Friday, May 24, 2024
spot_img

Cowboys’ Trey Lance praise amid Dak Prescott contract stalemate highlights flaws in team’s roster management

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is headed into the final season of the four-year, $160 million contract he signed in 2021. He is currently set to count against the team’s books for an astronomical $55.1 million in 2024, which is more than every player in the NFL except for Deshaun Watson. Prescott’s contract also voids after the upcoming season, and once it does, he will be an unrestricted free agent as there is a clause in the contract that prevents the Cowboys from franchise-tagging him next offseason.

And yet, even after owner Jerry Jones infamously declared that the Cowboys will be “all in” for the 2024 season, the team has not touched Prescott’s contract, other than convert a $5 million roster bonus into a signing bonus and clear $4 million from this year’s cap. They have also yet to extend either wide receiver CeeDee Lamb or linebacker Micah Parsons to create additional cap maneuverability.

Also, instead of adding pieces in free agency, as was expected following Jones’ all-in declaration, Dallas let starters Tony Pollard, Tyron Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Michael Gallup, Dorance Armstrong and Jayron Kearse leave in free agency, while also losing Leighton Vander Esch to retirement and allowing Stephon Gilmore to remain unsigned. They have signed just two outside free agents all offseason, inking linebacker Eric Kendricks to a one-year deal and then signing journeyman running back Royce Freeman earlier this week. 

Coupled with the team bringing back head coach Mike McCarthy on a lame-duck contract and signing defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and the new defensive staff to one-year deals, it looks a lot less like the Cowboys are “all in” than it does that they are preparing to reset almost everything after the 2024 season. And Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones added more fuel to that fire on Friday by showering No. 3 quarterback Trey Lance with praise, and even making a favorable comparison to Prescott.

“He’s [Lance] done nothing but excite us even more as he’s worked here all of last season and in the offseason, in terms of his work ethic, his skill level. We’re very pleased,” Jones said during a radio appearance, via The Athletic. “He exhibits everything you would think a top-five, top-10 pick would exhibit. … Trey exhibits similar type work ethic [to Prescott]. Obviously Trey is a really good athlete, and the most important thing is his arm. He’s got a very live arm, very strong arm. He continues to improve with his footwork and his accuracy.”

When you consider that earlier this offseason, there were already reports that Prescott would indeed play out the final year of his contract without getting a new deal (despite his stated confidence that a contract would get done at some point), these comments are especially notable. But they’re also notable because, like Prescott, Lance is headed into the final year of his contract, so the Cowboys don’t have him under team control for next season, either. 

If they allow Prescott to reach free agency, he would surely command one of, if not the single-largest free-agent contract in NFL history. He is coming off a season where he finished second in MVP voting and was named a Second Team All-Pro, and he will be just 31 years old when free agency kicks off next March. He is going to get a monster deal. And if that happens, Lance would have the Cowboys over a barrel if they wanted him to stay and be Dak’s successor. And that’s before we get to the impact of Prescott’s massive dead-cap hit if he were to leave in free agency.

All of which is to say, if the Cowboys are really not prepared to pay Prescott a market-setting contract and want to move on to Lance or someone else after this season, they have been extremely negligent in the way they have handled this offseason. 

Prescott has a no-trade clause, but if the Cowboys weren’t going to re-sign him, they should have approached him to work on an agreeable trade so they could at least get something in return for him, and so they could limit the length of time they’d have his contract on their books, whether via active salary or a dead cap hit. Instead, it looks like they are going to play out the string on an era in which they don’t appear to have all that much belief, while also hamstringing themselves for the next era of Cowboys football due to their abject refusal to think proactively instead of reactively when it comes to roster-building. 

They dug themselves a similar hole early in Prescott’s career, thanks to their repeated restructuring of Tony Romo’s contract, so they didn’t actually get the benefit of having a top-flight quarterback on a fourth-round rookie-scale contract. They dug an even deeper hole by delaying Prescott’s extension by two full years and costing themselves millions in the process, along with having to agree to carrots like the no-trade and and no-tag clauses, and by doing things like signing Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith to market-setting deals years before they needed to be paid. 

Dallas made a similar mistake by not extending Lamb as soon as he was eligible last offseason, when he was already a two-time Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro, and it’s now going to have to pay him at the top of the market following a season where he led the NFL in receptions and was named a First Team All-Pro. And it looks like the Cowboys are about to do the same thing with Parsons, who has been arguably the single-best defensive player in the league since his debut three years ago and who is absolutely going to get a contract that makes him the league’s highest-paid defender at some point. The only question is whether the Cowboys allow someone else to raise the price on that market before they get his deal done. 

The Cowboys seemingly refuse to learn from the mistakes of their past, and are instead not just willing but apparently determined to repeat them. When you have not only not won a Super Bowl but have not even been to a conference championship game in nearly 30 years, that is an astonishingly myopic way to operate.

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.