Sorting Out The Cowboys’ Contract Logjam

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GRAPEVINE, Texas – Until a domino falls, there’s going to be debate about the order they’ll fall in.

That’s where it stands as the Cowboys creep toward the summer. With DeMarcus Lawrence re-signed to a long-term deal, the attention has turned toward their other contract priorities.

But with contracts due for the likes of Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones, among others, the questions will persist about how exactly that will occur.

It might be a problem for Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones, but at the very least it’s a good problem.

“Obviously, I feel very good that we’re going easily work through – when I say easily, that’s a bad word to use – but we’re going to strategically work through getting guys like Dak and Amari and Zeke done. I think we can still do others,” he said Wednesday from the team’s annual golf outing.

Lawrence signed a five-year, $105 million extension back in April, ending a possible holdout before it ever really got started. In the time since, the focus has been on Prescott and Cooper, who are both set to play the final years of their rookie contracts in 2019 – and who are both looking at sizable pay days sometime soon.

Jones himself made the point, though: just because Elliott has two years on his rookie deal doesn’t diminish his chances of getting his own contract extension.

“Zeke, don’t get me wrong, I mean, we can do more than two,” Jones said. “I mean Zeke’s, as we all know, he’s such an important player to this organization. He’s a guy that we want to have here long term.”

Naturally, that’s going to raise questions about how the Cowboys plan to afford all of this. Prescott’s next salary at the all-important quarterback position could crack the $30 million mark, while Cooper figures to command $17 or $18 million per year and Elliott should have a shot at a $13 or $14 million salary.

That doesn’t include Byron Jones, Jaylon Smith or La’el Collins – all of whom need new contracts, and all of whom Stephen Jones mentioned on Wednesday. So it’s easy to understand why this seems like a big undertaking.

“You know the good news is, that cap continues to grow,” Jones said. “And it is growing and it’s great for our players, it’s obviously great for the teams, that we’ve done a good job with our business in terms of generating revenue.”

At the same time, the Cowboys aren’t blind to the reality of the situation. If all of their in-demand players max out their contracts, the money will run out eventually. In the interest of maximizing the talent on their roster, it will be interesting to see how well they balance rewarding their veteran with saving money for the rest of their roster.

“It’s not their job to manage the cap, I understand that, but it is my job and Jerry’s job,” Jones said. “So they will understand why we’re negotiating hard to make the very best deal we can, because the money, if we can talk them into not maxing out – doing well, but not maxed – then that allows us to have other good football players around them.”

Jones also mentioned the residual effect of playing for the Cowboys. Prescott has collected numerous endorsements since taking over as the team’s starting quarterback, while guys like Troy Aikman, Tony Romo and Jason Witten have turned that visibility into broadcasting careers.

“If we can put Super Bowl rings on these guys, then they’ll be legends around this area for many, many, many years to come,” Jones said. “What they give up a little bit in their contract, they should be able to invest in being a Cowboy and making our teams better.”

It’s a valid point, and a smart strategy – especially if the Cowboys can turn this bevy of talent into the on-field success that has eluded them for so many years.

A key part of that will be re-signing that talent, in whatever order works best.

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