OXNARD, Calif — The Dallas Cowboys held their opening press conference on the tennis courts at River Ridge Playing Fields to signal the beginning of the 2022 journey.
Owner Jerry Jones, COO Stephen Jones, and coach Mike McCarthy held court and fielded questions from the media ahead of the first practice scheduled for July 27.
Here are four takeaways from the presser:
1. Jerry wants to squash Sean Payton rumors quickly — Payton is available. Payton is friends with the Joneses. Payton coached with the Cowboys on Bill Parcells' staff from 2003-05. Payton won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in 2009. Payton still lives in Southlake. Mike McCarthy has one playoff loss to show through two years with a talented roster.
The rumors won't go away unless the Cowboys win, but Jerry tried to get out ahead of them by endorsing McCarthy in his opening remarks. "I want to be real clear: he wouldn’t be sitting here today if I didn’t think he was the man to lead this team to a Super Bowl," Jones said.
"He would not be, and I had choices. And that’s not meant to be insensitive to anybody. That’s a fact. And, so, you guys write about a lot of those choices and they were there for my use had I wanted them. And, no, the guy to my right who I am convicted about, have been. We certainly had things we addressed, how we addressed them in the offseason."
If the Cowboys come out of the gate shaky and hovering .500 throughout the year, good luck with that.
2. Cowboys still want Dalton Schultz long-term — Dallas wasn't able to reach an agreement with Schultz on July 15, and the former 2018 fourth-rounder will play under the franchise tag in 2022.
Stephen Jones indicated the club still wants Schultz around for the long haul.
"He represents everything we want in a Dallas Cowboy on and off the field," said Jones. "Jerry talks about being available. Dalton is available: game in, game out, week in, week out. He’s an available player who plays at a high level. And, so, it’s not that we didn’t want him on a long-term deal. It’s just getting to the right answer on that. I think we ultimately will. I think Dalton is going to be a long-term Cowboy. It just didn’t work out to get the long-term part of that figured out this time around.”
3. CeeDee Lamb is ready to seize the WR1 role — Amari Cooper is with the Cleveland Browns. Michael Gallup is still recovering from a torn ACL. There is no one in Lamb's way to take command of the WR1 job, and coach Mike McCarthy has seen the growth in the offseason.
"Just the flexibility of opportunities, which obviously we’re going to need as an offense because the way the defense will focus on him," McCarthy said. "So, I think he’s had a very nice path to this point. You look at his production last year. So, he’s definitely ready. You talk about the flanker position in this offense. That is the premier, number one spot for our receiver group.”
4. Don't get excited about the extra salary cap space — The Cowboys have $22.46 million in salary cap space, the second-most in the NFL according to Over The Cap. However, don't expect the Cowboys to use it to bring in a talented free agent. Jerry Jones considers the extra money "dry powder" to be used in contract extensions at a later date.
"If we could have spent everything we had available in the cap and we could have spent it and mortgaged it some more if I thought it was the best way to win this year or win in the immediate future, then we would have done it, if your logic shows you that," said Jones.
"And I have done it, and anybody here realizes I’m a risk-taker and I’ll take them with the best of them. And, so, my point is what you see is the best I’ve got here. And what you see here with what we got available to us in our cap, that’s the best spot to be in in my mind, and I’m a risk-taker. So, we’ve got a little dry powder. That’s not necessarily for this season. That cap room is for the future as well."
Do you think the Cowboys are primed for a big year in 2022? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.