NFL Rumors: Dak Prescott, Cowboys Still Expected to Talk Contract After Playoff Loss - Joseph Zucker, Bleacher Report
The Cowboys are intent on running it back with their current core and that begins with extending Dak Prescott.
The Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott are still expected to negotiate over a contract extension, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Rapoport referenced Prescott’s sizable $59.5 million salary cap hit for 2024, which provides the Cowboys with a clear incentive to work out a new deal now. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN had reported Monday the two sides “are expected to convene at some point and talk for a while.”
“The Cowboys know how hard it is to get a good quarterback and Prescott is largely considered a top-10 passer in this league,” Fowler said. “So, it would be mildly surprising if they moved on from him, but with that 2-5 playoff record, certainly that could be a negotiating point for Dallas that comes up over the coming months.” In the immediate aftermath of Dallas’ 48-32 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Wild Card Round, Prescott came to the defense of head coach Mike McCarthy. He basically said he should be on the hot seat right there with McCarthy if that was where things stood on the coaching front.
Thanks to his massive cap hit, the Cowboys have little choice but to give Prescott a new deal keeping him on the payroll beyond 2024 as well. They’re on pace to be $11 million over the cap, so they need to free up a lot of cash in order to not only get into the black but also create enough flexibility to strengthen the roster. Lowering Prescott’s salary commitment helps to achieve that.
When it comes to the head coach, the Cowboys are not ready to commit long-term with Mike McCarthy.
Mike McCarthy is not expected to receive any sort of extension from the Dallas Cowboysand will coach the 2024 season on an expiring contract, league sources told ESPN. Ever since Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced this week that McCarthy would return in 2024, there have been questions about whether McCarthy’s contract could be adjusted in some way — even something as simple as having one more year tacked on.The answer, simply enough, is no.
Jones said he believes that a person in the last year of a contract is challenged in a different way, and it often can bring out the best in people — which he is banking on happening in 2024 with McCarthy. Jones expected and asked the same of McCarthy’s predecessor, Jason Garrett, who twice coached into the final year of his contract. The first time Garrett coached in the final year of his contract was in 2014, when he went 12-4 and landed five-year extension. The second time was in 2019, when he finished 8-8 and did not return to the Cowboys, who replaced him with McCarthy.
Three days after a disappointing wild-card loss to the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium, Jones made McCarthy’s return in 2024 official with a 260-word statement that lauded McCarthy’s regular-season winning percentage and his “demonstrated postseason success,” even if it came with the Packers. The Cowboys are 67-42 in the regular season and have won two NFC East titles in the past three years, but are just 1-3 in the playoffs under McCarthy.
McCarthy said he is more motivated by legacy than money, and said the lack of an extension was not an issue to him. But the fact that he will be coaching in the final year of his deal will hang over McCarthy and the Cowboys, and will create unavoidable issues. Some sources around the league say that McCarthy could have a more challenging time filling potential openings on his coaching staff since he will be in the last year of his deal. Others say that, during periods of adversity, McCarthy’s lack of an extension could hover over the team.
The Cowboys defense has shown that while they can change games with their takeaways, they have a lot of areas to improve.
New Look Linebacking Corps
As sad of an end as it is, the career of former-first-round pick, Leighton Vander Esch, is likely over. ESPN’s Ed Werder reiterated this likelihood on Thursday. When you combine that with a mediocre, at best, group, it becomes clear that linebacker is perhaps the biggest need for Dallas heading into 2024. This season, the Cowboys played safeties at linebacker, were forced to give practice squad-level players snaps, and got bullied in the run-and-pass game for it. The one safety-to-linebacker player that worked out was Markquese Bell, who will be a big piece for Dallas next year as well. Yet, even Bell, and the other semi-bright spot, Damone Clark, struggled mightily against Green Bay. The point is, this off-season needs to be about buffing up the starting linebackers and the depth at the position. I believe that starts with free agency.
The Cowboys’ must make signing Titans linebacker, and impending free agent, Azeez Al-Shaair, a top priority. Truth be told, they should have acquired him at this year’s trade deadline, but they will have another chance this spring. Al-Shaair immediately becomes the best linebacker on the roster for Dallas; he is coming off a 163 total tackle season, with four passes defended, nine tackles for loss, and six quarterback hits.
At just 26 years old, this guy can lead the front seven for the next 3-5 years. Secondly, a great fit for Dallas in this year’s draft is Texas A&M linebacker, Edgerrin Cooper. Likely to be either a first or second-round pick, Cooper brings the intangibles Dallas has been lacking. Dallas will also get a boost from 2023 fourth-rounder, DeMarvion Overshown, making his return from a torn ACL.
An argument for keeping Mike McCarthy.
The frustration over yet another early playoff exit is certainly valid, but the decision to actually fire a coach must be more than just a response to such frustration. Everyone wants to see the Cowboys make a deep playoff run and, ultimately, get back to the Super Bowl. There is not a single soul in the building for this franchise that doesn’t understand what the goal is. But there is also the simple fact that winning a Super Bowl is hard.
There are exactly four current head coaches to have won the big game, and the only one to do it multiple times is Andy Reid with two rings. Bill Belichick is currently unemployed, but he’s won it six times and is clearly the outlier here. Even then, Belichick has just one playoff appearance in the last four years (he went 0-1 that year), a testament to how hard this is. Not only is winning the Super Bowl difficult, but winning in the playoffs at all is difficult. There are just five active head coaches with a winning record in the postseason, six if we include Belichick. That’s not even 20% of the league.
Some notable coaches with a losing record in the postseason include Super Bowl winners Mike Tomlin and Doug Pederson, the likely Coach of the Year recipient Kevin Stefanski, and the coach that just eliminated the Cowboys, Matt LaFleur. To put things into another perspective, there are 31 teams every season that don’t win a Super Bowl. There are usually about six teams that make a change at head coach after the season, which means there are generally about 25 teams each year that do not win the Super Bowl yet keep their head coach in place. That’s over 78% of the league that opts not to make a change in leadership every year.
Tennessee replaced Mularkey with Mike Vrabel, and early results seemed encouraging. Vrabel went 41-24 in his first four seasons, reaching the playoffs three straight seasons and even advancing to the conference championship game in 2019. However, things fizzled out, and Vrabel was just fired after two straight losing seasons.
The last time a team fired their coach after consecutive playoff appearances was John Fox, whom the Broncos fired after the 2014 season. Fox was 46-18 in four seasons in Denver, making the playoffs each year and even reaching the Super Bowl once. He won 12+ games in his last three seasons, but Denver opted to move on in an attempt to maximize their Super Bowl window with Peyton Manning.
The move worked, as the Broncos won the Super Bowl the very next year with Gary Kubiak as the head coach. However, Manning regressed sharply that season and was even benched for Brock Osweiler, though he reclaimed the starting job shortly before the playoffs began. Denver missed the playoffs the next year, Kubiak retired, and the team hasn’t even had a winning season (let alone a playoff berth) since then.
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