The Cowboys almost always manage to find a way to keep the players they really want to keep, but they now face their biggest salary cap challenge ever.
Receiver CeeDee Lamb and cornerback Trevon Diggs are eligible for second contracts. Quarterback Dak Prescott will need a third contract, and edge rusher Micah Parsons deserves to become one of the highest-paid defensive players a year from now.
Can the Cowboys fit all of them under their salary cap?
“I feel like as we move forward it will all be about timing, but we feel like we can work within the parameters of the cap and make those type of things happen,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Wednesday, via Todd Archer of ESPN.
Diggs is entering the final year of his rookie deal, which makes him the most urgent of the team’s stars. The Cowboys exercised the fifth-year option worth $17.99 million for 2024 on Lamb, buying them time with his deal.
Prescott is signed through 2024, but his price only is going to increase with every new quarterback deal.
“We want to work on all of the above, but we’ll just have to see how this thing plays out,” Jones said. “You can’t dictate when things happen and the timing. It takes two sides. For them to want to sign up, they’ve got to be happy where it is, and vice versa. But I wouldn’t say just because we don’t get it done by the start of the season doesn’t mean we’re not going to ultimately sign them.”
The Cowboys will have the franchise tag to use on Diggs barring an extension before March. They have used the tag each of the past six seasons, including this year on running back Tony Pollard.
Packers corner Jaire Alexander is the highest paid at the position at $21 million per season, with two other corners making at least $20 million. Fourteen receivers make at least $20 million a season.
“It’s not daunting,” Jones said when asked about the cornerback and wide receiver market. “I think it’s doable. It’s just part of managing your football team, a part of managing the salary cap. But I certainly think it’s doable.”
Prescott makes $40 million a year, but Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts signed deals this offseason that average more than $50 million. And Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes will get big extensions for more soon enough.
“We’re already at a big number with Dak,” Jones said. “So, when the really daunting part comes is when you move them from a rookie contract to making the type of money quarterbacks make now.”
It took almost two years for the Cowboys to complete a second contract with Prescott. This one won’t be easy either, but the sooner Prescott signs, the less it will cost the Cowboys in the long run.