Jerry Jones: Cowboys all-in on 2024


For some around the NFL, not much changes in a year. This time 365 days ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were getting ready to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Today, the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs are getting ready to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

However, a lot has changed for the Dallas Cowboys in the last 365 days. A year ago at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he thinks "longer term" and is "real hesitant to bet it all for a year" when asked about the recent NFC Super Bowl representatives, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles.  

On Tuesday at the Senior Bowl, Jones did a 180 after what happened to his Cowboys in 2023. 

Dallas entered the postseason with a 12-5 record. They were the NFC's No. 2 seed, boasting the NFL's highest-scoring offense (29.9 points per game). Dak Prescott led the NFL in touchdown passes (36), CeeDee Lamb led the league in receptions (135) and they possessed the NFL's only perfect record at home (8-0) that was part of a 16-game winning streak at AT&T Stadium. Micah Parsons led the NFL in quarterback pressures (103), quarterback pressure rate (21.8%) and pass rush win rate (35.3%). None of those things showed up in their 48-32 wild-card round loss to the seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers.

Dallas had at least 12 wins for three seasons in a row under head coach Mike McCarthy. However, McCarthy's Cowboys also became the first team to win 12 games in three straight seasons and fail to make the conference championship in any of them after losing three of their four postseason games in this stretch. Now, Jones is willing to go all in in 2024 after bringing back McCarthy for the final year of his contract without long-term security.

"I would anticipate, with looking ahead at our key contracts that we'd like to address, we will be all in," Jones said at this year's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on Tuesday. "I would anticipate we will be all in at the end of this year. We will push the hell out of it. It will be going all in on different people than you've done in the past. We will be going all in. We've seen some things out of some of the players that we want to be all in on. Yes, I would say that you will see us this coming year not build for the future. It's the best way I've ever said. That ought to answer a lot of questions."

The Jones family appears desperate to win back some of its fanbase that finally became jaded after their latest playoff misstep, directly acknowledging the distrust the team has sown among its supporters.  

"There is no way they're going to explicitly trust you until you get it done," Dallas Cowboys Stephen Jones said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl. "Would someone trust Tom Brady and the Patriots that they're going to get it done? Yeah. Why? Because they did it, year in and year out. Would someone trust [Patrick] Mahomes in Kansas City that they're going to do it? Why? Because six years in a row, they're in the [conference] championship game. Until we compete at that level, there's going to be doubt. And rightfully so." Until we compete at that level and we get the job done, there's going to be doubt. And rightfully so."

Dallas made a couple of trades last offseason, sending out late-round picks to the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts for veterans like wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but it appears Jerry is ready to spend in free agency this time around. 

"I know how to disrupt and understand disruption," he said. "I think that the nature of what we do with our roster decisions – the fact that we're here looking for help for this coming year at the Senior Bowl, the fact that we have free agency opportunities, the fact that we've got substantive decisions to make here on our roster as it pertains to the salary cap – that's enough disruption for me. If we get through all of those decisions, there will be a lot of disruption....It would be disruptive to not do a free agent, as far as what we did last year. I think you could anticipate us having some influence here and being involved in some free agents, subject to the right FA we can get under the right contract."  

Why might Jones' mind have changed? One is that his team's upset loss to the Packers resonated with him as seemingly "the most painful [in his 35 years owning the team]" because of the "great expectation and hope" for the 2023 iteration of his Cowboys. Jones shared with the team that "he doesn't have too many years left in this business" and wants another Super Bowl ring "badly" when Dallas met for its 2023 exit meaning and locker room clean-out.     

"Well, I think we as a team laid an egg," Jones said. "Specifically, I want to say it and respond that way. You could start here. And I'm not trying to be magnanimous or anything, but you can start here, and you can go all the way down the line. That was a bad day for us. That manifested and created a lot of scrutiny on days long before that and long after that. That's what kind of a day it was. So, it will be an impactful day. We will do things that honor the fact that we didn't play well against the Packers."

Steps toward going 'all-in'

Some of the things the Cowboys can do to open up more salary cap space in the name of being "all-in" is triggering restructures through clauses in the contracts of right guard Zack Martin, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, cornerback Trevon Diggs, safety Donovan Wilson and safety Malik Hooker. Restructuring those five deals could net as much as $25 million in room, and that isn't even including the likely release of Michael Gallup and his five-year, $57.5 million deal, which could create another $9.5M in space if categorized as a post-June 1 boot. 

Extensions for Prescott (whose $59.5 million cap hit in 2024 is the second-highest in the NFL behind only Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson's $64 million in the final year of his current contract), Lamb (who is also entering the final year of his deal (a fully-guaranteed $17.991 million fifth-year option) and Parsons (who is is extension eligible for the first time in his career with three seasons in the books) could also help the Jones family structure future cap hits to minimize the dent those three make on the team's books in 2024. That avenue may not be a path Jerry walks down in the coming months. 

