Dallas Cowboys veteran contracts a factor in backup battles
By Brad Austin
When deciding roster spots in late August, veteran contracts will be a consideration in key backup battles for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys have two crucial roster riddles to solve before September. If Dak Prescott misses a few games, which passer can bail water to keep the ship afloat? If Ezekiel Elliott sits for a short stretch, which runner can shoulder his bulk of carries?
Since being drafted in 2016, neither starter has missed a game due to injury. Both are built like a tank and durable, but strains and pulls do happen to players who use their legs. It’s also no secret the NFL gets trigger happy judging Zeke’s indiscretions.
There needs to be a viable plan if these unlikely circumstances arrive. Hoping for the best, but planning for the worst could be the difference in saving a promising season.
One regular season loss kept Dallas from playoff inclusion multiple times under Jason Garrett. From 2011-13, a final game flop shut the playoff door. While losing to Atlanta was the dooming difference in 2017.
The minimum expectation when a star offensive player sits out is to hold serve. When choosing the passer and runner who could do so going forward, the Cowboys may also consider veteran contacts and the cost of retaining them next season.
COOPER RUSH VS MIKE WHITE
In the battle for back-up quarterback, Mike White has an advantage if neck and neck on the playing field. The second year passer is cheap and locked up through 2021. Cooper Rush is equally inexpensive next season, but that wouldn’t last.
Assume Rush separates and Dallas deems him a valuable insurance policy. Problem solved, temporarily. Rush is a restricted free agent in 2020. To keep their newly desired back-up, Dallas would have to extend a hefty RFA second round tender.
Anything less than the projected $3.3 million would allow another team to swipe Rush and Dallas would get peanuts in return if they didn’t match his offer. Extending the second round tender insures a second round draft pick in return if poached.
However extending an original round tender (approx. $2.2 million) would award the Cowboys nothing if he signed elsewhere. Rush was an undrafted free agent and original round compensation is decided by where the player was drafted.
DARIUS JACKSON VS MIKE WEBER
Back-up running back is similar to the back-up quarterback race, with two key differences. Dallas likely keeps both of these rushers in 2019, while either Rush or White will be released. Also, replacing a veteran rusher in 2020 is easier than QB.
Rookie Mike Weber is cheap and under contract through 2022. Darius Jackson was drafted in 2016, but has accrued under three seasons making him a restricted free agent in 2020.
Like Rush, extending Jackson an original round tender in 2020 would only fetch peanuts if he were signed away. Jackson was drafted by Dallas in the sixth round.
Even if he seized the top back-up role in shining fashion, it’s still unlikely Dallas would extend a second round tender in 2020 to keep him. Weber and Tony Pollard should still be around and $3.3 million is too rich for a back-up at an easy to replace position.