Wednesday, August 14
From injuries to contract disputes, the 2019 Dallas Cowboys are off to a turbulent start.
Training camp is complete, and the Cowboys are yet to sign any of their Big 3 offensive playmakers to a contract extension.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott was a complete no-show for camp, as he followed through on his contract holdout. However, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is confident Zeke "can hit the ground running" if and when he returns.
When asked if he's comfortable negotiating during the season, Jones replied, "Yes."
Wide receiver Amari Cooper is also due for a contract extension. At the start of camp, Cowboys VP Stephen Jones said he expected a deal to be done soon. Three weeks later, the wait continues. Meanwhile, Cooper is dealing with a foot injury, which caused him to miss the final 8 days of practice. The Cowboys do not expect it to be a long-term issue, though.
"We should have him back out there pretty soon," Jones said after Tuesday's practice.
And then there's quarterback Dak Prescott who is in line for the biggest payday of them all. The Eagles recently signed QB Carson Wentz to $32 million per year, so Dak has a strong case to get paid more than that. How much more -- is the question.
The Cowboys are off to Hawaii, where they'll face the Los Angeles Rams in their second preseason game on Saturday night.
Tuesday, August 13
Welcome to the The Dak Prescott (Contract Negotiation) Experience.
On Monday, the Cowboys quarterback started tending on Twitter and not because he was injured or because he made a highlight reel throw.
Dak was trending because a report surfaced that he turned down the Cowboys offer of $30 million per year and is asking for $40 million instead.
Then, there were reports refuting Dak and his agents are asking for $40 million.
Then, there was a report that the Cowboys leaked the "Dak wants $40 million" demand in order to portray Dak as greedy and to keep fans on the team's side.
Got all that?
For what it's worth, the memes and Twitter reaction to the initial report were #elite. There's some top-notch comedy on the internet, my friends.
Have you ever been to a yard sale?
The seller gives a price and the customer haggles for a lower one. They negotiate and usually meet somewhere in the middle.
In this case, Dak is the seller and the Cowboys are the buyer.
If Dak and his agents expect a deal in the low to mid $30 million range, their asking price has to be higher. Like, say... $40 million?
Not to say he'll get that much, but $40 million per year would make Dak the richest player in the league. Even $36 million per year would make him the richest.
The top three highest paid players are all quarterbacks: Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers.
All three have won a Super Bowl.
Cowboys receiver Randall Cobb played with Rodgers in Green Bay. On Tuesday, I asked Cobb if Dak is worth more than $30 million.
"This is a billion-dollar industry," said Cobb. "The salary cap continues to go up. [Eagles QB] Carson Wentz got paid 30-plus [million], so I don't see why Dak wouldn't."
Wentz recently signed a deal worth $32 million a year, which ranks fourth most among quarterbacks.
Dak should fetch somewhere around that number.
Until a deal is signed, the yard sale bargaining continues.
Monday, August 12
As the Cowboys preseason heats up, training camp begins to cool down.
Monday launched the final week of practice here in Oxnard, but Amari Cooper is still out.
The star receiver missed his sixth straight day of practice on Monday, as he continues to rehab from a heel injury.
"We're certainly not going to rush him back," said head coach Jason Garrett, after Monday's walkthrough. "He's getting closer and closer. He's working on the side. So, we don't think this is a long-term thing, but we want to be deliberate in bringing him back.
The Cowboys have a laundry list of injuries, including Pro Bowlers and undrafted free agents.
All-Pro cornerback Byron Jones is working his way back from heel surgery. He was off to the side during Monday's session. Meanwhile, defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford remain pn the PUP list.
Then there are the casualties from Saturday's preseason opener, most notably linebacker Luke Gifford who suffered a high ankle sprain.
"We don't anticipate him practicing this week and it should be a couple weeks," said Garrett.
Gifford has been the Cinderella story of training camp. The rookie out of Nebraska was undrafted and in a matter of weeks, he went from unknown to backup linebacker.
In Saturday's loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Gifford corralled an interception. It was yet another reason for him to make the 53-man roster.
But minutes later, he injured his ankle and now his future on the team is less clear.
"He's a mentally tough guy," Garrett pointed out. "He's going to be unfazed by this and do what he needs to do to get back as quick as he can."
