NFL Analysis


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Dallas Cowboys Stars Should Be Insulted By Team's Negotiation Tactics

Jul 26, 2022; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy (left) and owner Jerry Jones at training camp press conference at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I have no idea what the Dallas Cowboys are doing. Does anybody at this point?

They are embroiled in contract disputes, or at least contractual situations, with their three best players. With the salary cap growth we’ve seen in today's NFL, that is almost hard to do, yet somehow, they’ve pulled it off.

Without diving too much into the minute details, here is where everything stands:

Star Holdout

Star WR CeeDee Lamb is scheduled to play on his fifth-year option for $17,991,000. He has watched several receivers in his draft class, like Justin Jefferson, get paid, and he’s seen several with only three years of service, like DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, secure life-altering second contracts.  

He’s not happy about it, and he shouldn't be, so he is skipping mandatory mini-camp this week. 

Then, you have QB Dak Prescott, coming off a year in which he finished second in the MVP voting. He carries a $55,455,000 cap hit this year, but as he enters the last year of his deal, the Cowboys risk him going elsewhere. That would leave a dead cap of more than $40 million on his way out the door.

Finally, you have edge rusher Micah Parsons, who was arguably the best defensive player in the league in his first three seasons. He’s eligible for a new contract, and plenty of other players in his draft class have already gotten their big deals. 

Parsons said this week that “patience is a virtue,” but he also said he expects to be the league’s highest-paid non-quarterback when his deal gets done. Jefferson set that mark at $35 million annually this week, serving as a benchmark that Parsons and Lamb want to top.

If you’re a Cowboys fan, seeing the team in this position must be mind-boggling — and frankly infuriating. By being reactive instead of proactive, the Cowboys are in a position where they will have to pay through the nose to retain their best players or risk losing them.

>> READ: What Lamb's Next Contract Could Look Like

Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy (left) and owner Jerry Jones at training camp press conference at the River Ridge Fields. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Why Are the Cowboys Doing This?

At this point, the only real explanation we have — if you can call it that — is owner Jerry Jones’ assertion that he would “like to see more leaves fall.” 

“We’d like to see more action,” Jones continued. “It’s called option quarterback. I’ve spent my life playing option quarterback. I want to see some more cards played.”

This comment is either illogical or insulting, depending on what he’s talking about.

In the interest of transparency, I played for the Cowboys for the last seven games of the 2022 season, and I actually like and respect Jones. For one, he walked out of the Cowboys facility and stopped my rental car to introduce himself to me on my first day with the team after they had claimed me off waivers. 

That was notable, considering I came from a Washington franchise where the owner never made eye contact, let alone shake hands with a non-star player like me. Plus, it’s hard not to admire the Cowboys’ incredible commercial success under Jones’ ownership. He took the risk of buying the team and turned it into a financial behemoth.

However, all that does is make his comments more head-scratching.

If he is saying he wants to see more contracts get signed by comparable players to further establish the market, that is illogical and has cost him millions of dollars in cash and cap.  

It's even worse if he is saying he wants to see these three players “play some more cards” regarding their on-field performance. 

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) and head coach Mike McCarthy after a touchdown in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

We All Know Where This is Going

All these other organizations have enough faith in their players to reward them with extensions, but Jones needs to see more from Prescott, Lamb, and Parsons before being certain he wants them to be core Cowboys for years to come. Seriously?

The Cowboys have a financial advantage over every other team, given they are the most valuable. Yet, they are not taking advantage of it for some unknown reason.  

Unlike some teams that lack the cash on hand to dole out a gigantic signing bonus to maximize the salary cap benefits by spreading that amount throughout the length of the contract via proration, the Cowboys are flush with cash but don’t appear to want to use it. 

The sad part, at least if you are a Cowboys fan, is that they will likely end up signing all these players. Just like they got a deal done with Ezekiel Elliott or Zach Martin when they held out, I’d be willing to bet they eventually reach an agreement with all three players.

It will just be for a lot more money than it needs to be, further eroding the depth of a team already lacking it.

Apparently, that’s the Cowboy Way.