La’el Collins contract sends subtle message to Dallas Cowboys stars
By Richard Ball
The Dallas Cowboys signed offensive tackle La’el Collins to a five-year extension keeping him through the 2024 season. Could this signing be a subtle hint to the triplets 3.0 that the size of the pie is shrinking?
The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2019 league year with at least eight priority players entering their last season under contract or on the franchise tag. This list includes defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Maliek Collins, corners Byron Jones and Anthony Brown, linebacker Jaylon Smith, offensive lineman La’el Collins, wide receiver Amari Cooper and quarterback Dak Prescott.
A ninth player forced himself into the contract discussion when running back Ezekiel Elliott decided to withhold his services during training camp. The prevailing thought was the marquee players namely Lawrence, Cooper, Prescott and unfortunately Elliott would be the first contract dominoes to fall.
Lawrence received the franchise tag and had strong leverage by delaying his shoulder surgery until he signed his new contract. This forced Lawrence and the Cowboys to begin negotiations much sooner completing a deal in April.
The focus shifted to Prescott and Cooper. Cooper and his representatives have been extremely quiet publicly about his contract with Cooper deflecting most contract related questions. Prescott and the team have had a few more verbal jousts in the media with rumors of $30 to $40 million average per year contract offers but the negotiations have not seemed to distract the Cowboys quarterback.
The Cowboys have taken a team-friendly contracting approach this offseason. Vice President Stephen Jones has gone on record with the Dallas Morning News to state that Dak Prescott’s next contract needs to leave room for a supporting cast.
"“At the same time, and I know Dak wants this, you want a supporting cast. That’s the way to go down as being one of the great quarterbacks to ever play the game: win championships.”"
It was a bit of a surprise to most when linebacker Jaylon Smith signed in effect a seven-year contract with a cap hit averaging just over $10 million per year. At the press conference announcing the deal, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was quick to remind everyone that the size of the remaining pie for the remaining contracts just got smaller. Here’s what Smith told ESPN last month.
"“I wanted to be part of the most prestigious brand in the world. I recognized that. And I’m a team guy, as well. I’m a leader. Eventually, I’m going to be a captain for the Dallas Cowboys. I know it and I feel it and really be able to exemplify greatness on and off the field.”"
Maybe Jerry Jones heard those words and tweaked the contract strategy putting more emphasis on players that want to be Dallas Cowboys versus players that want to reset the market for their positions. Could this be the reason La’el Collins is the next contract to be signed this offseason?
Pro Football Focus ranked Collins as the 31st offensive tackle in 2018 putting him in the top half of all tackles. The 32nd ranked tackle was Trent Brown who signed a massive deal with the Raiders this offseason averaging $16.5 million over the four-year deal. If early reports are accurate, Collins signed for a $10 million average over five years per Jon Machota
It was clear the Cowboys wanted to prioritize contracts for Lawrence, Cooper, Prescott and Elliott this offseason. Yet both Smith and La’el Collins signed team-friendly deals while the triplets 3.0 seem intent on resetting their markets.
The Cowboys will be second-guessed if any of the offensive stars depart. In the long run they might not care if the core of the team that decides to stay can compete for Super Bowls.