FRISCO, Texas — The business of football never sleeps. Much of the offseason talk around the Dallas Cowboys has been about the five-year, $105 million contract Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence signed before the 2019 NFL draft and the impending contracts quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, running back Ezekiel Elliott, cornerback Byron Jones, offensive lineman La’el Collins and others could sign in the next few months.
“We have a high tolerance for operating around here without having everything done, and I lead the way there,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “That’s the way that is. There’s never been a time that it’s all done relative to where you are in an agreement or players in their contracts. These just happen to be critical players to our future, high-profile players that our fans are so interested in. These happen to be there. It’s lucky that you’ve got enough of them that we’re interested in to have to talk about, but the real world is that we just continue to live in contract negotiations.”
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Proposals have been sent back and forth between the Cowboys and Prescott’s agents. There have been discussions about wanting to get something done but not to the point where offers have been exchanged.
During the first week of organized team activities, Prescott said his agent sent the Cowboys a counterproposal. Asked last week if there were any updates, Prescott grinned.
“We talked about that last week,” he said, understanding he shouldn’t have let it slip where the contract negotiations stood in the first place.
When Prescott was asked whether players knew that their coach, Jason Garrett, was in the final year of his contact, he said, “So am I. There’s no difference. We’re both in our last year.”
There’s a slight difference. The Cowboys are trying to re-sign Prescott. They have made no bid to sign Garrett to an extension.
As Prescott looked around the locker room last week, he noted other players in the last year of their contracts and yelled across to Collins, who walked over to Prescott and the scrum of reporters.
“It’s going to be my last year if you take all the money,” Collins joked.
Jones said the Cowboys do not have a pecking order regarding whom they want to sign, but Prescott, Cooper, Jones and Collins can become unrestricted free agents after this season. The Cowboys picked up the 2020 option on Elliott’s contract earlier in the spring at a cost of $9.09 million.
None of those players has missed a voluntary workout, although Jones, who made his first Pro Bowl last season, is rehabbing from offseason hip surgery and is not expected to be on the field until training camp.
There have been whispers about Elliott not taking part in workouts, but he has not missed a day. Publicly, Elliott said he was not concerned about his contract talks, adding he would ignore the outside noise by “just going out there and play football. Do what I’ve been doing.”
Since those comments, Elliott’s future has come under some scrutiny because of an incident in Las Vegas, but executive vice president Stephen Jones said it would not affect the impending negotiations, and Jerry Jones said he did not think Elliott would face punishment from the NFL.
All-Pro right guard Zack Martin sat out OTAs last season, but he took part in meetings and worked out at The Star during the negotiations. He signed an $84 million extension, including $40 million guaranteed, last June during the mandatory minicamp.
“The best players I’ve been around, the best teams I’ve been around, they focus on what they need to do each day to become a better player and help us become a better team,” Garrett said. “Those guys take that same approach. You kind of put that to a side. There’s a time to focus on that and deal with that, but for the most part they come in and go to work and they’re great examples to the rest of our team.”
Garrett is often caught in the middle in contract negotiations because he represents the front office and has the most daily contact with the players. At times, he will discuss the business of the game with them.
“But again, our biggest focus is on what we need to do to be our best as players and coaches and the rest of that stuff will take care of itself,” he said.
No one knows that better than Jason Witten. The 11-time Pro Bowl tight end is on his fifth contract with the only team he has known.
Upon his return after one year with ESPN’s Monday Night Football, he signed a one-year deal worth up to $5 million. As a rookie in 2003, he signed a three-year deal worth $1.58 million that included a $670,000 signing bonus.
In between, he signed extensions in 2006, 2011 and 2017.
“Look, this organization is extremely loyal to signing their own players,” Witten said. “They believe in that. I think when it all kind of clears out, that will be the same thing. I think these players know that — Amari, Zeke, Dak — that those things get resolved because both sides want to be there. I love how they’re handling it.
“They’re here working and they’re not getting caught up in that.”
Chiefs’ Bieniemy — Not playcaller, but has input
ATLANTA — Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy scoffed at the idea that not being a playcaller cost him an opportunity to become a head coach after he interviewed for four head-coaching vacancies.
At this week’s NFL Quarterback Coaching Summit hosted by the NFL and Black College Football Hall of Fame, Bieniemy said he relished the opportunity to interview with the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins. Only one of the eight teams with new head coaches hired a minority, as the Dolphins selected Brian Flores.
“Here’s my response about the playcalling: coach (Andy) Reid has always done it his way, and that’s how historically he’s done it because he’s Coach Reid,” Bieniemy told ESPN. “He has a beautiful mind, and we all work hand-in-hand together. And he gives me the green light to do a number of things. I have input. I do scripts. I get the install. There are a number of things that I do.”
As Jason Reid of The Undefeated reported in January, Reid said Bieniemy had been “unbelievable” as coordinator, while MVP Patrick Mahomes called Bieniemy a “special coach” and a guy who has helped him a ton.
