CeeDee Lamb

WR CeeDee Lamb Absent From Cowboys’ Minicamp

CeeDee Lamb, like many other extension-eligible players, skipped organized team activities. In the case of the Cowboys, their offseason program has now shifted to mandatory minicamp but the standout receiver is still not present.

Lamb has not been seen at the first day of minicamp, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network notes. His absence is expected to last throughout the three-day period, ESPN’s Adam Schefter adds. Remaining away from the team will generate roughly $100K in fines for Lamb; unlike the case of training camp holdouts, though, those penalties can be waived.

The three-time Pro Bowler entered the 2024 offseason as one of the wideouts capable of resetting the position’s market. The top of the pecking order has since moved three times, with Justin Jefferson unsurprisingly moving ahead on his Vikings extension. That pact carries an annual average value of $35MM, the top figure in the league for non-quarterbacks.

Lamb and Bengals Pro Bowler Ja’Marr Chase now have a benchmark for their own negotiations as a result. The former is not believed to have been the subject of serious extension talks this offseason, with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones electing to wait for other mega-deals around the league to be signed. That has provided Lamb with a high target on his asking price. As things stand, the 25-year-old is set to receive $17.99MM in 2024 on his fifth-year option.

A long-term deal will be much more expensive given Lamb’s production last year in particular. With Jefferson’s deal now on the books, though, an expectation exists that talks between Dallas and the Oklahoma alum will heat up in the near future. That could allow the parties to hammer out an agreement sometime this summer and finish off one of the Cowboys’ major financial goals.

The team has quarterback Dak Prescott and edge rusher Micah Parsons in line for extensions. The former is, like Lamb, on track for free agency in 2025 while the latter is under team control for the next two years. Keeping each member of the Prescott-Lamb-Parsons trio in the fold will be a challenge for Dallas, but plenty of incentive exists for Lamb negotiations to take place before training camp opens next month.

Talks Between Cowboys, WR CeeDee Lamb Expected To Pick Up

2024 has marked another offseason during which many high-profile receivers have received sizable extensions. The trio of Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb and Ja’Marr Chase has been seen as the top group of players in line for new deals, though, leaving each to wait out the other on the contract front.

Jefferson has moved first in that regard, inking a Vikings extension which makes him the league’s top earner for non-quarterbacks. Lamb will be hard-pressed to secure an AAV higher than Jefferson’s $35MM on his new deal, but movement in his case could be coming soon. Talks between Dallas and the three-time Pro Bowler could “jumpstart” in the wake of the Jefferson accord, ESPN’s Todd Archer notes.

Likewise, veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson reports the Lamb negotiations are expected to accelerate now that a new benchmark has been set. The Cowboys have been patient on a number of fronts this offseason, including the addition of outside free agents and efforts to retain the likes of Lamb, Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons. Owner Jerry Jones made it clear in April he intended to let the quarterback and receiver markets come into focus before making a commitment at those positions.

That entailed letting Jefferson ink his deal, and it will be interesting to see if Chase’s negotiations with the Bengals similarly heat up given today’s news. The latter was waiting for Jefferson to agree to his extension before proceeding with serious negotiations on his own. The Cowboys and Bengals could take varying approaches over the coming weeks with respect to hammering out the league’s next WR mega-pacts.

Lamb, 25, set a new franchise record with his 2023 production (135 catches, 1,749 yards, 12 touchdowns). That helped his market value, especially with a number of non-Jefferson receiver deals being worked out recently. Lamb is due $17.99MM in 2024 on his fifth-year option, but a long-term accord will be worth much more. Dallas has to also consider potential multi-year investments in Prescott (also a pending 2025 free agent) and Parsons (who is on the books for the next two years).

To little surprise, Lamb has not taken part in the Cowboys’ OTAs. Those workouts are voluntary, but participation in the team’s upcoming minicamp is not. Dallas’ minicamp runs from June 4-6, and an unexcused absence for all three days would create over $100K fines (although those could be waived at the team’s discretion). The situation between Lamb and the Cowboys will remain worth watching closely during the final days of the team’s offseason program.

