Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott focused on work, not contracts

Tannenbaum: Cowboys should be cautious with Elliott deal (1:22)

Mike Tannenbaum explains why the Cowboys should be careful with how they structure Ezekiel Elliott's next contract after his latest off-field issue. (1:22)

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."

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."