Mac Engel

The reason Jerry Jones isn’t keen on spending big money on marquee free agents

Owner Jerry Jones said there is more urgency for coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys to win in 2019

Owner Jerry Jones said there is more urgency for coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys to win in 2019
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Owner Jerry Jones said there is more urgency for coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys to win in 2019

As the Dallas Cowboys play chicken with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and refuse to even look at Landon Collins or Earl Thomas, the Jerry Jones myth grows.

The myth that Jerry doesn’t care about winning.

The same man who has made more dumb deals than our entire government, and signed more “questionable characters” from Randy Gregory to ‘Pac Man” Jones to Greg Hardy, somehow doesn’t want to win.

In the last two months, my inbox has been filled with messages from tired and angry Cow’ fans who are sure Jerry’s ambition is just to make money, and winning is not on his to-do list.

Always know this: The owner of the Dallas Cowboys can be mocked and ridiculed from Fort Worth to Oxnard, but no one should ever doubt the man’s desire to win a football game.

If Jerry Jones could buy a Super Bowl trophy, he would trade in his yacht to do so. He might even fire Jason Garrett if the Devil guaranteed him another Lombardi. I said “might.”

What the Cowboys have done under this latest version of Jerry is simply to ignore all veterans from other teams who come with a high price, and to go with their own. This is the Stephen Jones plan, and they are all in with The Stephen Way, which is a less effective version of The Patriot Way.

There is another element of The Patriot Way the Cowboys have not yet tried, and we are at that point. Other than Tom Brady, no team is better at saying goodbye to their own and replacing them with the unknown than the Patriots.

This off-season will determine just how far the Cowboys have come to embrace The Stephen Way, and if they actually trust it.


Starting with Tank, many of the Cowboys’ “name” players are in line for Jerry’s money. So far, the Cowboys have not issued a single big check.

Not for Cole Beasley. Not for Amari Cooper. Not for Ezekiel Elliott. Not for Dak Prescott. Not for Byron Jones. Not for Jaylon Smith. All off these players are either up, or entering the final year of their contracts.

Using the franchise tag on Tank Lawrence for a second consecutive year indicates the Cowboys are serious about this plan. They talk about wanting to give an extension to Tank, but if that is the case, why have they not done it?

Because they are concerned about injury, and the potential of sitting on a massive deal for little in return. They don’t want to pay back.

So they serve up some empty rhetoric about wanting to do an extension with Tank, in hopes of placating him, all the while not doing it.

Considering the fact that they may be without their favorite “ugly baby” Randy Gregory, who has been suspended by the NFL yet again, the Cowboys have no choice: They are going to have to give Tank money.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and he’s going to want a Todd Gurley-like extension. Last year, Gurley signed a deal that included $45 million in guaranteed cash.

Do you trust Zeke can keep this up for another four years? Your answer should rhyme with “No.”

No position has proven to be more disposable and less durable than running back. If the Cowboys give Zeke a big deal, they don’t trust their ability to find his replacement. Or they are stupid.

Don’t rule out either.

They are going to pay Amari Cooper, who will make $13.9 million in ‘19; they didn’t trade a first round pick to let him go after two seasons.

The Cowboys have plenty of hard decisions to make, starting with whether or not they trust themselves to draft and develop these types of players and letting certain ones walk.


Other than Tom Brady, New England is typically conservative about paying players big money.

Using this New England/Stephen Jones model, Dak is going to be Dallas’ Tom Brady. That sentence probably scares the breakfast right out of you.

It does not matter if you want Dak to get Insane Quarterback Cash, because this much is over done. The only question is the dollar amount, and what day he agrees to the deal this year. The Cowboys, including Stephen, love Dak.

In order for this model to work, Dak has to be what the Cowboys believe he is, and the front office and coaching staff must draft and develop competent replacements when it’s big money time for the fourth and fifth-year players.

They have to believe they can replace Zeke. They can replace Byron Jones. They can replace Tyron Smith. Or Tank.

The plan is sound in principal, and difficult to execute.

So if Earl Thomas, Landon Collins or other expensive free agents are not courted by the Cowboys, it doesn’t mean Jerry doesn’t care about winning. It just means he believes in The Stephen Way.

Owner Jerry Jones said there is more urgency for coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys to win in 2019

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.