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Cowboys news: Dallas could look at Dak Prescott’s contract for cap relief

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NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

What to do with Dak Prescott: Three options the Cowboys must consider - Todd Archer, ESPN

The Cowboys have to get some cap relief, and one option is to use Dak Prescott’s contract.

Prescott is signed through 2024. He is set to make $31 million in 2023, which is fully guaranteed, and will count $49.13 million against the salary cap. Only Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson ($54.9 million) has a larger cap figure this upcoming season.

There are three paths the Cowboys can take:

Extend Prescott

The Cowboys will need to create room just to get under the 2023 salary cap, which could be created by releasing or adjusting the contracts of RB Ezekiel Elliott, OT Tyron Smith and potentially some others. But in order to be a buyer in free agency or even keep their own younger core players — like WR CeeDee Lamb, CB Trevon Diggs, RB Tony Pollard, S Donovan Wilson, LB Leighton Vander Esch and OT Terence Steele — they will need significant cap room.

The easiest way to do that would be to extend Prescott’s contract. They would add four to five years to the deal, pay him a huge signing bonus and knock down his 2023 base salary, allowing them to do whatever they would want. Technically, instead of extending Prescott, they could restructure his contract again and free up about $22 million in room but be left with a ton of dead money in 2025 after his contract expires.

An argument to keep both Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas - Brandon Clements, Blogging the Boys

The Cowboys have many decisions to make this offseason on their roster. The running back position could be 50 percent of what it was, or look completely different.

Keeping a particular duo together, would go a long way towards maintaining success if the dollars and cents are right

Knowing how the loss to the 49ers in the Divisional Round happened, there are plenty of questions that need to be answered with the offseason now in full effect for all but four teams. There is one area on this team that if handled properly, gives the Cowboys a very good shot at progressing towards that elusive Super Bowl trophy, and that is the backfield.

As everyone already knows, the backfield in 2022 featured a one-two punch of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. This duo has become one the best in the NFL today. Going off of the number of carries from each player during the regular season, it was essentially a 55-45 split with Ezekiel Elliott having the higher percentage of carries. Although Zeke had more opportunities during the year, Pollard had better overall production and was the more efficient player. Pollard would also tally his first 1,000 yard rushing season and would do it on an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Ezekiel Elliott came up just short of a 1,000 yards by a mere 124 yards, but with an average per carry of 3.8 yards, he would’ve needed another almost 33 carries throughout the season to join Pollard in that club.

As seen by the statistics, Pollard is the much more dynamic player, but that doesn’t mean Elliott is no longer useful. He can be useful if the price is right. With an average salary of $15 million per year, the production simply does not equal the compensation. Elliott has recently stated that he would be willing to take a pay cut in order to stay in Dallas, and to be frank, this pay cut needs to happen or Elliott will no longer be a Cowboy. To keep both players, Zeke will need to come down to maybe five to six million per season and kick the difference over to his backfield mate, Tony Pollard. Based on Pollard’s play, and how the running back market currently stands, a salary of between eight and ten million per year should keep him in Dallas.

Spagnola: Painful Ending Clouds A Fine Season - Mickey Spagnola,

The Cowboys ended up disappointing after a quality regular season.

Finally, at last, a ray of sunshine broke through the storm clouds hovering inside The Star on Thursday.

Word broke just after head coach Mike McCarthy’s 32-minute mostly somber press conference of Dan Quinn deciding to return for a third season as the Cowboys defensive coordinator after dalliances with multiple teams to become their head coach.

Something to smile about for the first time since the Cowboys were eliminated from the NFC playoffs, having lost to the San Francisco 49ers Sunday evening, 19-12. That and than the classy McCarthy, while walking away from the podium, recognizing WFAA-TV photojournalist Jose Gant, heading into retirement after 40 years at Channel 8 in Dallas, causing a standing ovation from media members, smiles all around.

The Cowboys might have been in the win-or-go-home playoff situation but Jose, everyone’s favorite photog, had decided retirement would not take place until the Cowboys season had been completed, no matter when, putting him in a win-or-retirement situation.

Look, the resilient Cowboys carved out a 12-5 season, despite losing quarterback Dak Prescott to injury for five games, Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith to injury for the first 13 games of the season, two of their top three cornerbacks for a combined 17 games and their starting right tackle on his way to a potential Pro Bowl season, Terence Steele, for the final six games.

Yet they earned the top wild-card playoff seed in the NFC, one of just seven NFL teams with at least 12 wins, and the second-most total wins in the NFL in back-to-back seasons (24) to only Kansas City’s 26. And for goodness sakes, they won their first road playoff game in 30 years while beating Tampa Bay in the first round and QB1 Tom Brady for the first time in eight career meetings.

Cowboys ‘Best Landing Spot’ for Commanders DT Daron Payne - But How Much? - Mike Fisher, Cowboys Country

The Cowboys could look to upgrade along the defensive line through free agency. A list from PFF has one name at defensive tackle Dallas is favored to land.

And PFF, with it’s “Best Landing Spots’’ piece isn’t the first to think of this.

What gets left off most of these lists and guesses and projections is ...

How much?

Washington did not in the 2022 offseason give Payne a new deal. Maybe they wanted to wait and see. And now we’ve seen, Payne both playing a like big-bodied interior guy while also racking up a career-high 11.5 sacks.

“Washington has an elite interior defender already signed to a big multi-year deal in Jonathan Allen — a deal that will look like a total steal after the pending market explosion at the position this offseason — so that will certainly soften the blow here,” says Pro Football Focus, naming Payne the Commanders player they can’t afford to lose. “Payne’s 48 quarterback pressures in 2022 ranked ninth among interior defenders, as he’s developed into a solid pass rusher over his first five seasons.

“At the least, Washington should place the franchise tag on Payne.”

But Washington has to consider the same “at what price’’ game that Dallas would have to look at. Allen will count $21.4 million against Washington’s 2023 salary cap in the second year of the extension he signed in 2021. And the defensive tackle franchise tag number this year is expected to cost teams $18.9 million.

Quick math means that if the Commanders follow PFF’s strategy, they’ll be paying north of $40 million for its two starting defensive tackles - with both guys in the top five of the NFL in average annual value among all defensive tackles.

That creates a cap/roster imbalance in Washington.

What about Dallas’ cap? Yes, yes, it’s crowded as always. We’ve discussed the idea of a sea change in the way the Joneses manage their cap, doing more than just “draft and develop’’ and “pay our own.’’ We have discussed this in the form of an offensive add with someone like DeAndre Hopkins and it applies here, too.

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