In the third installment of my bold prediction series, the elephant in the room gets tackled as we discuss the Dallas Cowboys star who does not get a deal.
Last week, I started a series of bold predictions regarding the Dallas Cowboys and the 2019 season. That theme continues this week but unlike the first two, this bold prediction could create some discord within the locker room. Playing football for a living is a job and everybody likes to get paid.
For NFL players, their window in which to earn maximum dollars is a very short one. The Dallas Cowboys are both blessed and cursed with four big time players all looking for their next big deal at the same time. It is a nice problem to have, employing a quarterback, running back, wide receiver and cornerback, all young and deserving of a huge raise.
Unfortunately and realistically, someone is going to be left without a chair, at least in 2019. Since the quarterback is the one who’s deal will be the largest, it makes sense Dak Prescott‘s deal will be done no later than second of the four. With Carson Wentz getting paid a couple weeks ago, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger also getting extensions recently and a franchise tag number that will be north of $25 million next year, Prescott is about to become extremely wealthy.
Recently, I wrote about what a Dak deal might look like. Expect a five-year deal worth $130 million and $110 million in guaranteed money. I believe that it gets done early in training camp. While Dak is set to make just over $2 million this year, one of the highest salaries on the team this season belongs to receiver Amari Cooper.
Cooper is set to make almost $14 million this season. If Dallas does not get a new deal done for Cooper and they decide to use the franchise tag next year, he would earn over $31 million in two years. That number is unfathomable, especially considering the other players needing new contracts. It is quite conceivable that Cooper gets his deal done by training camp as well to reduce his huge base salaries but give him more guaranteed money over a longer time.
So what should a three-time Pro Bowl player who just turned 25-years old earn? Will four years and $75 million with $22 million guaranteed get pen to paper? We’re about to find out.
Speaking of franchise tags, the most likely candidate for it next season is likely cornerback Byron Jones. Last year was the first in which his play quantified his draft status. He’s always been a solid player but 2018 saw Jones take a sizeable step forward.
Still, his numbers did not jump out at you and this offseason, he had hip surgery. However that affects his play needs to be seen before shelling out big dollars. A few more interceptions would be nice as well, otherwise Jones is primed for the tag in 2020. That leaves us with arguably the best player on the field getting left out in the cold. The running back position in the NFL is treated with the most cruelty. It has turned into a use and abuse, throwaway position that the Cowboys have once before treated as such.
Could Ezekiel Elliott get the DeMarco Murray treatment? Elliott’s 2020 option for $9.099 million has already been locked in. After that, with running back being one of the lowest on the franchise tag scale, it’s increasingly possible that Elliott is tagged in 2021.
Three years from now Elliott’s carries and receptions could climb above 2,000. That’s a lot of wear and tear on anyone, no matter how young, strong or good that player may be. Murray played seven seasons total in his career and did not reach 2,000 touches. Only three active running backs have 2,000+ career touches. Two of them make less than $3M in 2019.
It may just possibly be that Ezekiel Elliott is left without a deal while the Dallas Cowboys continue to rack up the mileage and table these discussions both this year and next.