When we say, "Preseason games don't count, but they do matter" -- that's not hyperbole.
They matter... especially to guys like Luke Gifford.
Tuesday, August 6
Cowboys defensive end Robert Quinn’s training camp stint in Oxnard came to an abrupt end Tuesday. Quinn, whom the Cowboys acquired in the off-season, went up against Tyron Smith in one-on-one pass drills, and got his left hand caught in Smith’s elbow brace, fracturing his hand in the process.
Quinn will return to Dallas for surgery, but Cowboys executive Vice President Stephen Jones says Quinn should be ready for the season opener against the Giants, ’the relief is he’s going to be back and be fine,” said Jones. “He’ll be able to get his work in, do what he needs to do to be able to play the Giants. I don’t think we’re looking at missing any time here.”
With Demarcus Lawrence on the mend from shoulder surgery and Quinn out for the foreseeable future, it may take a while once the regular season rolls around for the Cowboys to generate the type of pass rush you’d expect from these two bookend rushers.
The update on the Cowboys contract talks with their biggest names on offense is there is no real update, but the Cowboys are scratching their heads in terms of why they haven’t made more progress.
The Cowboys have made what they consider “very generous” offers to Zeke Elliott, Dak Prescott, and Amari Cooper, according to a source. The offers would be in the top-five of each of their positions, and I’m told they're willing to negotiate up, but need a “dance partner” in terms of negotiations. Truth is, I don’t know if the music has even started.
Specifically in terms of the Zeke Elliott deal, I’m told it’s been about a week since they’ve exchanged deals.
And here’s a possible sticking point. The Cowboys have said previously that the Rams deal with Todd Gurley provided a starting point for negotiations; that deal is worth $60 million over four years, with $45 million guaranteed. But since then, Le’veon Bell, widely considered the most complete back in football, agreed to a 4-year deal, worth $52.5 million, including $35 million guaranteed with the Jets.
Could the Cowboys make a case that the running back market changed with that signing? Could Zeke’s representative’s make a case that Gurley’s deal is more relevant? Gurley’s knee problems certainly make it more muddled.
So, are they arguing over the difference of $15 million and $13 million per? Perhaps. And for Elliott, who probably won't have another big deal down the line, that's a significant difference, but perhaps not so much so for the Cowboys.
And maybe that’s why Jerry Jones says he’s convinced the deal with eventually gets done, “that’ll happen,” said Jones Sunday. “The results are too good for them and too good for the Cowboys. Think about it a minute; the results are too good for them and too good for the Cowboys.”
Saturday, August 3
Receiver Amari Cooper missed Saturday's afternoon practice with what’s thought to be a minor heel injury. Cooper took part in team stretch but didn’t participate in other portions of the workout. I happened to notice Cooper after practice, and he didn’t appear to be walking with any discomfort.
Cowboys executive Vice-President Stephen said he didn’t think the injury would be a major concern, but we’ll have to see, "It’s a long journey here, so if they get tweaked up we’re certainly going to be very cautious and get ‘em back to where there 110 percent,” said Jones.
Besides Cooper missing the work, slot-receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Jason Witten missed the work because they were taking veteran days off. Without those three options in the passing game, the offense struggled mightily to move the ball through the air.
Friday, August 2
Cowboys fans need to hold their collective breath on this one. All-Pro guard Zack Martin wasn't at Friday morning's walk-through.
Head coach Jason Garrett says Martin is getting an MRI on his back after feeling apparently tweaking it.
Xavier Su'a-Filo took first-team reps in the walk-through as well as Friday afternoon's practice.
Martin is the best offensive lineman on the team and a beast in terms of blowing up holes in the rum game. Wo, Cowboys fans will have to anxiously await Garrett's update at Saturday afternoon's presser.
Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper sat down with WFAA's Dale Hansen on Friday to discuss a wide variety of topics.
In case you didn't know, Cooper is among the most fascinating football players in the world because his personality is the antithesis of the dumb-jock football stereotype.
He is not dumb. He's not loud or boisterous. And he's remarkably unassuming -- which is atypical for Cowboys #1 receivers of the past.
Cooper is into business and finances. He plays chess. And he reads books...a lot of them.