Latest On Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb

Like a number of other players around the league, CeeDee Lamb is currently away from his team with a new deal forthcoming. The Cowboys’ record-breaking wideout is on track to miss OTAs with no extension in hand.

Lamb is set to earn $17.99MM in 2024 while playing on his fifth-year option. A multi-year pact will check in at a much larger price tag, as he is one of a few wideouts expected to reach the $30MM-per-year mark on an extension. The 25-year-old, along with Justin Jefferson (Vikings) and Ja’Marr Chase (Bengals) could each reach that plateau at any time this offseason.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and edge rusher Micah Parsons are also in line for monster deals in the near future, though, and Dallas’ cap outlook will change dramatically regardless of how their financial futures are handled. With respect to Prescott and Lamb (who, unlike Parsons, are pending free agents), owner Jerry Jones has endorsed a patient approach while evaluating other teams’ investments around the league.

Presuming that remains the case, Lamb will likely proceed without a deal for the time being. Indeed, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News writes the expectation remains an agreement will be worked out this offseason, although one may not be finalized until the summer. It was not until July or August that many of the Cowboys’ top contractual situations were dealt with last offseason.

Extensions for the likes of cornerback Trevon Diggs, safety Malik Hooker and right tackle Terence Steele all came about last summer. That was also the time at which a restructure was worked out with right guard Zack Martin, ending his training camp holdout. All parties will no doubt look to avoid a repeat of that situation in Lamb’s case, but pressure will likely not ramp up on Dallas if and until he skips out on mandatory minicamp in June and/or training camp one month later.

“It doesn’t matter right now,” Cowboys OC Brian Schottenheimer said of Lamb’s absence during voluntary workouts (via Gehlken). “CeeDee’s a pro. He’s going to know what to do. I know Dak and the guys have some communication with him. We know he’s taking care of business, and when he gets back here, we’ll certainly be able to find ways to get him the ball.”

Lamb led the NFL in receptions last season (135), posting 1,749 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those career-high numbers put him the Cowboys’ record books and upped his market value on an extension. Tyreek Hill‘s standout Dolphins accord – which carries a $30MM AAV based in part on a backloaded final season of non-guaranteed money – has recently been surpassed by Amon-Ra St. Brown and A.J. Brown‘s deals with the Lions and Eagles, respectively. Whether or not Lamb joins them atop the WR market (and the process by which he gets there) will remain a key Cowboys storyline.

Jerry Jones On Cowboys’ Financial Approach

The Cowboys’ lack of outside additions in free agency and movement in terms of extending their top players has been a key talking point this offseason. Many of Dallas’ younger in-house options will be counted on to take a step forward in 2024, while plenty of attention remains focused on the financial futures of quarterback Dak Prescott, wideout CeeDee Lamb and edge rusher Micah Parsons.

To no surprise, owner Jerry Jones has faced plenty of questions related to Dallas’ comparative inaction on the market in 2024. Linebacker Eric Kendricks and running back Royce Freeman represent the only veterans brought in to date, and the team’s tight cap situation is a key reason why. As Jones recently stated, retaining any or all members of the Prescott-Lamb-Parsons trio will lead to notable complications elsewhere on the roster.

“Our rules of this game is to have a salary cap,” Jones said, via The Athletic’s Jon Machota (subscription required). “There’s no question we’ve been operating on the credit card. That’s how we’ve had Dak Prescott plus his great supporting cast around him for the last three or four years… So if you decide to have a key player and you pay him to that extent, then he’s going to have less supporting cast around. Look around. That’s the way it works.

“We have known that you were going to basically have to have less in order to have some of the players that we want to have at the prices they are. You got to have less supporting cast. There’s no getting around it.”

The Cowboys have indeed enjoyed having Lamb and Parsons on their rookie contracts while retaining Prescott at a high cap hit. The latter is in line to play out 2024 on the final year of his pact, and while Dallas is hopeful a new agreement can be worked out, the 30-year-old recently suggested he is open to reaching free agency. Prescott could command $60MM per year on a new accord, and Lamb and Parsons could each approach the top of the market at their respective positions.

Especially in recent years, many teams around the league have attempted to get ahead of the curve by locking up top producers early and leaving others to react to a new price point. Jones confirmed the Cowboys are instead taking a different approach with their foundational players. In the case of Prescott and Lamb in particular, Dallas is content to wait for the next wave of new deals.

