Stephen Jones

Cowboys Notes: Elliott, Jones, Prescott, Cooper

There was a report earlier today that Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t going to play in 2019 unless he got a new contract. That’s apparently news to the Cowboys, as multiple sources told Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News that the team has “not been informed that Zeke Elliott will sit out the season if he doesnt get a new contract” (Twitter link). This doesn’t necessarily mean that Elliott doesn’t hold this stance, just that he hasn’t told Cowboys brass of his plans if that’s the case.

Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, things seem to be heading in the wrong direction between the two sides. We also heard earlier today that Dallas was growing frustrated with the status of talks with their trio of stars seeking new contracts. Elliott is in a complicated situation, because unlike Le’Veon Bell he won’t be able to sit out the season and become a free agent in the offseason. As such, his threats to sit out don’t seem quite as serious as Bell’s did and probably won’t give him too much leverage.

Here’s the latest on Dallas’ negotiations:

  • Cowboys exec Stephen Jones made comments that are sure to raise plenty of eyebrows earlier today during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan. Jones had said back in February that Elliott’s deal was likely to start at what Todd Gurley got, but he’s apparently changed his mind now that he’s seen how Bell’s free agency played out. When asked if he regretted making the comments about Gurley, Jones said “no, I still think that’s within the realm. At the same time, I think the market re-set with Le’Veon (Bell’s contract). I think you see what happens with Gurley and you get a great player like Le’Veon, who’s every bit as well thought of as Gurley and he had unfettered free agency. He had 32 teams with no draft picks attached, and the market was $13.5 million … less than Gurley’s ($14.375 million average). At the end of the day, business changes, and we pay attention to that.” That’s a very revealing statement, and indicates the Cowboys might feel emboldened by the fact that Bell didn’t get as much as a lot of people thought he would. Jerry’s son also added that he didn’t “want to get into what we’ve offered but we’ve been very generous with our offer.” The Jones’ clearly plan on playing hardball with their young running back.
  • If you’re looking for some slightly more positive news, fortunately we have some courtesy of Albert Breer of SI.com (Twitter link). Breer writes “there’s a decent shot” that the Cowboys are able to get deals done with both Dak Prescott and Elliott before Week 1. He also notes that Amari Cooper talks “have been slower moving.” As for the terms, Breer suggests that in this scenario Prescott would eclipse $30MM annually, with Elliott “maybe nudging past” Gurley. Of course, Jones’ statement came after these thoughts from Breer, and it now seems he’s prepared to dig in his heels at something less than what Gurley got.

Details, Reactions To DeMarcus Lawrence Extension

Last night, the Cowboys and star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence agreed to a lucrative five-year contract extension. The deal is expected to be worth around $105MM ($65MM guaranteed), with others noting that the pass-rusher will definitely earn more than $20MM annually.

Now that the pass-rusher has inked his new contract, he’s set to go under the knife. Albert Breer of TheMMQB reports (via Twitter) that Lawrence will finally undergo shoulder surgery. The procedure is expected to take place next week.

Lawrence has been dealing with a torn labrum for the better part of two years, and recovery time is expected to take three to four months. As a result, the defender will likely be sidelined until training camp.

Let’s check out some more notes pertaining to Lawrence’s new contract…

  • Lawrence also received a $25MM signing bonus, reports David Moore of the Dallas Morning News (via Twitter). This probably helped to make up some of the discrepancy between the final contract and Lawrence’s asking price, as the lineman was reportedly seeking a contract that would pay him around $22.5MM per year. As Jon Machota of the Dallas News tweets, Lawrence will ultimately earn $31.1MM in the first year of the deal. For comparison’s sake, Khalil Mack earned $31MM last season.
  • According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, the two sides made major strides on Thursday evening. Executive vice president Stephen Jones talked with Lawrence on the phone, and the two parties talked through any monetary issues. Less than 24 hours later, the two sides agreed to a deal.
  • NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport says the Lawrence contract is good news for Texans star Jadeveon Clowney and Seahawks standout Frank Clark (Twitter link). The reporter believes the two players now have parameters set for any future extensions, noting that the franchised pass-rushers could also expect to receive $20MM annually.

