FRISCO, Texas – The clock is ticking.
We are now eight days away from the presumed tagging deadline to reserve right of first refusal for potential free agents on March 12, with a franchise designation and/or transition one, but all that depending on if the NFL is entering the final year of the current CBA on March 18.
As you probably know by now, teams under the current CBA have the ability to use both tags this final year. If the new CBA proposed by the NFL and being recommended by the NFLPA's executive committee is approved by a vote of the entire union membership, then only one tag is available.
The Cowboys would benefit under the current CBA, able to use both tags, presumably, say, on Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper if neither is signed to a long-term deal by a week from Thursday. Under the proposed new CBA, only one would be available, certainly creating a conundrum for the Cowboys, saddled with more impending free agents than you can shake a stick at.
Nevertheless, owner Jerry Jones took a page out of Tex Schramm's age-old philosophy that whatever's good for the NFL is good for the Cowboys. Instead of being selfish, voting against approving the newly-proposed CBA a year in advance so the club could utilize two rights-holding tags, Jones voted for the new CBA that would tie the Cowboys to only one of those tags.
"It allows us to have more money," Jones said of approving this proposed CBA. "I will bet my interest this will allow us to have substantially more money that we can bring to the room – it will bring a big value to us to have our act together."
As the Jerry-Whisperer I've become over these past 31 years, he is saying that the proposed 17th game would allow the NFL to negotiate a much more lucrative TV contract, which in turn will increase NFL revenue and also the revenue-sharing with the players, i.e. the salary cap to rise significantly.
Meaning, an ability to sign more players to larger contracts.
Yet, in the meantime, if ratified, creating the dilemma the Cowboys will be facing over these next two weeks trying to solve this roster riddle, while also generating for us shots galore.
- Helping Hand: Seems everyone out there is lending these "great ideas" toward helping the Cowboys solve the long-term contract negotiations with Dak. Saw one idea suggesting a 10-year deal with unbelievably high base salaries guaranteed. Then there is this notion being floated out there that Dak's people – ain't it great to have "people" – want just a fully-guaranteed, three-year deal, no signing bonus, but three, $33 million base salaries a la Kirk Cousins (three-year, fully-guaranteed $84 million with Minnesota). Great, but not so good for managing your salary cap charges, especially this year. That would take up like 42 percent of the Cowboys' cap space, no different than the exclusive franchise tag the Cowboys are trying to avoid with so many free agents needing to be re-signed or replaced. And the clock is ticking.
- Four Horsemen: No, not the fabled Notre Dame backfield of Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley and Elmer Layden. But Dak, Amari, Byron Jones and Robert Quinn, to me necessary pieces the Cowboys would love to retain … every single one of them. And let's not think of Quinn as a luxury. The guy led the team with 11.5 sacks last season. Since 1986, when Jim Jeffcoat had 14 sacks, only four other Cowboys players ever have produced more these past 34 seasons: Charles Haley 12.5 in 1994, Tony Tolbert 12 in 1996, DeMarcus Lawrence 14.5 in 1996 and, of course, DeMarcus Ware four times, with highs of 20 in 2008 and 19.5 in 2011. Sure don't want to return to those days of Jeremy Mincey in 2014 and Benson Mayowa in 2016 leading the team those two years with a mere half-dozen. Oh, and let's remember Quinn has totaled 30.5 sacks over his past four seasons. Lawrence, by the way, leads the Cowboys over those same four years with 31. Even Jerry proclaims of Quinn, "He's the real deal," which means he will want a "real" deal.
- Birthday Boy: Wishing Gil Brandt a Happy 87th Birthday this March 4. Just think, the recently-named Pro Football Hall of Famer is now spending his 55th year involved in some capacity with the NFL, certainly worthy of being Cantonized.
- More Sky Judge: So attended Sunday's Dallas Renegades game at Globe Life Park in Arlington, an unfortunate, turnover-plagued 27-20 loss to the now hated Roughnecks of Houston. But witnessed first-hand the efficiency of a sky judge, basically a referee-quality guy in the replay booth able to change an egregiously wrong call on the field within 30 seconds, requiring no challenge or extensive huddle-up review with someone involved in the league office. One obviously erroneous pass interference call was corrected to incomplete, along with a catch ruled inbounds when the replay on the big video board showed the receiver's first foot down was out of bounds. NFL, wake up.
- Title Belt: So the name Mikey Garcia might sound familiar to you, the boxer from Ventura, Calif., training out of Oxnard, who on Saturday night at Ford Center won the main event welterweight match over Jessie Vargas by unanimous decision. The win puts his name back in contention for the welterweight title. He's the same guy who showed up at training camp a few years back, giving the Cowboys one of his previous championship belts that former head coach Jason Garrett has awarded to the player of the week and carried around proudly by the winners in the locker room.
- Extra Shots: My, oh my, Tony Romo has come a long way since that rookie season of 2003, and I've told this story before, when his accuracy was so bad during training camp I said out loud, "This guy is horrible." Well, fast-forward 17 years later and he reportedly has signed a new deal with CBS to analyze games in the TV booth for a cool $17 million yearly … How fast can you be when you're Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs, running a 4.27-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, and disappointed, falling .06 seconds short of setting the combine record … Been pretty darn obvious the Cowboys were going to give restricted free agent tight end Blake Jarwin a second-round tender worth $3.3 million to reserve right of first refusal and backup quarterback Cooper Rush the original-round tender worth $2.1 million … Keep an eye out for this: The NFL possibly restructuring the officiating department, rumored to be bringing back former officiating coordinator Dean Blandino in an administrative capacity … Cowboys might consider taking a look at Renegades tight end Donald Parham, a towering 6-8, 240 who in four games now has 20 catches for 273 yards and four touchdowns on a quarterback-challenged team.
Oh, and one more thing on this speedy Ruggs. Not only did he run that 4.27, but he also had a 42-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-11-inch standing jump. But more than that, at Alabama in three seasons he averaged 17.5 yards per catch and totaled 24 touchdowns. Just a thought there.