“We’d like to see some more leaves fall,” Jones added. “We’d like to see some more action… It’s on your mind. It’d be madness not to know that the contracts are ahead. I want to see a few more cards played, candidly. If you got trouble with when the timing is around here, it’s because I’m not ready to go.”

The top of the QB market has surpassed $50MM per season, while the league’s ascending receivers are benefiting from the position’s lucrative nature. Recent extensions for the likes of DeVonta Smith, Amon-Ra St. Brown and A.J. Brown have offered a potential framework for a Lamb deal. The likes of Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle could also push the top of the market even higher.

Lamb is absent from Dallas’ offseason program amidst the lack of negotiations on an extension. Given the way things are headed from a financial standpoint, any new deal (which could avoided for several months since he is set to play out his fifth-year option in 2024) will drastically alter Dallas’ cap situation. That is certainly true of Prescott and Parsons as well (both of whom also are still firmly in the team’s long-term plans), but a patient approach will apparently remain the Cowboys’ preference.

Cowboys, WR CeeDee Lamb Have Not Discussed Extension

APRIL 15: Lamb is indeed absent from the Cowboys’ facility as the team’s offseason program begins, Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. That comes as little surprise with plenty of ground to be made up in contract negotiations. It will be interesting to see how much progress is made on that front ahead of OTAs (in May), mandatory minicamp (June) and training camp (July) as the summer unfolds.

APRIL 12: Much of the Cowboys’ 2024 offseason has been defined by the team’s lack of progress on extension talks with quarterback Dak Prescott entering the final year of his current deal. On the horizon, though, are mega-deals for edge rusher Micah Parsons and wideout CeeDee Lamb.

With the latter having been drafted one year earlier than the former, he understandably represents a higher priority for Dallas. Lamb is in line to secure a massive raise on his second contract, but he is already on the books for 2024 via his $17.99MM fifth-year option. Team and player are positioned to discuss an extension this offseason, but for now that is not the case.

Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News reports Lamb’s representatives have not yet held any “substantial talks” with the Cowboys about a new deal. The 25-year-old has been eligible for a new deal since last offseason, but his public comments on the matter have included a desire to become the league’s highest-paid receiver. Reaching that goal would require an AAV above Tyreek Hill‘s $30MM figure along with outpacing the value of Justin Jefferson‘s presumed Vikings extension.

As Watkins’ colleague Michael Gehlkin noted earlier this week, Lamb may not take part in the Cowboys’ upcoming offseason program. That process – which begins April 15 – is voluntary, though, and an absence would not carry nearly the same weight as a hold out (or the increasingly popular hold-in) during training camp. With an extension not in sight, it would come as no surprise at this point if Lamb attempted to exercise his leverage to help work out a monster contract.

The Oklahoma product set a new franchise record for receivers in 2023 (135 catches, 1,749 yards, 14 total touchdowns). That production earned him a third straight Pro Bowl invitation along with first-team All-Pro honors. Lamb’s age and statistical output have him positioned to occupy a large portion of the Cowboys’ cap sheet for years to come, but the same is of course true for Prescott (whom the team still hopes to extend this offseason) and Parsons (who is now extension-eligible and will no doubt become one of the league’s highest-paid defenders on his next pact).

As things stand, the Cowboys are projected to have just over $100MM in cap space for the 2025 season. That figure will change dramatically over time, of course, especially when clarity emerges for any or all members of the Prescott-Lamb-Parsons trio. In Lamb’s case, it appears significant progress will still need to be made for a multi-year agreement to be hammered out.

Micah Parsons Not Actively Pursuing Cowboys Extension

The 2024 offseason will require a number of key financial decisions involving the Cowboys’ nucleus. Top of the list in that respect is a new deal for quarterback Dak Prescott, but wideout CeeDee Lamb and edge rusher Micah Parsons are also eligible for monster extensions of their own.

Lamb was drafted in 2020, one year before Parsons. The former is on the books for $17.99MM in 2024 on his fifth-year option, but Parsons will no doubt have his option picked up this spring. That move will keep him in place through the 2025 campaign. As a result, Lamb represents a more pressing order of business for Dallas.

