Jerry Jones undeterred by title drought, all eyes on ’23

INDIANAPOLIS — Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones’ Friday arrival at the NFL Scouting Combine was delayed due to bad weather, but he still spoke on the team bus for more than an hour and touched on a number of issues.

The Cowboys are now 27 seasons away from their last Super Bowl after losing a second straight year in the playoffs to the San Francisco 49ers in January, but he’s not fixated on the championship drought; just striving to get it done in 2023.

“I don’t get discouraged when you say, ‘You haven’t been to the Super Bowl in X years,'” Jones said. “I’m not doing this because I could have won the last five and it still might not get to another Super Bowl, and I should be pushing to get to the next Super Bowl like I’d lost five or four. This is reality.”

To return to a Super Bowl for the first time since 1995, the Cowboys must resolve several issues related to their roster.

While he didn’t seek a contract extension for Dak Prescott, he believes the quarterback can carry on after a season in which he took the NFL lead in interceptions (15) despite missing five games.

“He has the physical ability to do this at a level to win us a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “Does he do it with some of the same nuances as some of these other quarterbacks? No he does not. He has some things to work on and be more effective. Let me put it this way: Dak is a born debugger. If I were picking someone, I would say, “Now get out there and fix your mistakes, improve, or do this?” I’d rather start with him as raw material than anyone I know in that position.”

Prescott has a $49.1 million salary cap, which the Cowboys could lower with a restructured or renewed contract. Jones acknowledged the difficulty of improving the players around Prescott because of the contract.

“We want to get all the help around him, but as we know, if you have a competitively paid quarterback in the NFL, you’re not going to be able to get most of the skills around him,” Jones said. “You have to pick your spots and you’re going to be a little slower one year than the next year – not slow in terms of speed; only in what you do. You can’t pay that position – forget Dak – you can’t pay that position at that level, take that much of the available dollars and then put that very thing around it.

For that reason, Jones believes the biggest improvement on offense will come from head coach Mike McCarthy becoming a playcaller.

“To see how to give more of what Dak can be, it was natural to draw on what Mike can bring to the table,” Jones said.

Jones was unwilling to say the Cowboys plan to use the $10.1 million franchise tag to push Tony Pollard back through Tuesday. The Cowboys met with his agent at the combine but have not yet had major negotiations for a multi-year agreement.

“I really don’t want to say it’s a done deal (with the tag) because when those things expire, you don’t know where you are until your deadline comes and goes,” Jones said. “But right now Tony is certainly a big part of our plans.”

And how does that affect Ezekiel Elliott, who is capped at $16.7 million? Jones wouldn’t rule out keeping both players in 2023. He said Elliott was limited by a right knee injury last year.

“I know I have a reputation for being reluctant to look at great players as they get into the later years of their careers, but I don’t need empathy or I don’t need a feeling of, ‘Look what he’s done for us’ to to turn on the tape and see what a difference maker he was last year through the end of the year,” Jones said. He did plays. He made runs that, if we hadn’t made them, could have been more negative than it turned out to be.”

The Cowboys need to take steps to get below the cap by the time free agency begins, but that can happen with contract revisions and potential player releases. He said the Cowboys will need young players in 2023, but also added a qualifier.

“I want to tell you, don’t let us stop doing something special with the right experienced free agent,” Jones said. “Any place. I would in a New York minute if I think it suits us more than a short-term situation.”

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