Dak Prescott is set to get paid, but Mike Freeman reports that people around the league believe the Cowboys should make Ezekiel Elliott the priority.
The question was a simple one: Of the three Cowboys stars in quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and receiver Amari Cooper, which one do you prioritize paying, since it’s difficult (virtually impossible) to pay all three top-dollar?
Three team executives were asked what they’d do, and their answers, frankly, were both surprising and unified. The answers also showed that while the NFL still values quarterbacks above all others, there are a handful of players at other positions who are viewed by some teams as equally potent.
Freeman says this is how some around the league sees it:
Prescott is good, and talented, but he won’t ever be great (their view, not mine).
Cooper is good, and talented, but it’s still easier to find receivers with his capabilities in the draft, and they’d be cheaper (their view, not mine).
Elliott is seen as different. To these executives, and others, he is potentially a transformational back. One said he already is. They see him as practically unstoppable because he can create his own openings when holes in the line aren’t there.
There is also another way to look at this:
"Opposing execs want the Cowboys to be bad" is an alternative headline. https://t.co/AsI8KKG9iy— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) June 28, 2019
Meanwhile, there are others that believe the Cowboys should think twice about paying Zeke.
Ezekiel Elliott was taken fourth overall three years ago, he’s twice topped 1,400 rushing yards, he’s arguably the key to the Dallas Cowboys offense, and he’s easily one of the top offensive play-makers in the entire NFL.
But should Dallas even prioritize re-signing him?
Elliott’s running mate, quarterback Dak Prescott, will inevitably land a big-money deal to stay with the Cowboys, but recent reports have indicated America’s Team might be hesitant to pay its star running back -- not only this offseason but in any future offseason. ESPN’s Dan Graziano, in fact, suggested Dallas could be quicker to lock up wide receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones, among others, before opening their pockets for Zeke.
Part of the reasoning could be Elliott’s checkered off-field history. But mostly it could be because, well, he’s a running back. And CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson has absolutely no problem with that being the case.
Debunking the theory that the Cowboys will not be able to pay everybody.
Granted, new (re-)signings will impact how close or far to the 2020 savings ceiling the Cowboys will truly get, but even if they have “only” $40 million in space left after securing Lawrence, Prescott, Cooper, Elliott and Jones — they’d still have $10M more than the most they’ve had since 2010. That’s more than enough to pay satellite talent, and to acquire free agents they deem worthy of paying. When considering the team rarely plays in the first round of NFL free agency anyway, we’re talking about value deals landed in the second and third wave that help the team but don’t carry headlines.
Take a glimpse back at what they did this past March and you’ll catch my drift.
There’s also irony in the fact that the looming extensions the uninformed and self-proclaimed “cap specialists” are arguing over, will be bargains just two years after they’re signed.
In dissecting the current and future cap numbers, the roster and subsequent attrition +/- additions, willing team-friendly deals from veterans (ex: Jason Witten, Sean Lee, etc.), how the Cowboys conduct spring business and market values on respective players — it’s as laughable as it is odd to still hear the PTSD-style narrative of “cap hell” as it relates to Dallas.
If anything, they’re standing at the pearly gates with a cloud in each hand, about to make it rain.
Speaking of Dak and Zeke, RJ poses the question: do the Cowboys have the best set of triplets in the NFL?
If we looked at the positions individually then Dak, Zeke, and Amari probably rank third, first, and third compared to the Chargers and Saints. Since we’ve factored in injuries you can consider that factor with regards to Allen but even then that gives Dallas somebody ranked first, second, and third at every position. A perfect average.
While many will scoff at this, you can say that the Cowboys might be in the most enviable position across the NFL with regards to triplets as all of theirs are still very young and ascending players. Los Angeles and New Orleans are near the end of the road at quarterback, but for now they might have better overall groups specifically because of the most important position in sports.
At worst it feels like the Cowboys have the third-best set of triplets in the NFL, maybe there’s some poetry in being third in a subject of three. If their quarterback takes the step that many believe he will in 2019 then we could be looking at the game’s best a year from now.
Elsewhere on the offense, the health of Travis Frederick is huge for Dallas.
Dallas Cowboys: Is Travis Frederick Ready to Go?
Travis Frederick’s progression from an All-Pro center, to missing all of last season with Guillain–Barre syndrome, to back on the field and ready to snap the football is impressive. A return to form isn’t a given, though.
”Anytime you take time away from it you get rusty—you get rusty normally in an offseason as well,” Frederick told reporters.
While the Cowboys expect Frederick to start this fall, the veteran knows he still has a ways to go, per Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams:
”I’ve come a really long way. It’s interesting because there’s three things holding me back now. There’s the return from Guillain-Barré. I had an umbilical hernia repair, so that kind of knocked out my lowers for a while, and I had the shoulder repair, so it knocked out my uppers for a while. So I’m still coming back.”
Frederick’s work during training camp will show if he’s ready.
On the topic of the offensive line, SportsDay named its ‘All-NFC East O-Line’. A pair of Cowboys made the list.
Cowboys right guard Zack Martin
The most reliable member on the Cowboys’ offensive line sat out games due to injury for the first time in his career last year. Heading into 2019, he and the Dallas line are healthy again.
Not only is Martin the best right guard in the division, he may be the best right guard in the entire NFL. He was called for only one penalty and allowed just three sacks last year.
Martin was a unanimous selection by the SportsDay staff.
The theme of the day seems to be offense. How will Kellen Moore’s offense look in 2019?
The Dallas Cowboys have several unanswered questions as they enter training camp late next month. Which star player will receive the next big contract extension? Can center Travis Frederick regain his previous form after a battle with an autoimmune disease? But undoubtedly the biggest unknown surrounds new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
The Cowboys shockingly promoted Moore to offensive coordinator earlier this year after he spent last season as the team’s quarterback coach. The former Boise State star spent the prior six years as a backup quarterback, three seasons with the Detroit Lions and the last three in Dallas.
Where the Moore hiring does make sense is in the fact the Cowboys aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel in 2019. This is an offensive scheme that allowed Dallas to win the NFC East twice in the past three years after all. So keeping much of the same playbook and language intact seems wise.
Switching gears to the defense, what will Sean Lee’s role be this season?
Eatman weighs in:
Nick Eatman: I don’t know if it helps Lee as much as it’ll help the entire position. Lee probably won’t play as much as he is used to, but having him out there should give the defense flexibility to play more of a 4-3 scheme. Plus, it might lighten the load somewhat for Smith and Vander Esch. The interesting part to me will be the nickel and dime packages to find out how they line up. That will be a spot where Lee could be used the most, considering his coverage skills and instincts are typically top-notch. If Lee is healthy, his role will be different than the past but this could be a “less is more” situation across the board.
As does Broaddus:
Bryan Broaddus: If Lee is excited about the move, then we all should be excited as well. How can you not like a scheme where three of your best tacklers are on the field at the same time? I like the move for Lee as well as the team. Lee has added some body armor without sacrificing any of his speed, which is an area that you always worry about when a player adds more weight to account for a position switch. I’ve noticed that Lee took more snaps in these OTAs and minicamp practices. Lee likely went to the staff and requested it in order to not only work himself in shape but get acclimated to the requirements of the position.