Parsons acknowledged as much during a recent appearance on NFL Network’s Super Bowl Live. As a result, he is not aggressively pursuing an extension, one which will likely put him at or near the top of the pecking order among edge rushers. Lamb, too, will not come cheap on his second contract; he has publicly stated a desire to become the NFL’s highest-paid receiver.

Lamb posted single-season franchise records for both receptions (135) and yards (1,749) in 2023, scoring a career-high 14 total touchdowns along the way. The 24-year-old earned a first-team All-Pro nod along with a third career Pro Bowl invite as a result, and he could command an AAV at or near Tyreek Hill‘s market-setting $30MM on his next pact. Negotiations on that front will likely take precedence over talks with Parsons, though the latter is amenable to hammering out a deal in the near future.

“If they’re ready to talk about a deal and get a deal done, I’ll be super excited,” Parsons said. “You know I’m ready to be [with the] Cowboys for life, this is the team I wanted to be with, this is the team I want to win a championship with.”

Parsons has racked up 40.5 sacks in his three seasons with the Cowboys, posting at least 13 in each campaign. That consistency has earned the former Defensive Rookie of the Year a number of accolades (three total All-Pro honors, three Pro Bowl nods) and upped his market value. A new Parsons contract will not kick in until 2026, by which time the edge market may have seen further growth from what has already taken place. Nick Bosa received the league’s largest deal for a non-quarterback in September, inking a $34MM-per-year 49ers extension with $122.5MM guaranteed.

Parsons will no doubt be aiming for a pact similar or larger in value to Bosa’s when the time comes to work out a mega-extension. That time will likely not come this offseason, though, or at least not until the Prescott and Lamb situations gain more clarity. In any case, developments on the Parsons front will be worth monitoring given his importance to Dallas’ defense.

CeeDee Lamb Seeking To Become NFL’s Highest-Paid WR

Given an expected invite to the Pro Bowl event, CeeDee Lamb is also on course for his initial first-team All-Pro honor. The Cowboys wide receiver has timed his career-best season well, seeing as he will be an extension candidate this coming offseason.

Rumors about the Cowboys extending Lamb early surfaced in 2023, but after neither they nor the Vikings extended their top wideouts, the streak of first-round receivers never being extended with two years of rookie-deal control remaining has reached 10 offseasons in the fifth-year option era. Lamb and Justin Jefferson may soon be linked, however, as their teams reopen negotiations.

Jefferson should be expected to enter the 2024 season as the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver, but Lamb said Thursday (via the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken) he would ideally secure the NFL’s top WR salary on his second contract. Stating that would be a goal of his “for sure,” Lamb is prepared to discuss an extension with the Cowboys after the season ends. Dallas picked up the 2020 draftee’s fifth-year option, slotting him in at $17.99MM guaranteed for the ’24 season.

While Jefferson stands on his own tier in terms of receiving yards through three seasons, shattering Randy Moss‘ record in that timeframe, Lamb has put together his best season in Year 4. The Oklahoma product, chosen after Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy (but ahead of Jefferson) four years ago, leads the NFL with 122 receptions and has posted a career-high 1,651 yards. Both numbers smash Lamb’s previous career-best figures. Lamb has totaled 12 touchdowns this season, adding two on the ground while amassing 106 rushing yards. He has done just about everything possible to secure a lucrative second contract from the Cowboys.

Of course, Dallas’ payroll looms as a question. For the time being, Dak Prescott is on a $40MM-per-year deal and Micah Parsons his rookie contract. But Prescott is armed with leverage that gives him an excellent opportunity to become the NFL’s highest-paid player. A $60MM-AAV deal, which would top Joe Burrow‘s current league-high salary by a notable margin, is believed to be in play. That will make matters more difficult on the Lamb front, with Parsons also on track for an extension that makes him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. At 24, Lamb is six years younger than Prescott. But the former likely resides as the Cowboys’ No. 3 priority — in the grand scheme — regarding a new contract.

