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Extending Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper - who should be the Cowboys top priority?

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Which Cowboys player should be at the top of the list when it comes to receiving a contract extension?

NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t that long ago that the Dallas Cowboys thought they had a new version of the “triplets” when Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant had phenomenal seasons back in 2014. Sadly it was never meant to be. Romo only played in five more games over the course of the next two seasons before calling it quits. The then 27-year-old Murray left for Philadelphia and only lasted three more seasons before also retiring. And Bryant never again reached 70 catches or 850 yards despite just coming off of three straight 88+ catch/1,250+ yard seasons. In a matter of just three short years - none of them were playing football anymore and the next generation triplets had vanished.

Well, well, well - how the turn tables.

In a blink of an eye, the Cowboys magically have a new set of triplets that fans are excited about. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper all have a nice résumé of accomplishments, despite not being in the league very long. Prescott doesn’t throw many interceptions and has demonstrated he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league when the game is on the line. Elliott is a punishing running back who has the most yards per game than anyone that’s played in the league over the last 53 years. And Cooper is a route-running specialist who’s had over 1,000 yards receiving in three of his first four seasons in the league.

All of them are multiple Pro Bowlers and all of them are young. And it should be just a matter of time before all three of them will be one of the highest paid players at their respective positions, making them the highest-paid triplets in the National Football League.

There’s been a lot of debate about which of these players are the most important to the Cowboys with all kinds of ideas being thrown out regarding who should and shouldn’t be paid. While nothing is set in stone, it’s hard seeing the Cowboys organization letting any of these players get away.

Let’s lay things out on the table...

  • The team moved on from Tony Romo in favor of Dak Prescott to be their new franchise quarterback - they’re keeping Prescott.
  • The team invested a fourth overall pick in Ezekiel Elliot in the 2016 NFL Draft and all he’s done is lead the league in rushing in two of the last three seasons - they’re keeping Zeke.
  • The team traded a first-round draft pick to acquire Amari Cooper and he immediately jump-started the offense, helping the team win seven of their final nine games last season - they’re keeping Amari.

While the team may have every intention of handing out a nice chunk of cash to these guys, which one of these players are their top priority?

The case for Dak Prescott

If the Cowboys already know that Prescott is their quarterback of the future, what are they waiting for when it comes to extending him? The team has taken some pretty big steps to help make things easier for him this season. They now have a new offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore that is supposed to spark the offense. Jon Kitna is now the quarterbacks coach, and his presence should help Prescott improve his mechanics. And they even have new weapons such as Randall Cobb, Tony Pollard, and even the return of Jason Witten. The table is set for Prescott to have a big year, and if things go according to plan, his stock price is just going to rise.

But what if things don’t go according to plan? Are the Cowboys waiting to see this thing out? They certainly have the option to do that. They can pay him his $2 million salary this year and if push came to shove, they could franchise tag him for 2020. That buys them plenty of time to thoroughly evaluate him to make sure he’s worth the $100+ million investment.

However, the longer they wait, the more expensive Prescott becomes. Keep in mind that there are a handful of franchise quarterbacks from recent drafts that are going to be setting the market even higher. Prescott may seem expensive now, but he could look like a bargain a few years from now.

The case for Ezekiel Elliott

When it comes to worrying about extending their star players, Elliott’s contract typically takes a back seat. He currently has put over $24 million in his pocket. That’s not bad. The team also exercised his fifth-year option that will pay him another $9 million in 2020, so it’s not like he’s been getting chump-change. The Cowboys essentially don’t have to worry about a new deal for Elliott until the offseason of 2021, so they have plenty of time to figure this out.

There’s a good chance they won’t wait that long though. When it comes to Elliott, he’s everything they want in a running back. He’s a physical bruiser, he’s got excellent vision, and he’s very dangerous when he gets in space. Elliott can catch passes, pass protect, and he’ll milk every last inch out of his rushing attempts. He’s a complete running back.

One reason for pause with Elliott is whether or not his off-the-field issues are going to present any moments where he becomes unavailable to the team. They already were without him for six games in 2017, and trouble does have a tendency of following him around at times. Elliott needs to exercise more discipline and not put himself into vulnerable situations.

While the team can afford to wait with Elliott, they may not want to wait too long. Alvin Kamara is entering the third year of his rookie deal and since he’s a second-round pick, there will be no fifth-year option for him. The Saints may choose to extend him after the 2019 season, and with Mark Ingram no longer in the mix, it could be a huge season for Kamara.

Elliott’s only 23 years old. Sure, he’s got a lot of mileage already, but he’s a long ways from running out of gas. Todd Gurley got a four-year extension at this time in his career. A similar deal with Zeke would lock him up for the next six years, giving the team an easy-out if he starts to wear down by age 27.

The case for Amari Cooper

When the Cowboys decided to surrender their first-round draft pick to acquire Cooper from the Raiders, many saw that as a panic move due to the fact that Dallas severely underestimated the talent of their receiving corps. It’s hard to blame people for thinking that. After all, precious Day 1 draft capital is a lot to give up, especially for a team that is so good at finding star talent early in the draft.

The organization felt good about the trade because they loved what they saw in Cooper. His route-running ability has been heavily hyped and for good reason. He gets in and out of breaks quickly and is a smooth accelerator with really impressive top speed. Cooper is a quiet guy, but don’t let his soft demeanor fool you. He is in it to win it.

We can sit here and tell you that he’s paid his dues and there’s nothing else to see for the team to feel good about extending him. In fact, his time playing with the Cowboys produced very positive results and if he keeps at it like we all expect - it’s just going to drive up his price. New Orleans Saints receiver, Michael Thomas, is in the last year of his rookie deal and is looking to break the bank with a lucrative extension. The longer the Cowboys wait on Cooper, the more it’s going to cost him.

Poll

Which of these Cowboys star players should be the top priority when it comes to getting them extended?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Dak Prescott
    (411 votes)
  • 9%
    Ezekiel Elliott
    (62 votes)
  • 27%
    Amari Cooper
    (180 votes)
653 votes total Vote Now