Cowboys’ Stephen Jones Talks Free Agency

Cowboys fans entered the 2019 offseason hoping to bring in a difference maker like Earl Thomas in free agency. Those hopes didn’t come to fruition, as the team has opted to bring in smaller deals, including George Iloka, rather than splurging for a big splash. 

The team’s COO and executive vice president Stephen Jones went in-depth on the team’s mindset this offseason in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. Jones addressed why the team is rarely active in free agency and gave insight on the team’s thought process for re-signing big names both this year and in the upcoming offseasons.

“The biggest thing is just that free agency, I just don’t think you can make a living there,” Jones said. “That’s what we’ve always said. I think you’re overpaying in free agency most of the time. [Free agents] are overvalued, because you’re competing in a market where you’ve got teams that don’t have as many players they have to spend on, have to use cap space on.”

It’s no secret that the Cowboys are prioritizing re-signing Dak Prescott, along with inking long-term deals with Demarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. Jones, however, mentioned laying low this offseason could help them down the road re-sign the likes of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, two players the team views as rare talents.

“That’s when you start to have to get super creative. And if you go out and do a deal right now that’s not efficient, you’re starting to take some creative money away that hopefully is going to help you keep Jaylon, hopefully help you keep both corners. We’ll just have to see.”

Though Dallas didn’t bring in Thomas, the team inked Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to replace the departed Cole Beasley in the slot, to go along with a few other under-the-radar additions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Notes: Jones, Lawrence, Gathers

As he enters his mid-seventies, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is slowly handing over control of the franchise to his son, Stephen Jones, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. The younger Jones is currently Dallas’ executive vice president, CEO, and director of player personnel, so he’s more than prepared to take on a larger role. Stephen Jones takes a more conservative financial stance than his father, per Moore, which could indicate the Cowboys will have their cap in better order when he eventually takes over. Notably, Stephen pushed the Cowboys to eschew drafting Johnny Manziel in 2014, and lobbied instead to select guard Zack Martin, a win for the club.

  • Free agent guard Xavier Su’a-Filo worked out for the Cowboys on Thursday, tweets Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. A former second-round pick Su’a-Filo spent four years with the Texans before inking a deal with the Titans earlier this year. He didn’t make it through final roster cuts, which is perhaps unsurprising given that he finished as a bottom-three guard in 2017, per Pro Football Focus. Dallas, though, needs depth along the interior of its offensive line given injuries to Zack Martin and Travis Frederick, so Su’a-Filo could be an option for the club.
  • Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is paying attention to the recent extensions signed by fellow defenders Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack, and said his free agent price is rising correspondingly, per Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Lawrence will earn $17.143MM under the franchise tender in 2018, but has already said he’s not open to playing on the tag in 2019 (not that he’ll have much of a choice if the Cowboys opt to deploy it again). Now that both Donald and Mack have crossed the $22MM/year threshold, the sky is the limit for Lawrence, who will aim to build on an excellent 2018 campaign that included 14.5 sacks.
  • Further details have emerged regarding tight end Rico Gathers‘ recent arrest for marijuana, as Kate Hairopaulos of the Dallas Morning News details. Gathers was arrested after he and a female companion were discovered smoking in Central Park in Frisco, Texas, and police found 0.078 ounces of marijuana on the former collegiate basketball player. Gathers’ arrest became public on Saturday just prior to roster cutdowns, but Dallas decided to keep him around nevertheless. He could potentially serve a brief league-imposed suspension down the line.

Cowboys Back In Veteran QB Market

The Cowboys have seen enough from Dak Prescott this preseason to determine he will be their starter while Tony Romo rehabs from his latest injury.

Instead of bringing in a veteran with an eye on inserting some experience into their starting lineup, the Cowboys are searching for one who will back up the fourth-round rookie, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reports (on Twitter).

Both Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones said the team they will look for a backup signal-caller, per Moore. The Cowboys pursued Nick Foles, with Stephen Jones announcing the team was engaged briefly in dialogue with him before he agreed to become Alex Smith‘s backup with the Chiefs. Dallas kept its top two from 2015 intact coming into camp, with Kellen Moore entering as Romo’s backup. But injuries to both have hijacked the team’s plans.