Dallas caved on player-friendly terms for Prescott, eschewing its usual approach for five- or six-year extensions to sign its quarterback just before the 2021 deadline to apply franchise tags. Preventing a $37MM cap hold from going on their 2021 payroll, the Cowboys procedurally tagged Prescott — for the purpose of the QB avoiding a 2025 tag. While Prescott joins Lamb in being signed through 2024, he is effectively finishing out a contract year. Prescott’s 2024 cap number spikes to $59MM. No team has ever gone into a season with a player attached to even a $45MM cap number, giving Prescott tremendous leverage as he closes out a quality bounce-back season.

The Cowboys’ decision to bail on Amari Cooper‘s five-year, $100MM contract has been costly at points, but the team made that move with an eye on Lamb’s future. It would surprise if the Cowboys were suddenly uninterested in extending Lamb, though he did not enter the 2023 season with a realistic chance of becoming the NFL’s highest-paid receiver. His success this season raises the stakes a bit. Although Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase will both be extension-eligible in 2024, Lamb has put together a monster season that could conceivably vault him past Tyreek Hill‘s $30MM-per-year number before Week 1 of next season.

The Prescott and Parsons matters provide complications. Parsons can be kept on his rookie contract through 2025, via the fifth-year option. Big picture-wise, having a Prescott-Parsons-Lamb trio each signed to position-record contracts would make it challenging to build a roster around them. This doubles as a good problem for the Cowboys, given the talent at these positions, but it will present an interesting dilemma.

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Adams, Cards, Rams

Recent restructures have vaulted the 49ers past the Browns for cap space. San Francisco’s $42.1MM leads the NFL by more than $7MM. GM John Lynch did not rule out some of these funds being used to add a trade piece, but the 49ers are planning roll over the bulk of the space to 2024.

Really, we always look at the cap for three years out,” Lynch said, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “Obviously, we have all that room this year. But really it’s to create room for future years because we roll everything over. It helps us in future years because it creates some room we’re going to need. … We’ve pretty much done what we’re going to do this year, but you never know with the trade deadline and all that.

The 49ers created some space by extending Nick Bosa, though the team authorized a record-smashing accord that will show up on future caps, but Brock Purdy‘s rookie contract runs through 2025. During the Lynch-Kyle Shanahan era, the 49ers have not been shy about adding at the deadline, as the Christian McCaffrey and Emmanuel Sanders trades illustrate. In place as a Super Bowl contender once again, the 49ers will have some ammo to accommodate a bigger salary if they choose. For now, however, they are viewing the restructures to help down the road. Even with the projected carryover, the 49ers currently are projected to hold barely $17MM in 2024 cap space.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • The Seahawks will not delay Jamal Adams‘ return for another week. Pete Carroll pronounced his highest-paid safety as “ready to go” for the team’s Week 4 Monday-night matchup against the Giants. Adams suffered a torn quadriceps tendon during the Seahawks’ season-opening Monday-nighter against the Broncos last year. The seventh-year veteran spent most of training camp on the Seahawks’ active/PUP list, and while he avoided the reserve/PUP designation, he still was expected to miss regular-season time. Additionally, Carroll said Riq Woolen and Charles Cross have a good chance to return in Week 4. Cross has missed the past two games, while Woolen was down for Week 3.
  • In 2020, the Cardinals had both CeeDee Lamb and Tristan Wirfs on their radar when they held the No. 8 overall pick. Many in the Cards’ war room believed it would be a Wirfs-or-Lamb decision, GOPHNX.com’s Howard Balzer notes. Isaiah Simmons instead became the selection. While Simmons did not pan out in Arizona, being traded to the Giants for a seventh-round pick last month, he was viewed as an elite-level prospect. The Lions and Giants were linked to Simmons at Nos. 3 and 4, while Wirfs and Lamb did not go off the board until Nos. 13 and 17. Simmons represents another Steve Keim misstep at linebacker. The Cardinals missed on Deone Bucannon (2014) and had slotted Haason Reddick (2017) as an off-ball player for most of his Arizona run. Zaven Collins (2021) has since been moved to the outside. Simmons moved around the Cardinals’ formation, finishing his desert run as a safety.
  • Sean McVay remains the Rams‘ play-caller, but he allowed new OC Mike LaFleur to implement new concepts upon coming over from the Jets. LaFleur added elements from the Jets and 49ers’ offenses that were not previously in the Rams’ scheme, Dan Pompei of The Athletic writes (subscription required). McVay indicated LaFleur — a Shanahan assistant from 2014-20, with the Browns, Falcons and 49ers — has earned the autonomy he received this offseason, when he came to Los Angeles shortly after a Jets separation.

