Jerry Jones shifts Cowboys' team-building approach from 'all in' to 'get it done with less'



The messaging of Dallas Cowboys front office this offseason has officially turned 180 degrees. 

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones emphatically stated Dallas would be “all in” on upgrading its roster following an embarrassing postseason meltdown, a 48-32 NFC Super Wild Card Weekend defeat at AT&T Stadium against the NFC’s seventh seed and youngest team in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers. 

However, the opposite has since occurred. Linebacker Eric Kendricks is the Cowboys’ only external free agent signing thus far, and Dallas’ $9.875 in free agency this offseason is the lowest in the entire NFL by nearly $13 million behind the salary cap-strapped New Orleans Saints ($22.297 million), per OverTheCap.com. Had the Cowboys proactively extended 2023 NFL MVP runner-up quarterback Dak Prescott — whose $59.5 million cap hit in 2024 (the last year of his current contract) is set to be the second-highest in the league — 2023 receptions leader wide receiver CeeDee Lamb — whose $17.991 fully guaranteed fifth-year option is the last season of his rookie deal — Dallas could have spread out their current and future cap hits across future years to have more room to beef up the roster now.

After being the only team since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger to win 12 or more games in three consecutive seasons and not reach the conference championship round, Jones is content to “get it done with less” after losing six starters and depth at multiple positions.

“I have been more all in before,” Jones said Sunday at the NFL’s Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, per The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “By any definition and I have more all in to make a run back to the line of scrimmage then I’ve been to run for 50 yards. It took more all in to just get back to the line of scrimmage than it did to run for 50 yards. Sometimes that is a bigger challenge. That is really the gist of what we’re about this year. We’ve got to get it done. “I think that we have been in a situation where we can get it done with less. More doesn’t necessarily beat Green Bay. There are other things. Maybe having it better strategically in different spots, but more than necessarily beat them, either. So we’re gonna be asked to do some things different because we got some different players.”

That logic may not make sense to some as their Pro Bowl-filled rosters complemented by solid depth have marched to double-digit win seasons in the NFC East under head coach Mike McCarthy since 2021, but Jones is of the school of thought that the groceries he has at home are enough in 2024 and that the Cowboys don’t have to add much more to the roster despite the offseason being a net negative for the team. 

“I think we’re going to be as close going in as we’ve been with the last three teams, with Dak,” Jones said on Sunday, per The Dallas Morning News. “With Dak. How can you say that, you ask? Well, do you still have [CeeDee] Lamb out there? Do you still have that tight end threat [with Jake Ferguson]? Do you still have some really good players on defense? Now, can you manage to stop the run better than you did the last couple of years? It’s down to those kind of things.”  

Prescott led the NFL in touchdown passes with 36 in 2023, and his 105.9 passer rating ranked as the best of his eight-year career, a performance that leads Jones to believe he has the quarterback that can finally take Dallas to the promise land nearly 30 years since his Cowboys last lifted the Vince Lombardi trophy. 

“I think there are a handful or more of quarterbacks playing who haven’t won a Super Bowl that will win a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “I think Dak is one of them. I’m firm there. He’s one of the ones who can.”

However, Prescott will have to lift his performance to even higher heights in 2024 with the Cowboys’ having the NFL’s lowest cash spending to salary cap ratio (0.7555) in the entire league per OverTheCap.com. The roster reinforcements he and the rest of the team will receive in 2024 will be through young college players from the draft. Jones’ opinion on the salary cap and player spending has swing the opposite direction since extending former Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott with two years remaining on his rookie contract. 

“My point is that clarity,” Jones said. “I think, as we move through, the clarity of the relationship to the salary cap to where and how you want to coordinate your roster, to me, has gotten clearer and clearer and clearer over time. If you want the running back to be 70 percent of your offense, maybe you’d better pay him a lot more. But if you’re not going to use him like that, you’re right, you might can do it with less. … Get used to it. We’re gonna have to have some young ones step in. Young ones being some of your younger draft picks. You’re going to have to have them and make no mistake about it. You’re going to lose some people that in the perfect world you had all the money in the world [they would be re-signed]. Let me say this, sometimes you make a decision and you got the money. But you’re anticipating looking ahead at something that’s coming. And so that’s what you’re seeing.”

Prescott (three-time Pro Bowler), Lamb (three-time Pro Bowler), Parsons (three-time Pro Bowler), right guard Zack Martin (nine-time Pro Bowler), left guard Tyler Smith (one-time Pro Bowler), cornerback Trevon Diggs (two-time Pro Bowler) and cornerback DaRon Bland (one-time Pro Bowler) remain, but the Cowboys front office no longer feels assembling the most star-studded roster through spending top dollar for those players is their best path forward following the loss to the Packers. Jones says that’s evolving, but some may feel it’s an overreaction. 

“If you look back, with the Pro Bowlers we’ve had, did we get the absolute best execution and the best chance to win and advance in the playoffs by using those Pro Bowlers who just happened to represent 60% of your salaries?” Jones asked. “Did we get the most out of them to win the games? That’s a different way of saying they’ve got to do more if they’re going to get that money. But they’ve got to be put in position to do more, too. I think that’s evolving, in terms of this old man.”  

However, Jones is ear-marking space for Prescott, Lamb and Parsons deals, which will each be near the top of their respective positional markets after eating just over $16 million in dead money on the 2024 salary cap, per OverTheCap.com. Elliott represents just over $6 million of that figure. 

“What we doing here can hit the next five years because it can impact us that far,” Jones said. “So you got some real, real decisions. We have huge amounts of money that hit our cap for dollars we’ve spent on players for either a period of time when they played or the player himself that won’t be here in the future. We won’t be getting an ounce out of them in 2024.”

How can Cowboys fans feel like the team knows what they’re doing after a puzzling 2024 offseason? Well, Jones asks that they look at the positive from the last three seasons. 

“I would look at the last three seasons, and I would say from that they [the coaches and players] know what they are doing,” Jones said. “They’ve had excellent talent and I have had enough to win 12 games. And I’ve had coaching that does correlate. They’re short on moving forward. Rather than start all over, my judgment is to take what we’ve got. Be as be as strategic about what we’re going to be doing in the next few years. Be strategic but not compromise an all in now.”

There you have it. Jones is no longer operating under the guise of being “all in.” Much of how he and the Cowboys franchise operates moving forward revolves around the structure and size of Prescott’s next contract in Dallas, something the quarterback himself is “definitely confident” will happen.

“Because you got Dak for sure,” Jones said when asked about where the hope is for his ballclub going forward. “We think he’s great quarterback and do as good as you can do…By the way we know that was in as his last year. That is what we negotiated years ago. And then really prudently is there going to be life after 2024? You bet there is. A lot of it. We got to think about all that. But where I you take issue, not emotionally, but where I take issue is ‘all in’. Your thing that you hung my neck as ‘all in’.”

Now, it’s time to wait and see if Jones’ words when it comes to Prescott and his value as well as the merits of his consistent roster-building outlook translate to a new deal in Dallas. 





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