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The perplexity of big contracts, and how the Cowboys should handle Prescott, Elliott, and Cooper

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Contracts of the big three dominate the headlines, but how is this all going to play out?

NFL Draft Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images

There is always drama in Big D, which is just the nature of the beast for an organization like the Dallas Cowboys. Luckily for the Cowboys, most of the big storylines for the team this season has centered around the contracts of their three young stars - Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper. Of course, those storylines can have an impact if it means players aren’t reporting to training camp.

With Dak, Zeke, and Amari all wanting new deals, what can we expect from these situations going forward?

The holdout

Ezekiel Elliott did not report to training camp. The Cowboys organization was not expecting that, and as a result recently added Alfred Morris to give them a full set of running backs in training camp.

Elliott has two years left on his contract when you include his fifth-year option, so when you look at the big three - it would seem like his extension would be the lowest priority. Yet, here we are with no sign of Elliott in Oxnard. The whole point of Zeke trying to get an extension right now simply comes from trying to max out his stock price at the right moment. He’s the reigning rushing champion and has held that title in two of the three years he’s been in the league. He’s the only player other than Jim Brown who has a career average over 100 yards per game. Elliott is one of the best running backs in the league, and he’s trying to cash in on it.

The Cowboys would love to extend Elliott, but they have to go about it the right way. If they paid top dollar for all of their great players, they would run out of money real quick. They have to be deliberate in these types of situations. They want to find a deal that works so they can keep the band together. The organization is trying to use their allocated resources the best way they can to assemble the most competitive football team. If they end up paying Zeke too much, it could hurt them in other areas. They have to weigh their options and determine what’s going to make them the better team.

Another aspect with Zeke is his availability. In just a short time, he’s already gotten himself into trouble multiple times. Regardless of how we feel about Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend him for six games in 2017, there is no dispute that Elliott has made some poor decisions. Choices like that can have a negative impact on his team if he is unavailable.

There are a lot of factors to consider, and this is one of those dilemma’s that could linger awhile. Brace yourself, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

What should the Cowboys do: Stand their ground. We hate not seeing Zeke in camp, but the team has done such a great job sticking to their guns when it comes to preserving the team’s financials. The fallout of not having Elliott will mean the team will once again enter the season with a lot of uncertainty and inevitably have some type of impact, but setting a precedent that the team will cave under pressure and pony up extra cash, could have a greater detriment long term.

The no holdout, holdout

If anyone should consider holding out, you might think it was the guy who’s already played in the league four years and now has to play under his fifth-year option. Amari Cooper has had three Pro Bowl seasons where he’s had 1,000+ yards receiving. What else is there for him to prove?

Cooper is a camp participate, but when it comes to his negotiating strategy, he’s chosen to put things on the back burner as he carefully awaits the Michael Thomas contract situation. The New Orleans Saints receiver was a holdout himself, but just recently agreed to a contract that will pay him $20 million annually.

This is great news for Cooper. Back in March, we predicted the team would be able to sign him for around $16.3 million annually. That doesn’t seem as reasonable now. While Cooper isn’t going to command the same amount of money that Thomas earned, his asking price just went up. His cost is looking more like $17 to $18 M now.

It’s unclear how things have proceeded with Cooper’s contact. It wouldn’t make sense for the Cowboys to lollygag. But it takes two to tango, and it’s very possible Cooper’s side has chosen to just sit on this awhile. His associates have the front office right where they want him as the team invested a first-round pick to get him, and he’s been outstanding right out of the gate. His addition to the team last year, for all intent and purposes, saved the Cowboys season. He’s exactly the type of receiver Prescott needs and having just turned 25 in June, his prime seasons are still ahead of him.

What should the Cowboys do: Pay him. Having a great receiver is commodity that isn’t plentiful in the NFL. The team has taken steps to get one, so now they just need to finish it off by paying him.

Time for a raise

Since coming into the league in 2016, Prescott has been the biggest bargain in all of football. If he finishes this year under his current contract, Dak would take home a four-year earning of $4.7 million. And it would be even cheaper had it not been for a 2019 proven performance bonus.

For years, Prescott has quietly just gone out on the field and did his thing. After replacing Tony Romo in 2016, Dak has taken over as the team’s new franchise quarterback. While he’s been a work in progress, Prescott has still accomplish more at his age than any quarterback in Cowboys history. That’s pretty impressive.

This is a big season for Dak. The team continues to add pieces around him to help him be successful. Of course, Elliott and Cooper are two of those big pieces. With a new offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, and revamped offensive line - the table is set for Prescott to have a breakout season. Shouldn’t the Cowboys get him under contract before something like that ends up costing them more money? Or are they treading carefully with Dak to see how he handles himself before spending a large amount of money?

What should the Cowboys do: Pay him. If you think talented wide receivers are rare commodities, it takes a backseat to the quarterback position. And considering how it’s the single-most influential position on the team, it pays to have one of the better ones. Dak’s a proven winner with room to grow, so the Cowboys need to make the commitment to their rising star quarterback. Prescott will go from one of the best bargains in the league to the highest-paid player in Cowboys franchise history.