The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of good players on this football team. They have stars at the top, strong players in the middle, and up-and-coming youngsters rounding out the depth. It’s a great situation to be in, that is until the team has to re-sign their talent to sizeable second contracts.
Last week, we mentioned that the front office will eventually face challenges after they give what we expect to be big deals to Trevon Diggs, CeeDee Lamb, Micah Parsons, and even Dak Prescott again. Those challenges include what to do with players like say, Terence Steele, who is a key piece to the team but doesn’t fall in that top tier of priority as some of these other guys. Steele is playing under a second-round tender and will enter free agency next offseason unless a new deal is struck. Would they, could they, put something together with Steele that could fit their budget?
Yes, there is a way. And the manner in which they proceed could look very familiar. Back in 2017, the Cowboys re-upped early on another undrafted free agent tackle, La’el Collins. The young tackle was coming off a season-ending injury after suffering a torn ligament on his right toe. The Cowboys weren’t worried about the injury and felt strongly about the type of player they had in Collins. It was a smart move as Collins agreed to a team-friendly two-year deal that saw him get a nice pay raise from the UDFA money (three-year, $1.59 million) he was getting at the time. The Cowboys turned around and signed him to a five-year deal a couple of years later, once again a year before his contract expired, and again giving him a pay raise.
After each of those extensions, Collins produced strong seasons. In 2019, he was on the cusp of Pro Bowl-level and it appeared as if Dallas got themselves a steal by being proactive and signing him to long-term deal. Sadly, things then started going downhill for Collins. He missed the entire 2020 season with a hip injury, he was suspended five games in 2021 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and in the offseason of 2022, he was released as a cost-saving move when the team preferred to roll with Steele as their new right tackle.
Although Collins didn’t manifest into the perennial Pro Bowler they were hoping, the idea behind his long-term deal was a good one. The worst case scenario is that it doesn’t pan out and they can get out from underneath it without too heavy of a cap hit, and the best case scenario is they get a talented right tackle for what eventually becomes a bargain price.
This is where the Cowboys can strike and attempt to re-sign Steele to a long, team-friendly deal that will help mitigate their heavy cap hits in the future. Anytime they can score a good player for a discount becomes a huge win. With Steele coming off an injury and playing on a cheap one-year deal, there is an incentive for him to work a new deal and give him some long-term security. The Cowboys don’t seem concerned about him being able to recover from his knee injury and could accept the risk because they love what they’ve developed. His size, his athleticism, and his makeup as a person, all point to a high-upside player that they would love to keep around.
Sometimes staying out in front of these situations can work out nicely and other times jumping the gun too early can come back and bite you. The Cowboys should weigh the risks, but if you lay everything out on the table, there are several factors that make a proactive long-term deal seem like the right move. And hopefully, this time around they can strike gold and retain their right tackle for the long haul.