Cowboys Eyeing CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Terence Steele Extensions In 2023

The Cowboys’ top extension candidates have come up on multiple occasions this year. While the team has options with each beyond this year, the goal looks to be new deals before heading into the 2024 offseason.

CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs and Terence Steele remain on Dallas’ extension radar, and ESPN.com’s Todd Archer notes the team will look to use training camp to hammer out deals with each. Lamb’s contract runs through 2024, via the recently exercised fifth-year option, while Diggs is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Steele is tied to a second-round RFA tender.

This will not be an easy mission. Diggs’ reputation as a boom-or-bust gambler in coverage notwithstanding, the former second-round pick has a first-team All-Pro nod on his resume — for an 11-interception season — and does not have an extensive injury history. Diggs has missed one game over the past two years. Going into his age-25 season, Diggs will certainly want his second contract to land in the top cornerback tax bracket.

With three corners earning at least $20MM per year and five attached to contracts worth at least $19MM on average, the Cowboys have a high bar to clear. Dallas passed on going into the $16MM-AAV range for Byron Jones three years ago, drafting Diggs shortly after letting its previous top corner walk (for a record-setting Dolphins deal) in free agency. If Diggs is unsigned going into the ’24 offseason, he will likely be positioned as the Cowboys’ top franchise tag candidate.

The Cowboys have a history of extending core performers despite two years remaining on their rookie deals. They did this with Tyron Smith in 2014, with Travis Frederick in 2016 and Ezekiel Elliott in 2019. That said, no team — in the fifth-year option era, that is — has extended a wide receiver with two years left on his rookie contract. Justin Jefferson is also a candidate to become the first wideout since the 2011 CBA to be extended with two years remaining on his rookie deal, though the Vikings are not certain to proceed down this path. That could force Jefferson to contemplate a hold-in effort, and Lamb might be fine waiting until Jefferson raises the booming receiver market further before committing to a second contract. Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones mentioned players’ willingness to wait earlier this offseason.

Lamb, 24, may not be a threat to eclipse Tyreek Hill‘s $30MM-per-year pact now, but if Jefferson raises the positional ceiling and the top Cowboys wideout builds on his 1,359-yard season, the price in 2024 stands to come in higher than it likely does now. Ely Allen assessed Lamb’s extension value last month. The Cowboys cut bait on Amari Cooper‘s five-year, $100MM extension after two seasons; as the salary cap keeps rising, Lamb’s value will be much higher.

Steele is still rehabbing the ACL tear that ended his season early, and his being an extension candidate would point to the Cowboys planning an O-line configuration that keeps him as the starting right tackle. Jerry Jones mentioned the prospect of Steele being a swingman behind Tyron Smith and Tyler Smith, but the notion of the younger Smith sliding to left guard — which he did late in the season — and having the All-Decade blocker back at left tackle (and Steele at right tackle) has also surfaced. How the Cowboys proceed would have a big impact on Steele’s value.

A former UDFA, Steele, 26, can certainly enhance his market by putting together a strong contract year post-injury. Nine years after signing what has become the NFL’s longest-running active contract, Tyron Smith is due for free agency in 2024 as well. Steele’s status would seemingly factor into the Hall of Fame candidate’s Dallas future. Center Tyler Biadasz also could land on the Cowboys’ extension radar, Archer adds, though the fourth-year blocker is likely behind the above-referenced players in the queue.

The Cowboys’ ability to extend Diggs and Steele this year could affect Tony Pollard‘s future with the team. The Cowboys not entering into serious negotiations with the Pro Bowl back led to him joining Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs in being tied to the $10.1MM franchise tag this season. Because of this, Archer adds it is “highly likely” this season will be it for Pollard in Dallas. The Cowboys can tag Pollard again in 2024 — at 120% of his current tag number — but higher-end tag options could be in place by then.