"Because we are over the cap, you know we can't stay like this," Jones said. "So if you said, 'are you interested in signing Dak and being that much more over the cap? Are you interested in signing [CeeDee] Lamb and being that much over the cap? You've got to look at everything, and so I won't be, and I bet you Stephen [Jones] won't be, sitting down there and recognizing 'well, you've got this situation with Lamb's contract, you got this this situation with Parsons' [contract]. We won't be doing that because that's the wrong look right now. We've got to see how much we can get under the cap. So it's a holistic approach more so than any year we've had."  

However, he is did acknowledge he does have to deal with some major franchise decisions regarding a number of deals in the near future. 

"I'm unequivocal about it right now. We've got a lot of contract work to do," Jones said. "Okay, I'm unequivocal about all of the contracts. I can be unequivocal about all the contracts. But we're gonna have to adjust all contracts are to get as many of the very players that you could ask me about singly under the contract. The facts are that it's obvious who your top players are. It's obvious who the players we want back would be. That's obvious. It very obvious here in my mind. And so anything I've said, like last year, I said we see a picture of him going forward for many years, that's alive and well. Yes, we sure do but we've got a lot of contracts to address."

Still believing in Dak and McCarthy

Extending Prescott means fully re-buying into the quarterback who admitted he flat-out sucked in the Cowboys' playoff defeat against the Packers. At this point, despite Jones talking in his typical, roundabout manner, it appears he still believes Prescott is Dallas' future. 

"Dak has done nothing to change my mind about  any promise for the future," Jones said. "I think I've said that we will go as far as Dak takes us in the playoffs. Remember that. We will go as far as Dak takes us. And that is how far we went. That doesn't change a thing. We'll go as far as Dak takes us....I think you can look on all three phases and see that we've got room for improvement, The thing that I would emphasize more than anything is that Dak has room for improvement and not just the scheme around him, but Dak can improve. That's a big plus when you've been playing the game for seven years [Prescott has played eight seasons] and, by assessment, have some room to get better in. I expect him to do it next year and the next year."  

Prescott became the first Cowboys quarterback to lead the NFL in passing touchdowns outright with 36 in 2023, and he shaved his co-league-leading 15 interceptions from 2022 to nine this season. He also registered a career-high 69.5% completion percentage, which in turn factored into the best passer rating of his career, 105.9, in McCarthy's first season with the Cowboys as their offensive play-caller. 

"We're right at a key spot with Dak," Jones said. "Dak has improved since Mike [McCarthy] has been here, and I think we can look forward to that improvement. There's more there to get in terms of Dak's improvement with Mike. The evidence points to that. With more to get there, more pluses on Dak, that impacts a lot of other things that we're doing right now with the decisions we're making so it all makes sense to have [McCarthy] back."  

"This is not a 'talk yourself into it,'" Jones continued when asked about retaining McCarthy. "It obviously gives you a lot of things to consider and think about. Everybody has options. This is one I'm very comfortable with. I felt good during the year with the job that Mike was doing. The team was responding well. We were all disappointed that we didn't win that Green Bay game. We had visions of a lot better than that, we all did. But there are things there that we can take forward."  

Jones also backpedaled on the idea that 2024 appears to be McCarthy's last in Dallas despite allowing him to enter the final year of his contract, doubling down on his support of the head coach whose 62.7% regular season win percentage (42-25) is the highest in franchise history. He even cracked the door open for an in-season contract extension, something that seemed unlikely in the immediate aftermath of the loss to Green Bay. 

"No, not necessarily," Jones said on allowing McCarthy to enter the final year of his deal. "Certainly he is in the final year of his contract, so he is under contract so we didn't really have to do anything at all. The idea of renewing a contract doesn't necessarily happen at all right after the last game. It can happen at any time. That's kind of a wrong signal to send that there's not more future than just this year in the picture."  

A similar setup

In the end, Jones hopes their setup -- possession of a top two seed and the chance for multiple playoff home games -- entering next postseason remains the same, just with different on-field results during the actual games. That's something all of Cowboys nation can agree upon during the trying offseason the 2023 season has them suffering through. 

"I hope it's different for our first playoff game where we've got the second seed," Jones said. "I hope it's [the setup] not different at all.... Now let's talk about how we might make it different when we play in that game and get a win. We need to stop the run better. We need to be more physical and we need to run better. We need to do those kinds of things. I thought we made a pretty good move four years ago when we hired Mike McCarthy, and we've had some great in-season success with Mike McCarthy. Now he's come up short three times in the playoffs. I like the fact that he's hanging around the rim. I like what the team has done to hang around the rim.... We're not getting the ball in, but we're hanging around the rim. Don't discount hanging around the rim. I'm not doing what I was doing 30 years ago, 20 years ago. I think about a lot of things differently. That's important. If I were doing the very same things. The parts of the report card that I don't line are the parts about winning in the playoffs. There are some other parts of the report card that I'm privy to that I like."

Will the Cowboys ever earn top marks on their report card again with another Super Bowl title under Jones' stewardship? Dallas' 2024 attempt at "an all in" run will be telling. Because if they couldn't do it in 2023 and don't do it in 2024, then when? 

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post