OXNARD, Calif. — Early Tuesday morning, as media members started to filter into coaching camp for the fourth straight kickoff information convention with the Dallas Cowboys’ holy trinity — staff proprietor Jerry Jones, govt vice chairman Stephen Jones and head coach Mike McCarthy — a customer nodded to a Cowboys staffer.
“Thrilling day,” the customer stated. “Contemporary begin!”
The Dallas staffer nodded and shot again: “After which it begins to really feel like Groundhog Day.”
And in some respects, so it did, with all the standard hallmarks of the everyday Cowboys preamble to the season. You had the everyday calmly guarded undertone of supreme optimism from Jerry, buoyed by the annual “issues are trying up” state-of-the-harvest report from McCarthy. And eventually, the standard stern accountant chorus from Stephen Jones, reminding everybody that contracts have been being negotiated and the monetary outlook of the construct was nicely in grasp.
It was a well-recognized tune for Dallas, albeit popping out of a 2023 offseason with far much less expertise upheaval and urgent issues than one yr in the past. Sure, perennial All-Professional offensive lineman Zack Martin didn’t report back to the staff Tuesday, representing the Cowboys’ largest holdout since Ezekiel Elliott in 2019. However that wasn’t sufficient to crush a day that might find yourself highlighted by a five-year, $97 million extension of cornerback Trevon Diggs. If something, these two developments — one main holdout and one main extension — spoke to what 2023 represents for Dallas.
That is the second when the Cowboys are on the cusp of some roster change and potential revitalization within the subsequent 12 months. It is a interval when two issues are intersecting within the agenda: a continued spin-up of youthful elements of the roster that can develop into the subsequent basis, and a winding-down of some long-term cornerstones that can have to be changed before later. And proper in the course of it, Dallas would possibly have probably the most balanced cross-section of expertise and expertise since McCarthy took over in 2020.
A roster of gamers that McCarthy confidently dubbed, “Undoubtedly the perfect in 4 years.”
That layering of expertise contains some core gamers who’re getting into a portion of their profession the place they’re both deep into their prime years or tiptoeing towards the top of it. Amongst them, now you can depend quarterback Dak Prescott, who will flip 30 on Saturday and has now began 103 video games — together with the playoffs — throughout his profession. Surrounding him, a pair of 32-year-old offensive pillars in deal with Tyron Smith and Martin at guard (when he ultimately reviews), and wideout acquisition Brandin Cooks, who turns 30 in September. Rounding out the longish-in-the-tooth defensive expertise: defensive finish DeMarcus Lawrence (31), cornerback Stephon Gilmore (32), and a pair of late-20s safeties in Jayron Kearse and Donovan Wilson.
That’s not precisely an “all-in or bust” group on the subject of expertise. However the implications of this staff are clear. The Cowboys have a roster saturated with younger expertise and a handful of growing old stars or starters who’re getting into dicey territory on the subject of the implications of their contracts. Prescott is getting into a part the place he’s going to wish to do an extension subsequent offseason to get some reduction from a $54.9 million salary-cap quantity. Martin’s impending push for a elevate may sign a literal altering of the guard subsequent offseason. In the meantime, Smith, Lawrence and Gilmore may all be let go in free company subsequent offseason.
That is what followers ought to have heard Tuesday when Stephen Jones rattled off much-needed contract extensions and went on this order: Diggs (whose deal was being wrapped up at that very second), wideout CeeDee Lamb, edge rusher Micah Parsons and offensive deal with Terence Steele. That quartet is the subsequent set of cornerstones, presumably with an prolonged Prescott within the center for the stretch run of his 30s.
That is how the 2023 Tremendous Bowl push must be processed: as a final grasp for a handful of growing old gamers who won’t be in Oxnard when camp kicks off in 2024. But in addition as a gaggle of lingering foundational veterans who helped Dallas recapture some profitable consistency beneath McCarthy. That is to not point out this group captured the guts of Jerry, who’s the one basic supervisor within the league who can see his growing old expertise by means of the lens of three many years of gamers who got here and went with out a championship.
It is a actuality that Jones hinted at Tuesday when he processed the sense of urgency with the present group.
“After I take a look at the place we’re with Dak, once I take a look at the place we’re with Tyron Smith, once I see [that] and what I’ve skilled [with] gamers which have performed nice for the Cowboys that aren’t right here right now, we have to get it completed now whereas we’ve received them,” Jerry Jones stated. “I feel that’s wholesome. I feel that’s the best way the Cowboys’ [competitors] are structured. That causes you to essentially pop up within the morning and be able to gnaw a leg off.”
As a lot as that’s a quote about Prescott and Smith, and perhaps Martin, Lawrence and others, it’s seemingly additionally a quote about Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and others. Jerry is the longest tenured basic supervisor in skilled sports activities. With that comes the institutional reminiscence to acknowledge that you just don’t at all times win sufficient video games with a lot of your most foundational gamers.
So for a handful of those gamers, that is at the least the beginning of the top, the beginning of the all-in push, the beginning of now or by no means. And it’s coming at seemingly the precise time limit, on the heels of the primary back-to-back playoff appearances because the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and the primary back-to-back double-digit win seasons since 1995 and 1996.
For the primary time in a very long time, Dallas is on the doorstep of being each good and constant. However as McCarthy famous Tuesday, that is nonetheless Groundhog’s Day on the subject of the top consequence.
“Consistency — if you wish to bang the door down, you’ve received to be on the entrance porch each single time,” McCarthy stated. “I feel we positively have established that. [Now] it’s about profitable the championship. I don’t shrink back from that in any respect.”
Greater than ever — and for various heading for a sundown within the franchise — this looks like now or by no means.