The Cowboys attempted to trade up to No. 26 to acquire Paxton Lynch, but when the Seahawks accepted the Broncos’ offer to do so instead, Jerry Jones lamented not offering more soon after. They drafted Prescott in the fourth round, and he’s shown quick competency this preseason by throwing for five touchdown passes and rushing for two more scores, but don’t have much healthy behind him. 2015 UDFA Jameill Stowers sits behind Prescott presently.

The team also discussed Josh McCown with the Browns briefly but found Cleveland’s asking price to be too high. Now that the Chiefs have acquired Foles, they will have to part ways with one of the five quarterbacks they have in camp — probably two — but the bottom three haven’t attempted a regular-season pass. The Jets have three draft picks behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com wonders if Geno Smith could be available (Twitter link). Of course, then the Jets would be bereft of experience behind their starter.

Tarvaris Jackson and Jimmy Clausen are available in free agency, with Charlie Whitehurst and T.J. Yates currently unemployed as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Freeney, Berger, McClain, Hall

The Cardinals could still probably use Dwight Freeney this season, but depth chart and financial issues are complicating a reunion. The former All-Pro’s most recent employer plans to see what its younger pass-rushers are capable of before committing to another Freeney contract, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports.

Chandler Jones‘ arrival via trade fills a key need for one of the Super Bowl favorites, with less-experienced incumbents Alex Okafor and Shaq Riddick, along with CFL signee Tristan Okpalaugo representing the younger contingent opposite Markus Golden that are causing the team to pass on signing the 36-year-old Freeney for now. Another matter comes from Arizona’s preference to sign either Tyrann Mathieu, Michael Floyd or Calais Campbell to an extension this year, with the team’s preference that it be Mathieu.

The Cardinals possess $4.6MM in cap space and could probably afford Freeney on a veteran-minimum-type deal — the former Syracuse star played for $875K with $800K in incentives upon signing during last season — but are willing to gamble the productive situational sack artist will be available if they need him.

Freeney has visited the Falcons and Bengals in the last two weeks but indicated a seeming preference to return to Arizona, where he registered nine total sacks (one in the playoffs) in 12 games. Like Steve Keim, Dan Quinn didn’t rule out a signing down the road, so some options still likely exist for the former first-round pick.

Here’s the latest from around the NFC.

  • The Vikings are assembling one of the most experienced offensive lines in the NFL, but as OTAs progress, they don’t have a certain place in their starting lineup for Joe Berger. Pro Football Focus’ second-best center last season, Berger returns to the backup center spot he occupied before John Sullivan‘s season-ending injury last August. Minnesota should find a way to try him at another position — which would almost certainly be guard if the Vikes intend to do so — to maximize their talent up front, Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes. Berger rated as by far the best Vikings blocker last season, per PFF, and has started 26 games over the past two seasons after starting nine in his previous three campaigns in the Twin Cities. Hartman indicated next week the Vikes might reshuffle their line, which now houses Alex Boone and Andre Smith as potential right-side starters, in the near future.
  • Although the Cowboys‘ selection of Jaylon Smith in the second round this year points to a potential changing of the guard at middle linebacker in Dallas, that isn’t likely going to come in 2016. After signing a one-year, $5MM deal in March to stay in Dallas, Rolando McClain remains the projected starter there, but he’s absent from OTAs. Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News points to additional issues perhaps surrounding the 26-year-old McClain’s absence. George didn’t specify, but McClain has endured a complicated career that included a brief early retirement and continued with a four-game suspension for violation of the substance-abuse policy to start 2015. Jason Garrett said McClain’s absence during the first two weeks of OTAs is related to a family matter. Combining that and the injury-related absences of Sean Lee and Barry Church should cause some concern, George writes. “It’s certainly disappointing when [players are] not here,” Stephen Jones said recently. “But at the same time we know there’s always circumstances where guys are gonna miss. And that doesn’t necessarily indicate if that guy’s gonna have a good year or a bad year. I think it certainly gives them a better chance to have a good year when they’re in our competitive offseason conditioning programs, the OTAs, all those things.”
  • DeAngelo Hall looks prepared to claim one of the Redskins‘ starting safety positions, Tarik El-Bashir of CSNMidAtlantic.com writes. The 32-year-old Hall made the switch last season, but this represents his first full offseason working as a safety. He rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 57 safety last season. David Bruton leads the competition for Washington’s strong safety spot.