He doesn't want to fall victim to the same vices that have ruined the lives of pro athletes before him.
He's afraid of going broke.
Cooper is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this upcoming season.
Last week, Cowboys VP of Player Personnel Stephen Jones said "for sure" when asked if he expects the team to get a deal done with Cooper.
Cooper deserves a contract extension and all the millions that will be coming his way.
Soon, the man afraid of going broke will have more money than he's ever had.
He's earned every dollar.
Thursday, August 1
It’s clear the Cowboys are confident they can contend this year. It’s part of the reason tight end Jason Witten decided to come back, after a year off. He told me there are several relatively young Cowboys, on their heels of quality experience last season, ready to play significant roles.
But with all the swagger and confidence we’ve noticed in camp, it wasn’t until Thursday we heard those two words, you know the ones.
The words Cowboys fans have been deprived of more than two decades.
“For me, it’s always been about my clear-eyed view and embracing each moment I was in,” said linebacker Jaylon Smith. “From redshirting to coming back and playing a little bit and getting better every week, to being dominant and now, on our quest to win the Super Bowl.”
There you have it. Super Bowl.
The two words the front office seems to avoid saying publicly, out in the open. Saying them isn’t that big a deal. It won’t help get any closer to the goal, but it’s another signal this group is convinced of their contender-status. That is, when Zeke Elliott returns, by the way.
“That’s why we play the game,” Smith added. “any team in the National Football League, if that’s not your goal, then you shouldn’t be out here.”
Tuesday, July 30
For the first time since 2017, running back Alfred Morris was at Cowboys training camp.
Morris signed a one-year deal earlier this week, while star running back Ezekiel Elliott trains in Cabo. The Cowboys didn't have much of choice. They needed to get a running back to fill the void while Zeke is gone. Morris was an obvious answer. He was available and cheap. He knows the offense, the organization and if he plays anything like he did in 2017 — when he averaged almost 5 yards a carry — he should make the roster. Unfortunately for Morris, his age and a Zeke return could prevent that.
Morris served as the back-up in 2017 but assumed the role of starter when Zeke served his six-game suspension. Morris is now 30 years old and among the oldest running backs in the league. However, he's still got some gas in the tank. He spent last season with the San Francisco 49ers and averaged nearly 4 yards per carry.
Yes, Morris is an insurance policy if Elliott's contract holdout drags on, but he's also a veteran who can mentor the rest of the Cowboys running backs -- all of whom are 25 years old or younger.
Monday, July 29
On the heels of the news of Cowboys running back Zeke Elliott was headed for Cabo, a source confirming the team has countered that move by welcoming back former Cowboys running back Alfred Morris.
The truth is Morris isn't a replacement for Elliott. Morris is a veteran with a great work ethic and can act as a perfect role model for the young backs that are getting plenty of experience early in camp.
Morris played for the Cowboys in 2016 and 2017 rushing for 790 yards on 184 attempts.
Just a day after whining like a little baby about 'Zeke Watch' being tiresome, here I am, back with more 'Zeke Watch'. But this time, it's because there actually is some tangible news.
WFAA has confirmed that Elliott is headed to Cabo, as he continues his holdout from Cowboys Camp. But this isn't a vacation -- rather, Elliott will be working out just like he did during his six-game suspension back in 2017. Elliott came back from that suspension stacked, and the expectation is that he'll arrive in camp (whenever that time comes) fully ready to work, after having spent this time in Cabo getting his mind and body right.
A couple notes on this trip to Cabo -- it is in fact the same exact location he went to in 2017 during that suspension. Very secluded. Very private. There won't be any more twitter pictures of Elliott sitting at a coffee shop. Also, the proximity to Oxnard is a definite bonus to this set up. Whenever his agent and the Cowboys front office get things on the same page, Elliott will be able to hop up the Pacific coast and join his teammates.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue between the two sides. But you can bet that until there is something substantial to report, "negotiations continue" is going to be just about all you hear regarding the talks between Zeke's reps and the Cowboys organization.
Sunday, July 28
This is in the running for best story of training camp so far.
10-year NFL vet Sean Lee learning a new linebacker position, shifting to the strong side spot. He’s a football-loving fan favorite and says he psyched to learn a new position. And he’s also lining up on special teams to possibly help there.