That raises the stakes for prospective Diggs negotiations this summer, though the increasingly grim running back market may also allow the Cowboys to re-sign Pollard if no extension is reached before the 2024 legal tampering period.

Extension Candidate: CeeDee Lamb

With each of year of his career, Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb has progressed towards to top echelon of NFL wideouts. After a third season that may have established him in that top group, Lamb has become a top extension priority for the Cowboys’ front office. What will it take to lock down the team’s top receiver long-term? And will Dallas be willing to spend it?

Coming out of Oklahoma as a consensus All-American, Lamb was selected 17th overall by the Cowboys. With a strong mentor in Amari Cooper, Lamb made an immediate impact as a rookie, finishing second on the team in receptions (74) and receiving yards (935) while matching Cooper and Michael Gallup for the team-lead in touchdown receptions with five. By Year 2, Lamb was ready to take the reins. With Gallup missing eight games due to injury, Lamb significantly stepped up his production even surpassing Cooper for the team-lead in receptions (79) and receiving yards (1,102) while bettering his own rookie receiving touchdown total by one.

Lamb’s continued progression made Dallas confident in his ability to function as the team’s top wideout, allowing them to trade away Cooper and his bulky contract. No problem for Lamb. He took over as WR1 and excelled. He used his new position as the lone man on top and delivered career-highs in receptions (107), receiving yards (1,359), and receiving touchdowns (9), leading Dallas in all three categories. Not only did he lead his team, but Lamb was also top-ten in the league in all three statistics.

Last season helped to break Lamb into the conversation for top-ten receivers. Not only did he post top-ten statistics, but the analysts over at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) also slotted him as the eighth-best receiver in the league. So, what exactly does his status as a top-ten wideout mean for a potential extension?

Currently, the top ten annual averages for wide receiver contracts in the NFL all exceed $20MM per year, the number the Cowboys granted to Cooper back in 2020. With the exception of Keenan Allen, who signed his deal in 2020, all of those top contracts were reached last year. This means that, while the numbers may inflate a bit in 2023, they shouldn’t be that far off from last year’s record-breaking deals. Those deals range from D.J. Moore‘s three-year, $61.88MM deal ($20.63MM average annual value) to Tyreek Hill‘s league-topping four-year, $120MM contract ($30MM AAV).

Lamb still trails a few of the top moneymakers at the position statistically. Hill, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, and A.J. Brown were all able to outperform Lamb in some aspects. Others, like Cooper Kupp, D.K. Metcalf, and Deebo Samuel have had higher highs in their careers than Lamb but have lacked his consistency and progress. I’d estimate that Lamb should fetch more than Terry McLaurin‘s $22.79MM per year but likely less than Adams’s $28MM. He probably deserves to be in the range of Diggs, Metcalf, and Samuel, but the usual annual inflation should boost him up into the range of Brown and Kupp.

While most of the top contracts are three or four years in length, the Cowboys didn’t shy away from giving Cooper a five-year deal after his fifth season. They’re likely not going to want to let Lamb slip through their fingers and, with only three years of NFL play under his belt, they can stand to stack an extra year in the deal. I think the Cowboys could get away with offering a little less in AAV by going for a five-year deal, as well. A five-year, $125MM offer makes a lot of sense. It would give Lamb the second-largest receiver contract in the NFL, behind only Adams’s $140MM, but would only put him tied for fourth in AAV at $25MM per year.

One of the reasons that Lamb’s extension is a priority for Dallas has nothing to do with the Cowboys or Lamb. Lamb’s fellow 2020 draftee Justin Jefferson is likely also working towards an extension in Minnesota soon. Statistically, Jefferson’s worst season is comparable to Lamb’s best. Since entering the league, Jefferson has finished every season as a top-four wideout, according to PFF. Whenever Jefferson signs a new contract, he will likely set a new bar for receiver deals. That puts Dallas in a race against the clock. They would likely prefer to get a deal done with Lamb before Jefferson resets the market at a new higher rate.

There you have it. A Lamb extension has been on the team’s mind since at least March. They can lock down their star wideout with a top-five deal right now and make both parties happy. Their best chance, though, is to get that done before the Vikings extend Jefferson. If Jefferson is able to reset the market, holding on to Lamb may come at an even greater cost.