NFC East Notes: Robinson, Weddle, Giants

Here’s the latest from the NFC East as Week 2 of free agency concludes.

  • Patrick Robinson and Alfred Morris are scheduled to meet with Cowboys position coaches tonight and Monday after arriving in Dallas today. The former Chargers cornerback and Washington running back, however, spent time on the phone with Jason Garrett before he left for the NFL Owners’ Meetings in South Florida, Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones told media, including David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. “Jason’s spent some good time on the phone with them,” Jones said. “So have we. Obviously, we tried to get them in there before we left but in their particular cases it didn’t work out that way.”
  • Jones told media, including Moore, Eric Weddle was interested in joining the Cowboys, but the team wasn’t ready to go where the Ravens were financially to secure the 31-year-old safety’s services. Interested in coming to Dallas partially due to special teams coach Rich Bisaccia having been on the Chargers’ staff in 2011-12, Weddle ended up landing in Baltimore for four years and $26MM. Both Bisaccia and Garrett contacted Weddle during free agency, however, Moore reports.
  • John Mara and his top front office assistants thought the Giants had a realistic shot of signing two of the three high-priced players on Big Blue’s list of durable, in-their-prime free agents, Jordan Raanan of NJ.com reports. The cap-rich Giants instead landed their preferred defensive trio of Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins in hopes of fixing their last-ranked defense. Mara did concede that troika proved to be pricier than anticipated. “The three guys were a little more expensive than I thought they were going to be, but they are all young, they are all healthy and they fulfill needs,” Mara told media, including Raanan. Jenkins has missed four games in four seasons, while Vernon suited up for every Dolphins contest since 2012. Harrison played and started in each Jets contest since 2013. The Giants were the most injured team in the NFL in each of the past three seasons, per Raanan.
  • After allocating more money to this year’s class of free agents than they did in the previous four seasons combined, the Giants expect to dial it back significantly next spring, Mara told media, including Raanan (Twitter link). “I certainly don’t see us being this aggressive next year,” Mara said.

Cowboys Backing Away From Greg Hardy?

The Cowboys haven’t spoken with Greg Hardy during free agency, executive VP Stephen Jones told media, including David Moore of the Dallas Morning News.

Arguably the best player still on the market, the mercurial defensive end represents a PR risk for any team that begins negotiations with him. Entering his age-28 season, Hardy finished two seasons with over 10 sacks — including a career-high 15 in 2013 — but has missed 19 games in connection with a domestic violence incident and wasn’t exactly a model citizen in Dallas last season.

[He’s] a free agent we haven’t had discussions with, if you want to say that,” Jones told media.

Earlier this week, we heard two teams were interested in Hardy but were trying to keep their interest under the radar in fear of attracting bad publicity.

Even amid Hardy’s struggles to acclimate in Dallas, the Cowboys said at multiple junctures they’d like to keep Hardy long-term. But the team steadily backed off that stance as the season went along. Hardy finished last season with six sacks after missing the first four games of the season due to a suspension.

Hardy ranked 21st on PFR’s Top 50 Free Agents list, behind only Ryan Fitzpatrick (No. 19) among still-available UFAs.

Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images

Extra Points: Cowboys, Wilkerson

The Cowboys made the wise decision to select ex-Notre Dame offensive guard Zack Martin 16th overall in the 2014 draft, but they did so against owner Jerry Jones’ wishes, chief operating officer Stephen Jones – Jerry’s son – told David Moore of the Dallas Morning News.

“Let’s go over this quarterback thing one more time,” said Jerry Jones, despite hearing endorsements of Martin from Stephen Jones, senior director of college/pro personnel Will McClay, head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

The Cowboys then tried – and failed – to move down in the draft before settling on Martin.

“Son, if you want to do special things in life, you can’t keep picking and doing things down the middle,” Jerry said to Stephen afterward. “What we just did was down the middle.”

