The NFL Combine isn’t in full-swing just yet in terms of prospects showcasing their athleticism, but Tuesday offered a platform for multiple high-ranking executives around the league to speak to the media. Stephen Jones assumed that responsibility for the Dallas Cowboys, and the Executive VP had plenty to say.
Jones actually got the ball rolling Monday with comments he made to ESPN. In sum, Jones hinted at the Cowboys’ plans to both extend Dak Prescott and use the franchise tag — presumably on Pro Bowl back Tony Pollard.
Jones addressed a number of pressing storylines Tuesday. We’ll get to all of them at some point. For now, though, it’s important Cowboys fans are aware of these three factoids from the press conference.
3 observations from Cowboys’ Stephen Jones press conference
3. Tyron Smith to return in 2023
Somewhat surprisingly, Jones noted Smith is “absolutely” returning next season after another injury-plagued year. Smith’s future has been a polarizing talking point amongst Cowboys fans. Having played 17 of a possible 50 games over the last three years, including just four games this past season, it’s been speculated that Dallas might cut Smith in the name of saving cap room.
Making Smith a post-June 1 cut would free up $13.6 million against the cap, but that seemingly isn’t in the cards for the veteran tackle. Jones acknowledged the Cowboys are comfortable where they are with Smith’s contract, but he did hint at a potential restructuring of his contract, which would free up $6.2 million.
This makes for an interesting conversation about where Smith will play in 2023, if Tyler Smith returns to left guard, and whether Connor McGovern, an unrestricted free agent who started 15 games at LG, gets re-signed.
2. Terence Steele, Tony Pollard progressing in injury rehab
In more good news, both Terence Steele and Tony Pollard are making great progress in their respective rehabs. Steele suffered a torn ACL in Week 14, and the expectation is the stalwart right tackle will be ready for training camp.
Jones said Steele is doing “unbelievable” with his rehab, and that “he’s done as well as anybody that we’ve ever had in terms of his rehab and his diligence.” That shouldn’t surprise anyone knowing how hard Steele works at improving his craft behind the scenes. Seems that energy is reciprocated in rehab.
Pollard, meanwhile, suffered a high-ankle sprain and fractured fibula in Dallas’ playoff defeat against the 49ers. Pollard underwent surgery on his ankle, and he too is expected to be all systems go for camp.
Speaking of Pollard, Jones all but confirmed the Cowboys will use the franchise tag. Jones didn’t outright confirm it’ll be used on Pollard, but that seems like the most likely outcome given his injury and it’s friendly price tag.
1. Extensions for CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs?
Jones told reporters at the Combine that the Cowboys are interested in exploring extensions for CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs. Dallas will exercise Lamb’s fifth-year option this offseason. As a former second-round pick, Diggs doesn’t have that luxury, so he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023.
It would behoove the Cowboys to get at least one of Lamb or Diggs signed this offseason. They’re quietly one year away from Micah Parsons being extension-eligible, and all signs point to him becoming the NFL’s highest-paid defender. Extending Dak Prescott is the quickest avenue to creating cap room.
It’ll be interesting to see how Dallas navigates paying Lamb and Diggs (and eventually Parsons). As three of the game’s biggest superstars, each player will command top-of-the-market money, or something close to it.
A huge offseason awaits the Cowboys.