INDIANAPOLIS – It'd be easy to forgive Jerry Jones for seeking out short-term gratification in regard to the coming weeks.
Instead, he's opting to look at the long-term future of his franchise – not to mention the entire NFL.
It's hard to summarize the events that have swirled around this NFL Combine, where league owners and players have debated the merits of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Last week, Jones and many other owners voted in favor of the proposed deal, which would add a 17th regular season game to the season, expand the NFL playoffs, grow the players' share of the revenue and boost league salaries – among other things.
Earlier this week, NFL player representatives narrowly voted in favor the deal, which will send the proposal to the full league membership. If players approve by a simple majority, the NFL will extend tack on another decade of labor peace, securing the agreement through the 2030 season.
And now here was Jones, sitting on his personal bus, outlining the terms of a CBA that would bring an abundance of new money into the league, allowing NFL teams to more deeply compensate their rosters in the future.
"You've heard me say before: It's not fun; it's usually not a very good meeting in the room when there's not money. There's money in this room with this CBA," he said.
That's important for a team with as many big-money free agents as the Dallas Cowboys. But, to Jones' point, the proposal would also raise salaries for their core players – the smaller earners outside the team's hefty number of premium contracts.
"Going into a new year allows us to use all of those things and really allows a more fertile ground for extending contracts," he said. "And those again usually address your depth at maybe a different level than, let's say, your top 10 or 11 players. It allows us to have more money."
A new CBA would allow the NFL to get to work on a new series of TV contracts, and Jones alluded to the fact that the timing for that is good in what is currently a robust economy. But even in the middle of this convincing pitch, he admitted that not all of this is a win for the Cowboys.
The reasoning is obvious. With the clock ticking rapidly toward the start of free agency, the Cowboys employ three of the best available players in the entire league – Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones.
As of Thursday, they are eligible to place the franchise tag on one of those players. Since they are entering the final year of the previous CBA, they are also eligible to use the transition tag – a similar designation that allows them the right of first refusal if another team extends an offer.
That will all change drastically if the CBA is approved, as one of the provisions of the deal prevents clubs from using both tags in the same year.
"That was one of the reasons I've said was why I could have conceived not doing it," Jones said. "There's no question it's going to prove a bigger angst, but we're going to be better off for it -- and I think we'll be better off for it as a team. But there's a little more challenge here on our part to not have both tags."
To boil it down even more simply: the Cowboys have two weeks to reach a contract extension with Prescott, or they'll need to franchise tag him. Jones confirmed Thursday that he will assuredly do that if he has to.
"I am not in any way going to not have his rights, for one minute," he said.
That makes perfect sense, as NFL teams don't typically allow Pro Bowl quarterbacks to explore free agency.
But if a deal isn't reached and Prescott is tagged, a new CBA will make for an intense couple of weeks, as the Cowboys would no longer be able to tag Cooper.
"Strategically, that was really thought of a lot because with our negotiations with Dak and our negotiations with Cooper, certainly, just that nuance alone," Jones said.
Theoretically, things could go a step further. Even if Prescott is signed before the deadline, a new CBA means the Cowboys would only be able to tag one of the duo of Cooper and Jones, rather than both.
"It's what it is," he added. "We just have to figure out a way to do it."
That brings things back to the crux of the issue. It's clear that Jones knows a new agreement will make for a stressful 2020. Forget that, it would make for a stressful March, as he would have to make several franchise-altering decisions in a shockingly short amount of time.
Even still, Jones thinks it's a worthwhile price to pay – for the long-term health of the league, and for the future of his roster.
"It is critical that we all recognize where our timing is," he said. "We've got an economy, where we are with the popularity of our game, the scene all over with just the way things are right now. It's critical to recognize how valuable the perception is of going forward together for the next several years, the clubs and the players, what that could mean for us as far as having money for everybody."