Dallas Cowboys proving contract extensions best left undone

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

In just the last twelve months the Dallas Cowboys have taught us all that contract extensions are often best left undone and only worth addressing until the last possible moment.

It can be maddening as a fan when our favorite teams don’t promptly re-sign our favorite players. The feeling of the unknown is uncomfortable, to say the least, and the thought of certain Dallas Cowboys cornerstones suiting up elsewhere is downright nauseating.

In just the past twelve months Dallas Cowboys fans have experienced this painful episode firsthand multiple times over. Players like DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Byron Jones, La’el Collins, Maliek Collins, and Jaylon Smith have all looked for multi-year extensions.

Lawrence, Jaylon, La’el, and Zeke all successfully scored deals, while players like Dak, Amari, Byron, and Maliek are still at the negotiation table. Only six games into the 2019 season it’s a bit foolish to claim success or failure on any of these deals, but the dynamic and fickle nature of the game has taught us long-term commitment is a dangerous thing and the discomfort of pending free agents is a small price to pay for flexibility.

Changes Needed

The Dallas Cowboys are imploding. The team that began 3-0 and boasted legitimate Super Bowl aspirations have now lost three consecutive games (and counting) and find themselves in a Week 7 “must win” showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles. While injuries have played a role, underachieving players and coaches get the bulk of the blame. If things continue to go south, wholesale changes will need to be made. And wholesale changes are next to impossible if all of the cornerstone players and coaches are locked into multiyear deals.

If things continue to go south, wholesale changes will need to be made. And wholesale changes are next to impossible if all of the cornerstone players and coaches are locked into multiyear deals.

Jason Garrett, Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott,  Byron Jones, and Maliek Collins are all playing on the last year of their deals. If Dallas decides to reshuffle the deck, they can get out from under these men fairly painlessly. The same can’t be said for the recently extended DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Elliott, Jaylon Smith, and La’el Collins. With the exception of Collins, all of the recently extended players are performing below expectations.

I’m not saying the Dallas Cowboys would like a re-do with these players, but it would be nice to at least have that option should a slight roster reshuffling be needed. In much the same way we can look at the pending free agents – I’m not suggesting Dallas should just let Dak and/or Amari walk out the door, but it’s nice to know the Cowboys have options going forward.

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It’s also worth noting how the above said players are responding to their specific contract situations. Dak has never played better football and currently ranks as the NFL’s top rated passer in Total QBR. In most respected categories, he’s entrenched in the NFL’s top-5, and while his accuracy hasn’t been pinpoint, it’s much better than the ridiculous number of drops are indicating.

Amari Cooper is another player playing out of his mind. Sure he’s responsible for a handful of those aforementioned drops, but he’s also proven to be one of the most explosive and unstoppable receivers in the NFL. For people who had their doubts about these fellas before, they’re probably feeling a heckuva lot better about offering extensions now. Waiting helps.

Maliek Collins and Byron Jones, on the other hand, have greatly underachieved this season. The Dallas Cowboys are probably feeling pretty happy they didn’t hand over mega contracts this past offseason because there’s no way Collins or Jones would have lived up to them. Again, waiting helped.

Zeke and Jaylon both got proactively paid and what appeared to be fair market price at the time now looks like it could be an overpayment. Jaylon has yet to rediscover his game from 2018. And Zeke has been about as elusive of a runner as a garden slug. He’s getting nearly the same carries as he did at this point in 2018, he’s just doing much, much less with them.

DeMarcus Lawrence has been the focus of every defense he’s faced so it’s understandable there’s slippage in the numbers. But he used to find a way to create something out of nothing. We’re not seeing that so much now that he has a shiny new deal.

Note: Lawrence is still playing fine football and I believe it’s only a matter of time before he explodes and starts producing the splash plays in which we’ve all grown accustomed to. I’m worried we may NEVER see Zeke or Jaylon perform up to the level we expect again. 

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Whether you agree with my individual player assessments or not, the point is the same: When a franchise is successful you want players locked up long term so you can ensure stability and continued success. But if your team is floundering like the Dallas Cowboys currently are, you want as much roster flexibility as possible because fresh new contracts are like handcuffs to a rebuild/revamp.

Thank goodness Dallas didn’t proactively re-sign Jason Garrett. Thank goodness they didn’t re-sign Maliek or Byron. If they rebuild/revamp the roster they may come to regret needlessly re-signing Jaylon and Zeke. And if everything goes right they may regret not locking Dak and Amari up sooner. But at this point, it’s nice to have a little flexibility to sell us on an improved team for the future.

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The lesson learned from this current situation is that if you are somewhat uncertain about the future and/or talent on a team, you shouldn’t throw around new contracts until you’re absolutely sure or until you absolutely have to because some things can’t be undone.

  • Published on 10/16/2019 at 12:46 PM
  • Last updated at 10/17/2019 at 06:26 AM