INDIANAPOLIS – Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones’ arrival at the NFL scouting combine on Friday was delayed because of poor weather, but he still spoke on the team bus for more than an hour, touching on a number of topics.
The Cowboys are now 27 seasons removed from their last Super Bowl after losing in the playoffs for the second straight year to the San Francisco 49ers in January, but he is not fixated on the championship drought; just the quest to get it done in 2023.
“I don’t get discouraged when you say, ‘You haven’t been to a Super Bowl in X years,'” Jones said. “I do not do that because I could’ve won the last five and still might not get to another Super Bowl and I ought to be working my but off to get to the next Super Bowl as if I had lost five or four. That’s reality.”
To get back to a Super Bowl for the first time since 1995, the Cowboys will have to solve several issues regarding their roster.
While he did not go into a contract extension for Dak Prescott, he does believe the quarterback can move on from a season in which he tied for the NFL lead in interceptions (15) despite missing five games.
“He has the physical skills to do this at the level to win us a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “Does he do it with the some of the same nuances that several of these other quarterbacks do it? No, he doesn’t. He’s got some things that he can work on and be more effective. Let me put it like this: Dak is a born mistake eliminator. If I pick somebody that I’d say, ‘Now go out there and correct your mistakes, improve or do that?’ I would rather start with him as raw material than anyone I’ve been around at that position.”
Prescott has a $49.1 million salary-cap figure that the Cowboys could lower with a restructured or extended contract. Jones acknowledged the difficulty in improving the players around Prescott because of the contract.
“We want to get all the help around him but as we know when you have a competitively-paid quarterback in the NFL, then you’re not going to be able to get the most skill around him,” Jones said. “You’re going to have to pick your spots and you’re going to be a little slower one year than the next year – not slow in terms of speed; just in what you’re doing. You can’t pay that position – forgot Dak – you can’t pay that position at that level, take that much of the available dollars and then put the exact thing around him.”
Which is why Jones believes the biggest improvement offensively will come from head coach Mike McCarthy becoming the playcaller.
“The natural thing to do to look at how to give more to what Dak can be was to call on what Mike can bring to the table,” Jones said.
Jones was not ready to say the Cowboys plan to use the $10.1 million franchise tag on running back Tony Pollard by Tuesday. The Cowboys met with his agent at the combine but have not had major negotiations on a multi-year agreement yet.
“I really don’t want to say it’s a done thing (using the tag) because as these things go, you don’t know where you are until your deadline comes and goes,” Jones said. “But right now, certainly Tony’s a big part of our plans.”
And what impact does that have on Ezekiel Elliott, who has a $16.7 million cap figure? Jones would not rule out being able to keep both players in 2023. He said Elliott was limited by a right knee injury last year.
“I know I’ve got a reputation for being reluctant to look at great players as they go into the later years of their careers but I don’t need an empathy or I don’t need a feeling of, ‘Look what he’s done for us,’ to turn on the tape and look at what a difference maker he was last year right through the end of the year,” Jones said. He made plays. He made runs that had we not made them it could have been more negative than it turned out.”
The Cowboys will have to make moves to get under the cap by the start of free agency, but that can happen with the re-workings of contracts and potential releases of players. He said the Cowboys will be reliant on young players in 2023, but also added a qualifier.
“I want to tell you, don’t dismiss us doing something special with the right veteran free agent,” Jones said. “At any place. I would, in a New York minute, if I think that it fits more than a short-term situation for us.”