Two Minute Warning: What to do with the Dallas Cowboys’ big 3?

    (The Dallas Cowboys have a chance to reclaim a Super Bowl title in 2019. Following that money will become a factor in their success. All this and much more on this week's Two Minute Warning.)

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    Take one look at the Dallas Cowboys, and it’s clear to see why they are an NFC Favorite. With the reimagined 1990’s feel, the Cowboys offense could be an x-factor for the organization moving forward, especially with their big three.

    Following his second strong season under center, the team plans to invest in quarterback Dak Prescott moving forward. Earlier this month, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear the team’s focus is extending the former Rookie of the Year.

    “We’re sold on Dak, and we do want to keep him around for the long-term,” Jones said to Michael Irvin on the Rich Eisen show. “We think he’s worth investing in for the long-term.”

    Following the recent Carson Wentz extension, Prescott now can control his future payday. While Wentz’s numbers are marginally better, the past two seasons he’s found himself on the injured reserve list. Prescott, on the other hand, has yet to miss a game over the past three seasons.

    According to Clarence E. Hill Jr., of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, it was reported last week that Prescott’s agent, Todd France, has “broached a deal in the range of $34 million annually.” If the ink was put to paper, Prescott would become the highest paid member on their roster by a significant amount.

    The Cowboys roster should still be able to compete, thanks to deals in the past. With players such as Zack Martin ($14 million per year), Tyron Smith ($12.2 million) and Travis Frederick ($9.4 million) all under contract, Prescott would be well protected behind the line of scrimmage.

    But the fatal flaw in Prescott’s game is also his biggest strength. The quarterback thrives with a strong supporting cast.

    Guess what; they’re up for a payday as well.

    So what do the Dallas Cowboys do with their big three?

    Prescott shined in 2016 as a fourth-round draft pick turned starter overnight thanks to his arsenal. Connecting immediately with Dez Bryant, the duo would combine for 796 yards and eight touchdowns on their way to a 14-2 season.

    Bryant tested free agency in 2018, leaving Prescott to struggle. Finding a true top receiver, the Cowboys shipped their 2019 first-round pick in return for Amari Cooper. You know the rest of the story; Cooper played great, the two connected immediately, and Dallas made a run into the postseason.

    The former Alabama product collected eight touchdowns in nine games with Dallas last season, according to Pro Football Reference.  Before his arrival, Prescott had thrown just eight touchdowns. Cooper is now entering his final year of the rookie contract and could be looking for a pay raise.

    There’s a valid reason to believe Prescott can only succeed around a secure unit. Just take one look at 2017, and the question answers itself. With running back Ezekiel Elliot suspended for six games, Prescott threw more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (five). Elliott’s first-round status will keep him in the Cowboys locker room through 2020.

    Still, you think he’s going to take a hometown deal after two 1,400 plus rushing seasons? Yeah, didn’t think so.

    The Cowboys also have future vital players on defense up for negotiations in the new future as well. With linebacker Jaylon Smith and Byron Jones entering contract seasons, the team might have to allow one to walk to pay the other.

    The reality is that Prescott might need the supporting cast more than the cast needs him. If the team elects to pay him the lucrative contract, they could be saying goodbye to key players on both sides of the ball.

    Boom or bust for 2019?

    The core of Dallas’ unit still is under contract for the 2019 season. This could be the window the team needs to hoist their first Lombardi Trophy since 1996. The Cowboys finished with a top 10 defense and an up and coming offense with the arrival of Cooper.

    The chance for Dallas to make a run at the Super Bowl is now. The problem with that is is the team makes a postseason run, it’s likely due to the success of Prescott and Cooper on offense. If both see their stats skyrocket, so should their contracts.

    Prescott is going to be paid by Dallas. That’s a given after the immediate success he’s had taking over for Tony Romo. However, is he worth $34 million a year? Is he worth losing out on his supporting cast walking to deal in free agency?

    The answer right now is no. Prescott’s success has been due to the system he’s in. For him to continue that trend, he’ll need a strong arsenal surrounding him.