Martin did special things as a rookie, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Quarterback Johnny Manziel, whom Dallas could have taken instead of Martin, had a poor first year both on and off the field and enters his second season backing up journeyman Josh McCown in Cleveland.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported earlier Saturday that the Jets and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson are far apart on contract talks and unlikely to continue negotiating when the season starts Sunday. However, there is not – nor has there ever been – a hard Sunday deadline to get a deal done, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). That means the two sides could still hammer out a long-term extension during the season.
  • Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt, speaking to SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link), showered praise on rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. “It was amazing how quickly our team bonded with Mariota. He has a businesslike professional approach. Doesn’t get rattled.” Mariota, the second overall pick in this year’s draft, will square off against the No. 1 selection, Bucs QB Jameis Winston, on Sunday.
  • The Browns won’t improve on their 7-9 record from 2014 without another big year from their defensive backfield, writes Tom Reed of Cleveland.com. The group includes three Pro Bowlers in Joe Haden, Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner. Gipson believes he’s part of the best secondary in the league. “Any time you get together this kind of talent nothing bad can go wrong in our eyes,” he said. “If we execute the game plan and play fast I feel there’s no better secondary out than us.”
  • The five-year, $45MM extension the Cowboys signed Tyrone Crawford to Saturday makes the Eagles’ recent four-year, $29MM pact with Mychal Kendricks look better, opines former Eagles and Browns executive Joe Banner. Kendricks’ deal is the best one any team has given out this year, Banner thinks (Twitter link).

Extra Points: Rice, Peterson, Bell, Miller

Ray Rice is exhausting his NFL contacts in an effort to secure a chance at reviving his career, Ed Werder of ESPN.com reports.

The embattled running back and his former coach at Rutgers, Greg Schiano, among others, are making contact with teams in hopes of the 28-year-old runner resuming his once-promising tenure in the league. Werder reported one team was seriously interested in offering a deal to Rice but balked due to the potential backlash after video of his domestic assault on his then-fiancee/now-wife emerged last September.

Money is not motivating the former Pro Bowler here, according to Werder, with Rice having earned in excess of $20MM in his career.

Rice seeks the same second chance his 2014 suspended compatriots Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy have. Of course, those two players have more recent track records of success than Rice, whose position is arguably the easiest non-specialty role to replace. Per Werder, NFL GMs view Rice as a declining player at a young man’s position. His yards per carry, which had hovered above four per tote in each of his first four seasons, dipped to 3.1 in 2013.

Here are some other news items from the league on the final Saturday without eventful NFL action for nearly seven months.

  • Despite staunch holdout threats this offseason before finally agreeing to rejoin the Vikings, Peterson said would have played out the season on his previously nonguaranteed contract, reports Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’m definitely happy,’’ Peterson told media at Vikings training camp in Mankato, Minn. “If (this week’s restructuring didn’t occur), I’d would have just been like, you know what, I’ll just play this year out and not redo the contract. I’m happy to be a Viking.” It’s doubtful the 30-year-old running back iterated that stance to Vikings management, but the team will have its star running back in a more content state this season after he missed almost all of the last. Peterson’s new deal guarantees him $13MM this season and $7MM against injury in 2016.
  • Le’Veon Bell is still awaiting an appeal date for his marijuana-induced suspension, reports Dan Hanzus of NFL.com. The Steelers‘ breakout backfield star is set to miss three games.
  • Ohio State standout Braxton Miller‘s switch to H-back may help his NFL draft status. The top-10 Heisman Trophy finalist in 2012 and 2013 has been playing at his new spot for three months after missing the 2014 season, reports Pete Thamel of SI.com. According to one NFL scout interviewed by CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler, this will enhance the senior’s earning potential come 2016. “We currently have two grades on him, one as an ‘athlete’ and one as a quarterback,” an NFC scout told Brugler. “The grade of him as an athlete is much…better. Because that’s when he’s at his best – with the ball in his hand.
  • Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones isn’t exactly pleased with the progress made by the league this offseason in terms of rectifying the catch process, according to Dallasnews.com. In a lengthy analysis, Jones said there is still “some work to do” on avoiding controversial ruling like the one involving Dez Bryant that essentially eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs in January.
  • Jameis Winston‘s trial in a sexual battery lawsuit won’t occur until May 2017, according to a Tampa Bay Times report. The alleged incident occurred in December 2012. The Buccaneers‘ No. 1 overall pick was not charged or arrested for this reported incident.