It is formally time for the gears to show.

Each NFL offseason is available in waves, and the Dallas Cowboys are exiting the preliminary, boring part of analysis. It has been a protracted, tedious month since that 19-12 playoff loss to San Francisco, offering greater than sufficient time to make adjustments to the teaching workers, assess the personnel and decide a path ahead.

Now comes the entertaining half, appearing on all that prep work. And there is no higher jumping-off level than subsequent week’s NFL Mix, the place all of the league’s energy brokers will collect inside a two-mile radius in downtown Indianapolis.

By day, you’ll be able to anticipate Cowboys officers to partake in guidelines committee hearings, league conferences and sit-downs with brokers. By evening, numerous reporters and league tastemakers will search to glean tidbits of what they intend to do within the coming league 12 months.

It is one of many busiest weeks of the offseason, and it will say loads about what the Cowboys intend to do in March in past. With that in thoughts, let’s take into account some necessary gadgets on Dallas’ to-do record that will get addressed in Indianapolis.

1. Contract Issues

It is not as attractive as another gadgets on the agenda, however the Cowboys need to get an concept of the kind of cap area they’re working with in 2023 — and a giant a part of that’s figuring out the place they’ll get a refund.

The Cowboys are presently projected to be roughly $7 million over the 2023 cap variety of $224.8 million, however that is no biggie. As per standard, they’ll release tens of hundreds of thousands in cap area by restructuring the offers of franchise mainstays. A click on of a button, and guys like Dak Prescott, Zack Martin and Michael Gallup can have new numbers towards the present cap.

Cowboys one huge transfer away

Cowboys one big move away

Nick Wright shares his offseason NFL Tiers. He lists the Cowboys, together with the defending-champion Chiefs, as one transfer away from critical rivalry in 2023.

Having stated that, there are a pair trickier gadgets on the agenda, specifically Ezekiel Elliott’s contract, and to a smaller diploma Tyron Smith’s.

Elliott’s state of affairs is well-known. The veteran operating again is due a $10.9 million wage in 2023 regardless of failing to crack 1,000 yards or rush for 100 yards in a single recreation final season. He did not common 4 yards per carry in any of his final six video games of 2022. A part of the explanation for that was the emergence of Tony Pollard as a Professional Bowler. We’ll get to him later.

To place it bluntly, Elliott’s cap hit of $16.7 million is untenable, given the return on funding. He is been a frontrunner and key a part of the locker room tradition, however the present contract is a non-starter.

Early studies counsel that Elliott is open to a pay minimize if it might enable him to remain in Dallas, the place he has performed his complete profession and grow to be a franchise stalwart. However how a lot of a minimize? If the 2 sides cannot agree on a brand new quantity, it looks like a secure guess that Elliott might be hitting free company within the coming weeks.

Will Ezekiel Elliott stay a Cowboy?

Will Ezekiel Elliott remain a Cowboy?

Nick Wright, Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes focus on studies that Ezekiel Elliott would settle for a pay minimize to stay with the Cowboys.

Smith is an attention-grabbing case. When wholesome, the 33-year-old continues to be producing at a top quality stage. This previous season he even demonstrated a capability to flip to proper sort out, the place he was nonetheless a helpful if imperfect participant. The issue is clearly availability, because the “wholesome” a part of that equation hasn’t been typically these previous few years.

The eight-time Professional Bowler has performed simply 17 of 53 potential video games these final three years, or about 32%. Is that well worth the $17 million cap hit he’ll carry in 2023, or wouldn’t it once more be potential to agree on a brand new quantity? If not, it is value remembering that the Cowboys can save nearly $10 million towards the wage cap by slicing bait.

Neither of these items are more likely to be determined subsequent week, however the NFL Mix is usually the place these conversations start in earnest. Final 12 months in Indianapolis, Cowboys chief working officer Stephen Jones declined to touch upon the contracts of Amari Cooper or DeMarcus Lawrence. Two weeks later, Cooper had been traded to Cleveland and Lawrence had agreed to a reworked contract extension.

2. Tag Choices

An enormous a part of why the Cowboys need a refund from Elliott is that they will want it to pay his protégé.

Pollard has proven flashes of brilliance all through his time in Dallas, however 2022 was the 12 months he put all of it collectively within the type of 1,500 all-purpose yards, 12 touchdowns and a Professional Bowl bid. True, he’s nonetheless recovering from a fractured fibula and a excessive ankle sprain that required surgical procedure, however he is presently projected to be wholesome in time for coaching camp.

It will value the Cowboys $10 million to tag Pollard, which might lock him into place for the 2023 season. It is fully potential they will get to work on an extended deal after that, however on the very least it appears unlikely they’d need some of the explosive backs within the league hitting the open market.

