As the Dallas Cowboys attempt to build a championship contender, owner Jerry Jones’ wait-and-see approach in regards to upcoming contract extensions for the team’s stars is risky business.
Patience is a virtue. For Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, that’s especially true.
After a 10-6 season that saw America’s Team lose in the NFC’s Divisional Round, expectations are high in Dallas. Possessing a deep roster that features tons of young talent on both sides has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse for Jones.
On one hand, the Cowboys’ defense is one of the more impressive units in the league. On the other, contract negotiations for offensive stars Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper have stalled. All three are talented and due for hefty raises by the end of their current contracts. Per the Cowboys’ official website, Jones isn’t in a rush to get any deals done:
"“Picture if you were the driver of a car, and you had a wreck and your hand was almost severed off, but you didn’t understand your anatomy. You look down, you’re spurting blood, you open the door and run to the woods and either die of bleeding to death or shock. The educated man looks down, knows his anatomy, squeezes and knows his best chance is to wait for help. That’s because he’s been there a lot and done that. And so I’m squeezing and waiting for help.”"
While implementing a wait-and-see approach could end up working out for Jones and Co., it could also blow up in their faces. There isn’t much time left to find out, as Prescott and Cooper’s deals both expire following the 2019 season. Elliott will follow suit after 2020.
Let’s get this out of the way: Prescott is not a top-tier quarterback. Among starting signal-callers last season, the Mississippi State product ranked 14th in passer rating, 15th in yards and 16th in touchdowns. At 26 years old, though, it’s reasonable to expect his best football to be ahead of him.
A contract extension for Prescott would have to account for multiple things. Among them are expected progression and the NFL’s salary cap inflating year-by-year. It’s been reported that he turned down a $30 million-per-year offer and is seeking $40 million per season moving forward. That would make him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. Does Prescott’s production warrant that? No. But the longer Jones waits to complete a deal, the more he risks the opposite becoming true.
Elliott is firmly in the discussion for best running back in the league. A two-time rushing champion in three seasons, no one has produced at a better rate. Elliott is currently holding out , so Jones has placed an emphasis on his deal more than the others.
Current Jets running back Le’Veon Bell recently held out for the entire 2018 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers and ended up becoming the second-highest-paid player at his position in terms of average annual value. Could Elliott see a similar result? By allowing his star player to potentially rack up another great series of accomplishments in 2019, Jones is running that risk.
Lastly is Cooper. In the nine games after he was traded from Oakland to Dallas during the 2018 season, the 25-year-old logged 53 receptions for 725 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers skyrocket to 94, 1,288 and 10.67 when extrapolated out to a 16-game pace. If Cooper can post a stat line similar to that in a full 2019, he’d be worth quite the raise. This scenario presents the biggest risk-reward for Jones.
For NFL executives, calculated risks can result in two outcomes. They can make them look like geniuses, or they can cause everyone involved to scratch their heads in disbelief. By dragging out the extension process for Prescott, Elliott and Cooper, Jones is letting the future of the Cowboys hang in the balance. Time will tell if being patient is the right choice.