Stephen Jones On Dak’s Future, Garrett, Zeke

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INDIANAPOLIS – NFL Scouting Combine week is here, and Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones spoke with reporters on a number of Cowboys- and NFL-related matters. Some highlights here from Indianapolis:

  • Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is obviously a top priority because he doesn’t currently have a contract, but Jones was asked plenty of questions about Dak Prescott. The Cowboys’ quarterback technically has another year remaining on his rookie deal, but Jones agreed it’s fair to say the Cowboys would prefer to extend his contract this offseason. Asked why, Jones was fairly straightforward. “You look at a quarterback who’s had the success he’s had – he’s started since Day 1, he’s a fourth-round draft pick,” he said. “You can imagine, I’m sure what Dak is thinking too. He’s the leader of the football team, as most quarterbacks are. He’s done everything the right way, and I think he deserves to have his contract looked at in a very progressive way.”
  • March 5, just one week away, marks the Cowboys’ last day to use the franchise tag on Lawrence. But Jones said he doesn’t view that as a deadline, because the franchise tag is still in play. If the Cowboys can’t reach a deal with their star pass rusher in the next seven days, they’ll undoubtedly use the tag on him once again. “It’s the last day you’ve got to tag him, but at the end of the day we know it’s not over if it doesn’t get done by then,” Jones said. Jones declined to comment when asked about the possibility that Lawrence could hold out rather than play under the tag. Regardless, Jones was optimistic a deal will get done at some point – it’s just a matter of when. “I’m confident we can get a deal done. I don’t know the timing, but I’m very confident we can get a deal done,” he said.
  • It’s hard to say when, but it sounds like Ezekiel Elliott can count on a pay day at some point in the future, as well. As a first-round draft pick, Elliott has a fifth-year team option on his contract, which means the Cowboys can control him through the 2020 season if they want to. Jones didn’t speculate on the timing, but at some point between now and then, he’s aware that he’ll have to pay the two-time Pro Bowler like one of the best backs in football. “Well, I mean we’ve got it budgeted that we’re going to pay Zeke a significant contract at some point,” he said. "He’s right there at the top with the best of the business, if not the best. We saw what Gurley got paid, and that’s probably where it starts, and we’ll go from there.”
  • Asked about head coach Jason Garrett entering the final year of his contract, Jones pointed out that the team has been in this position before with Garrett. In 2014, the Cowboys won the NFC East and Garrett received a new five-year deal. “No one wants Jason to be around here for the long term more than the Jones family,” he said. “No one thinks more of him than we do. But at the same time, I know he uses it (the phrase) – ‘everybody’s back is against the wall right now.’ We’ve got a really good young team. We’ve got high expectations for this young team. And everybody, from Jason to his staff, to our players, to ownership, to the organization, feels the pressure to take the next step. Our fans deserve that.”
  • Asked about potential roster needs, Jones pointed out a few: Defensive line depth (an annual target due to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s preference for a deep rotation), safety depth (due in part to several players having expiring contracts within the next year), and tight end (due to the youth beyond impending free agent Geoff Swaim).
  • Jones reiterated that the Cowboys would like linebacker Sean Lee back next season but wouldn’t speculate on his future. Lee, who’s under contract through 2020, has reportedly indicated he would like to continue playing after accepting a reduced role late last season once he returned from injury.
  • As a member of the NFL competition committee, Jones said the group “put a lot of energy” into evaluating the current pass interference rule after the controversial no-call late in the Rams’ NFC title game victory over the Saints.

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