It is value mentioning that tight finish Dalton Schultz performed the 2022 season on the franchise tag, and the Cowboys might choose to re-tag him to the tune of $13 million. Given Pollard’s manufacturing and the Cowboys’ lack of different big-play choices, although, it looks like a formality that the tag will ultimately be positioned on the fifth-year operating again, permitting Schultz to check the market.

3. Teaching Readability

The mix is not only for backroom conversations, as there’s loads of alternative for public-facing dialogue. Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy ought to meet with reporters throughout his time in Indianapolis, which might be his first availability for the reason that group parted methods with Kellen Moore and promoted Brian Schottenheimer to offensive coordinator, with the revelation that McCarthy might be calling performs in 2023.

How a lot will come of this availability is open to debate, as coaches usually prefer to preserve questions of scheme near the vest. It is nonetheless value asking. McCarthy hasn’t referred to as performs since he left Inexperienced Bay in 2018, and the Cowboys have not run their offense with out Moore since he grabbed the OC spot in 2019. Dak Prescott has labored with Moore in some capability for the reason that QB arrived on the scene as a rookie all the best way again in 2016.

All we all know proper now could be what Prescott allowed on the Tremendous Bowl, which is that the Cowboys offense may even see a “20 to 30 p.c change.” Maybe McCarthy can expound on {that a} bit subsequent week. 

4. Free Company

The Cowboys’ free agent record is not as intriguing because it has been in years previous, however there are some huge selections to make within the subsequent three weeks.

We have lined Pollard and Schultz, arguably the 2 most necessary members of the group. However two key members of the secondary, Anthony Brown and Donovan Wilson, additionally prime the record. Brown is without doubt one of the longest-tenured members of the staff, with 72 begins at cornerback in seven years. And nonetheless a lot criticism he may catch from followers and media, the Cowboys go protection dipped when Brown was misplaced for the season with a torn Achilles in December. Wilson balled out in a contract 12 months, beginning all 19 video games and setting a profession excessive in each tackles and sacks.

There are different names to know. Leighton Vander Esch was a key piece of the staff’s run protection, whereas Dante Fowler Jr. chipped in six sacks. Noah Brown completed the season because the Cowboys’ second-best receiver, whereas Jason Peters offered helpful depth on the offensive line.

After which there’s Cooper Rush, who famously piloted the Cowboys to a 4-1 file after Prescott was misplaced to a fractured thumb within the season opener.

No staff retains all its free brokers. However what we do know is that the Cowboys have opted to spend their obtainable cash on their very own gamers for the higher a part of a decade. This is not a staff that splashes money on exterior choices, so familiarize your self with the blokes who’re up for renewal with the house staff.

5. What About Dak?

Possibly that is extra of a pipe dream, but it surely’s at the least value asking if the Cowboys’ mind belief has any form of long-term plan in thoughts for Prescott.

That sounds insane on the floor. Prescott simply signed a $160 million contract extension in 2021. On prime of that, he slumped to a passer ranking of 63.6 with two expensive picks within the season-ending loss to San Francisco.

Is Dak Prescott the Cowboys’ largest situation?

Is Dak Prescott the Cowboys' biggest issue?

David Helman analyzes whether or not QB Dak Prescott is the most important situation for Dallas.

Nonetheless, Prescott has simply two seasons remaining on that extension, and the present deal is not doing the Cowboys any favors. With a 2023 cap hit of $49 million, Prescott is the second-most costly participant within the NFL this 12 months, trailing solely Deshaun Watson, and it will develop in 2024.

True, the Cowboys did tack two voidable years onto the top of Dak’s deal, permitting them to maneuver his wage. However in the event you ever wanted proof that Prescott gained that contract negotiation, it is the no-trade and no-tag clauses in his deal — which means Dallas can be taking part in a harmful recreation by letting him attain the top of it.

For these causes, it is likely to be within the staff’s greatest curiosity to increase their quarterback. Possibly that sounds outlandish, given Prescott’s struggles with interceptions and his disappointing efficiency within the playoffs. However including extra years to his deal would give the Cowboys extra time to unfold his cash round, which might reduce the stress his contract is placing on the cap.

CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs at the moment are eligible for contract extensions, and Micah Parsons might be prepared for a big-time payday in only a 12 months’s time. On prime of that, the Cowboys might clearly use some extra firepower on offense, as their struggles in San Francisco showcased. Clearly, some cap area may very well be helpful.

Who’s to say if it results in something within the close to future, however Prescott’s contract is a serious enterprise merchandise the Cowboys ought to at the least be contemplating as they recreation plan for 2023 and past.

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand spent 9 seasons protecting the Cowboys for the staff’s official web site. In 2018, he gained a regional Emmy for his function in producing “Dak Prescott: A Household Reunion” in regards to the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Comply with him on Twitter at @davidhelman_.

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