“Do I talk to the quarterback? Yes,” Bieniemy said. “(Reid) is reciting what he wants me to particularly tell Pat to call. So if people want to make a big deal about that, so be it. The experience that I’ve gotten, understanding how an offensive system works, the organization, how to prepare it, how to get guys going and moving in one direction for one cause, that’s what this is about.”
Although Bieniemy’s focus remains on his current duties with the Chiefs, it seems likely that he’ll receive a head-coaching opportunity based on his strong reputation. The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which oversees compliance with the Rooney Rule requiring teams to interview minority candidates, backed Bieniemy, 49, throughout the interview process.
“John Wooten and the Fritz Pollard Alliance, I thought they did a hell of a job; they gave me an opportunity,” Bieniemy said. “Obviously, Coach Reid has given me an opportunity. And I think my interviewing process went about as good as it could go.
“Also, it gave me the experience moving forward knowing that, ‘You know what, this is my first go-around. Second go-around, if I’m blessed and fortunate to be placed in that situation, I’ll be that much better.’ But as far as a head-coaching position is concerned, right now we’re focused on the season. Obviously, we want to go out and do some things that’s going to help us to continue to have success. Then if somebody wants to give me a chance, I’ll be willing, ready, and waiting for that opportunity.”
Marvin Lewis and Hue Jackson, two former black NFL head coaches, both expressed support for Bieniemy.
“In my mind, there’s no question that Eric Bieniemy deserves an opportunity to be head coach in the National Football League,” Lewis said. “I’m a very, very close friend of Andy Reid’s and for the last three years, he’s talked to me about Eric’s ability and attributes and what he has added to their offense. That’s why he elevated him to the coordinator role. Andy has recommended a number of coaches to me over the years, and he’s never been wrong.”
“Yes, Eric Bieniemy does deserve a head-coaching job,” Jackson said. “There’s no question about it. I think he’s one of the brightest, young offensive minds in the NFL. Everyone says who is the next up-and-coming guy, and he’s been that. He’s worthy of that. I mean, watch how the quarterback played in Kansas City. I just know when they talk about offense, they talk about Eric.”
Working on the offensive side of the ball should work in Bieniemy’s favor, with most teams seemingly looking for the next bright offensive mind. Bieniemy is one of two black offensive coordinators, along with Byron Leftwich of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I’ve been an offensive coach my whole entire life,” Bieniemy said. “People think just because you coach running backs you don’t understand the pass game. Well, when you’ve played the position, and you’re involved in coaching the position, you’ve got to make sure guys understand the entire game plan, meaning you’re very much involved in the pass game. You have to understand protections. You have to understand route concepts. You have to understand how defenses are structured going against you.
“Do we need more [minority] coaches on the offensive side of the ball? Yes. How do we go about doing that? We have to make sure there’s a plan for guys of helping guys get into that quarterback room and into quality-control positions so those guys can add that knowledge and learn how to deal with the quarterbacks, learn the language and speak it.”
Ramsey now avoids dissing QBs — ‘I’m growing’
Asked by ESPN Adam Schefter on his podcast if he wanted to evaluate the quarterbacks he will face in the 2019 season, Ramsey passed and only wanted to talk about Nick Foles, who signed a four-year contract this offseason to become the Jaguars’ new starting quarterback.
“You want to do this again, huh? I’m not going to do this again but, we do play some good quarterbacks this year, of course, but probably the quarterback I’m most excited for is Nick Foles,” Ramsey told Schefter. “I don’t have to play against him, of course. He is my teammate. He is a great teammate, the few interactions we’ve had has been great. Great man, great player as well. He has nothing to prove to anybody. He’s a Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP. So, I hope he comes out here and he plays free and knows he has the support of everybody.”
But Ramsey said he’s grown since last year.
“I’m growing man, it’s Year 4 for me. It’s a different me. A lot of people think they know me, they don’t really know me. But hey, that’s OK,” he said.
Ramsey, the No. 5 overall pick in 2016, has made two Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro once in his first three seasons. He has nine interceptions and 44 pass breakups and hasn’t missed a start.
Judge OKs $24M settlement over Rams’ PSLs
ST. LOUIS — A federal judge has approved a settlement calling for the NFL’s Rams to pay up to $24 million to personal seat license holders in St. Louis.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. approved the settlement Monday.
Several St. Louis PSL holders filed a class-action lawsuit after the team moved to Los Angeles in January 2016. Thousands of fans in St. Louis had purchased PSLs that were good for 30 seasons, which was the length of the lease at the domed stadium where the Rams played in St. Louis. Rams owner Stan Kroenke took the team to California after 21 seasons.
The lawsuit calls for PSL holders to get 30 percent of the original purchase price, a refund for the nine unused years of the seat license fee, plus damages.
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