dez Bryant on Tuesday.
It can leave the coaching staff in a bit of a no-man's land, which is where Cowboys coach Jason Garrett appeared to sit as he addressed the media Wednesday at the NFL Combine.
"We want all these guys back," Garrett said. "There's not a guy we look at that was on our team last year that we're trying to get rid of. You have to make business decisions."
Garrett is certain play a role in making those business decisions, but he also certainly remembers the role that each of his free agents played in winning the Cowboys 13 games and a division title last season. From the All-Pro types to the role players, that didn't appear lost on the head coach – who earned his own contract extension as a result of the team's success.
"Dez Bryant is a great football player -- he makes our tem better. DeMarco Murray makes our team better. Doug Free, Jermey Parnell make our team better. Dwayne Harris makes our team better," Garrett said. "The linebackers, Rolando and Justin Durant and these other guys, George Selvie -- all these guys they make our team better, and we have to make some hard choices in regard to what their future is and what their status is and we're in those discussions right now."
Some of those discussions take precedence over others, at least in the public eyes. Already after just two days in Indianapolis, the matter of if and how the Cowboys can retain both Bryant and Murray has been beaten into the ground. As has been the case throughout the offseason, though, Garrett was more than willing to stump for his Pro Bowlers.
"They've been great players for us up to this point in their careers," he said. "The business of the NFL is real, though, and we have to work through some of that. But both of those guys know very strongly how much we care for them, how much we appreciate what they've done for us and how much we want them on our football team going forward."
As Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones mentioned on Tuesday, there are more decisions to be made in the meantime. Despite the uncertainty created by Bryant's and Murray's situations, it shouldn't preclude the Cowboys from handling business with the rest_ of the roughly 20 free agents on their roster.
"Each of those guys has different kind of business opportunity. You have to kind of work those things together and fit all of those pieces of the puzzle together under the rules," Garrett said. "The business of the NFL is real. We all have to work through those. Football evaluations are a big part of it, but finances are part of it as well."
While that gets sorted out, Garrett's situation isn't exactly enviable for the time being. NFL franchises can't be successful without deft navigation of salary cap issues, but they also won't do much without maintaining a quality roster.
"We have to make great decisions on our own football team and great business decisions, as well, and have discipline in certain areas and make sure that we do what's best for our entire football team," he said. "That's in the forefront of our mind hopefully we can get that business handled.
"Hopefully we can work it out where we can bring a lot of those guys back and keep building on the things we've been doing the past couple of years."