With big paydays already being handed out to their offensive line, how will the Dallas Cowboys juggle their money when both Dak and Zeke re-up?
This current Dallas Cowboys team is a perfect example of how patience and due diligence can pay off in the long run. The days of the Cowboys spending big money in free agency on high profile players that usually do not pay off are over. This team has been methodically built through the draft and by finding budget friendly free agents who can still contribute.
The best example of this is the offensive line, viewed by many to be the league’s premiere unit. They have invested three first round picks into this unit (left tackle Tyron Smith in 2011, center Travis Frederick in 2013 and right guard Zack Martin in 2014) and have watched all three develop into top level Pro Bowl talent at each of their positions. But with that high level of development comes contractual obligations in order to retain their services.
Back in 2014, the Cowboys gave Tyron Smith a monster eight-year contract extension worth nearly $110 million with $40 million fully guaranteed. In 2016, the Cowboys made Travis Frederick the highest paid center in the league by giving him a six-year extension worth $56.4 million with $28 million being paid in the first three years and $18.2 million fully guaranteed.
And most of the salary cap talk this offseason has been around extending All-Pro guard Zach Martin. His number is expected to be north of the record setting contract the Cleveland Browns gave their guard Kevin Zeitler ($60 million over 5 years with $31.5 million guaranteed).
As you can see, there is a lot of money being tied up into the unit that opens up lanes for running back Ezekiel Elliott. In a salary cap league such as the NFL, with only so much money to spend, this means other positions will have to come at cheaper prices.
Throw this thought on top of the line in the sand Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones set a couple years ago with running back DeMarco Murray leaving town. Reports were being circulated that Jones was offering Murray $6 million per year and was not willing to budge. The Philadelphia Eagles came in with an offer that averaged $9 million per year and, of course, DeMarco went for the higher offer.
To go another step farther, quarterback Dak Prescott will most likely receive a “franchise QB” extension which looks like it could be upward of $25 million per year based on current extensions being signed at his position.
There are going to be a lot of moving parts when Zeke’s contract comes up for extension. How much money will be sunk into the offensive line and Prescott by then? Will Jones be willing to pay a running back more than $10 million per year? Will an already struggling defense be budgeted even more to support a star-studded offense?
Time will tell. But I think it will be very interesting to watch the upcoming offseasons in Dallas over the next couple years and to see just how creative the Cowboys can be juggling their money.