When Ezekiel Elliott finally signed on the dotted line this morning to end his holdout, fans saw what could be the last major obstacle for a serious championship run disappear. The truth is that, while Jones may have (eventually) made the right decision by keeping his Pro Bowl running back happy and under contract, the Cowboys’ headaches have only gotten started.With the Cowboys’ opener four days away, the other two-thirds of the Cowboys’ new “Big Three” in quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper are still looking for new contracts.
Cooper will earn nearly $14 million this year. Last season he arrived in Dallas in a mid-season trade after three and a half years in Oakland. After spending the first half of his 2018 season in a slump, he improved dramatically, nearly doubling his average yards per catch. However, from as small a sample size as nine games, including two playoff games, it’s hard to judge whether or not this was a fluke. 2019 will be his chance to prove it isn’t, but his general inconsistency is a big question mark going forward.
Re-signing Prescott may be a more difficult proposition. At one point, the quarterback signaled his intent by reportedly turning down a $30 million dollar offer which would have placed him among the five highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. That he deserves this sort of money is a hard case to make, but not an impossible one. Sure, his personal statistics haven’t popped off the page in his first three years, but he has matured as a leader over the years, which led to his first playoff victory last season, and maintained steady consistency throughout.
However, another wrinkle may affect Prescott’s expectations, and his name is Jared Goff. When the Rams re-upped him for four years and $134 million, an average of $33.5 million per year – including an NFL record $110 million guaranteed – it set the bar high, and Prescott’s price point may be even higher as a result. Prescott isn’t as good as Goff, but he’s above-average, and given how few starting QBs there are that fit into that category, Dallas can’t afford to low-ball their franchise quarterback.
The Cowboys will have $86 million of cap space for the 2020 season with the current contract situation, which may not be enough money for both Prescott and Cooper. If Dak Prescott’s demands are as high as rumors insist that they are, the Cowboys may have to choose between him and his favorite target. Unfortunately for Cooper, there are other targets available. Even if Tavon Austin and Jason Witten don’t return for 2020 (and the last one is likely), Jerry Jones can find replacements.
There aren’t many Dak Prescotts available.
And there certainly aren’t any others like Dak on the Cowboys’ roster. The Cowboys’ only other option at quarterback for now is Cooper Rush, an undrafted free agent who has played in only two NFL games and completed one pass.
Unless Jones has a backup plan, it’s Prescott or nothing.
Which means that once again, Jones may have to do what he hates most – swallow his pride and open up his checkbook, this time for Dak. And Cooper may suffer the ill effects as a result.