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What Might These "Big 3" Contracts Look Like?


OXNARD, Calif. – It's been a busy news cycle in the world of contract discussions, even if there's not actually any news.

It's been known for weeks that the Cowboys have extended offers to their trio of Pro Bowlers – Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott. What surfaced on Tuesday morning, though, was an idea of what those contracts looked like.

According to reports, the Cowboys have extended offers to all three players that would make them among the top five at their respective positions. Asked about it Tuesday morning, chief operating officer Stephen Jones said the team has been "very generous with our offer" to Ezekiel Elliott, specifically.

But those numbers vary widely depending on who you're talking about. For starters, consider changes within the running back market – which Jones mentioned himself.

"I think the market re-set with Le'Veon," Jones said on 105.3 FM The Fan. "I think you see what happens with Gurley and you get a great player like Le'Veon, who's every bit as well thought of as Gurley and he had unfettered free agency. He had 32 teams with no draft picks attached, and the market was $13.5 million . . . less than Gurley's. At the end of the day, business changes, and we pay attention to that."

Jones is obviously referring to fellow Pro Bowl running backs Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell, who are serving as the bench mark in Elliott's contract talks. Gurley signed a four-year, $57 million deal last year, while Bell signed with the New York Jets in March for four years and $52 million.

That's where the idea of "top five" gets important. After those two, the drop off in pay is significant. Arizona's David Johnson and Atlanta's Devonta Freeman lag far behind with deals that are worth $39 million and $41 million, respectively.

To put it bluntly, it's probably going to take top two money to get Elliott a new contract.

The conversation feels drastically different for Dak Prescott and the quarterback position. Plenty of signal-callers have reset that market, as well, with Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers all signing on for more than $30 million per season.

The drop off here isn't as major, though, given that Matt Ryan sits fifth in the league with an average salary of $30 million. To put Prescott in that top five of this category feels way more realistic, especially since his 2016 draft classmate Carson Wentz is right there at $32 million per year.

Slotting Prescott somewhere into that pecking order makes a ton of sense, but the question is going to be where. The quarterback's representation undoubtedly has a different idea than the Cowboys, and that's where the negotiation comes into play. Prescott's next deal, whenever he signs it, will undoubtedly net him more than $30 million per year – it's just a question of how much more.

The wide receiver market finds itself somewhere in the middle. The drop between the top contract and the next four isn't as large as the situation at running back – but it's getting bigger.

You can thank Michael Thomas and (probably) Julio Jones for that. Thomas just became the first receiver in history to hit a salary of $20 million per season when he re-signed with the Saints last week. Jones, the perennial Pro Bowler, is likely to sign for a similar number at some point in the near future.

Odell Beckham Jr. currently places second with a salary of $18 million per year. And the rest? All of a sudden, Antonio Brown's $16.7 million salary is starting to look smaller – and DeAndre Hopkins' salary of $16.2 million looks like a downright bargain.

Again, it's probably not realistic to think Cooper's representatives will settle for being the No. 5 highest-paid wide receiver. Not when his peers are starting to hit the $20 million mark.

Now, will he hit that number, as well? Maybe not. But the market is being re-shaped, and that is undoubtedly going to push Cooper – and others who come after him – higher up the list.

Only time is going to tell what the numbers eventually look like. But just by looking at the other numbers, it's possible to find a roadmap for what's coming.

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