But here’s the best illustration of what a team guy he is. Lee has a home in Santa Barbara where he spends part of the summer. It's about half an hour from the Cowboys training camp headquarters in Oxnard.
But for the second straight year, he flew back to Dallas just so he could be on the team charter headed to the west coast.
Instead of the quick drive, Lee logging an extra five or six hours in the air, all for the team.
“I did fly home to fly back out,” said Lee. “You get on the plane and there’s something special about getting together as a group and going to camp. The energy on the plane, a lot of these guys you train with a lot in the offseason, but you have five, six weeks off you don’t see ‘em. And then everybody’s juiced up on the plane, trash-talking, having fun.”
As if you needed any reason to like Lee more, there you go.
Is anyone else tired of 'Zeke Watch' yet? I'm sure there will be a whole lot of breathless coverage of "Day 4 of Zeke Watch", and "Day 7 of Zeke Watch", and "Day 129 of Zeke Watch" from yours truly, and other Cowboys reporters from around DFW, Texas, and the country.
But it will be laborious and, frankly, somewhat boring. Only because there doesn't figure to be any actual news that comes of it. "Zeke's not here,"... and then what? By the way, I don't at all expect this to go to Day 129, in case that wasn't obvious. Eventually, there will actually be news worth reporting, as the organization and Elliott's representatives come to an agreement. But until then, daily updates on the fact that Zeke isn't in Oxnard will feel rather useless.
August 6th is a reasonably important date, as it affects Elliott's ability to accrue a year of service toward ultimate free agency. But even that feels to me like it's been overblown, because it only matters if Elliott tries to hold out next year, too. Either this hold out works, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, the relationship between team & player would likely then be rather fractured, and Zeke would be just playing out the string until he can leave. But none of that figures to happen. What's likeliest in my mind, is that Zeke holds out however long he needs to, in order to secure himself a deal, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys eventually give him a contract that he's happy with, and the two sides move on, never having worried about August 6th very much.
In the meantime, "Day 4 of Zeke Watch" starts in about two hours.
Saturday, July 27
For much of the past few days, the eyes of Cowboys Nation have been on who didn’t show up to training camp: Ezekiel Elliott. But on Saturday, one of the big stories was who WAS on the field: Jason Witten.
Witten, who spent last season in the Monday Night Football booth, is back on the field and brings plenty of experience to a young tight end corps. For his part, he was happy to be back to playing the game he loves.
“I felt like last night it was the first day of school, you know, when I was going to bed. I’ve been in this compound for a long time over the years, and it’s a great feeling to have that,” said Witten on Saturday.
While Witten does provide experience and leadership, it remains to be seen what his impact will be on the field. That in itself will be a story worth watching throughout the season.
— Joe Trahan
The Dallas Cowboys training camp kicked off in Oxnard on Saturday, but the highlights of the day had nothing to do with practice.
Camp began with the annual opening ceremony and this one was...um... a doozy.
For starters... Oxnard mayor pro tem Carmen Ramirez, Esq. said, "We think next year is going to be great with [Cowboys] impressive standout quarterback Dak...*checks notes* ...Preston."
If you're not wearing a Dak Preston #4 jersey by Week 1, are you even a Cowboys fan???
Not be outdone, a flyover was part of the opening ceremony festivities...except the flyover showed up a few minutes late...right in the middle of Ramirez's speech.
And... Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the mascot Rowdy bumbled the hand-off on a large check presentation.
Welp. Let's just hope the season is nothing like the opening ceremony. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
— Jonah Javad
Friday, July 26
As the Cowboys officially start training camp, the big question looming overhead (at least in the fan's minds) is about Ezekiel Elliott. When will he show up to camp? WILL he show up at all? If Jerry Jones is worried about it, he's not showing it in public...
To read what else Jerry Jones had to say, follow Joe Trahan on Twitter here.
Jerry Jones, VP Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garrett addressed the media in their annual "State of the Team" news conference today. Predictably, Zeke's contract talk dominated much of the first 20 minutes but the Cowboys still need to sign Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. You can read more about the news conference here.
The official first day of practice is tomorrow! We will be updating this blog all camp long, so be sure to bookmark it!