    Not every team needs to pay their quarterback a lucrative deal to make the postseason. In fact, of the nine quarterbacks making over $25 million this season, only two made the postseason. Of the two, only Russell Wilson played.

    He was knocked out by Dallas in the Wild Card round.

    While the Cowboys are going to need a quarterback, Prescott should be offered a smaller deal. The remainder of the money should go to the role players who make Dallas looking like a legit contender.

    If Dallas is smart, they’ll wait until the end of the season to extend Prescott. End of story.

    If you’re smart, thanks for staying this long, the Two Minute Warning is in dead time. With little news coming out of the NFL this week, let’s get you caught up on what you missed recently.

    Smith still standing?

    The sheer sight of Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith‘s final play of 2019 still makes some shiver. On his way to a successful first season in D.C., the former No.1 pick suffered a gruesome leg injury again the Houston Texans.

    If that’s not enough bad luck, the same injury occurred on the 33rd anniversary of the infamous Lawrence Taylor tackle. For those who don’t know the story, quarterback Joe Theismann suffered a broken leg after being sacked by Taylor and never played another down. Smith was tackled Jadevon Clowney, broke the same leg and many predicted his career was over.

    Smith would like to think otherwise.

    In an interview with Angie Goff of Fox 5 DC, Smith said he plans on rehabilitating and suiting up for one more season in the future.

    “That’s the plan,” Smith told Goff. “There are steps I’ve got to conquer before I get there. … learning to run again. That’s a big one. I’m already throwing. Throwing isn’t a problem, but dropping, moving around, change of direction.

    “The stronger I get every week, the more I do, the more hopeful I am that that’s a real possibility.”

    Washington signed Smith to a four-year, $94 million extension following his trade to the team last offseason. Knowing that his chances to return are slim, the team used the 15th pick in April’s draft to select Ohio State QB, Dwayne Haskins.

    The biggest issue with Smith’s potential return is his age. By the time he’s fully healed, the QB will be 36 and have missed over a season of football. His veteran leadership would be great to any locker room, but it’d be hard to justify him as a starter if young talent begins to excel.

    Then again, crazier things in life have happened.

    Thomas’ time is coming

    After speaking to several prominent draft analyst, it’s clear to say a majority of them are still blown away by the draft fall of Michael Thomas. Considered by many as the top wide receiver prospect of the 2016 class, the Ohio State product fell into the second round where he was scooped up by the New Orleans Saints.

    Now, he’s coming for the money.

    According to multiple reports, Thomas is asking for an average of $22 million per year in his new contract extension. Right now, the Saints are reportedly willing to offer around $18 million for his services.

    If a deal were to take place between the two parties over the $18 million mark, Thomas would become the highest paid receiver in football. With one more year on his contract, a deal between the two should be in place soon.

    While still a rising star in the NFL, Thomas has flourished into a top 10 receiver. Since entering the league, the 26-year-old has finished each season with 90-plus catches and 1,100-plus yards. He’s also scored 23 touchdowns, more than any receiver drafted before him.

    To add to his stellar resume, Thomas is earned a pair of Pro Bowl nods (2017 and 2018) while also taking home a first-team All-Pro selection this past year. The Saints have a successor for Drew Brees waiting in the wing with Teddy Bridgewater. Having a go-to weapon like Thomas should keep New Orleans in contention on offense for years to come.

    Bottom line: it’s not if Thomas is getting paid a lucrative deal but instead just when.

    The new Taysom Hill?

    Taysom Hill became a fan favorite in the Bayou thanks to his innovative style of play. The BYU standout has blocked punts, thrown passes and caught touchdowns as a utility player for the Saints.

    He might have some stiff competition as the NFL’s Swiss-army knife moving forward.

    Many believed Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley would transition to a new position following his college career. He stayed under center and was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens last April. He’ll likely be the third-string quarterback, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be a practice squad member if Eric DeCosta has anything to say about it.

    “I think he’s a football player and everything that entails. His skill set is varied and multiple,” DeCosta said in an interview with Mike Florio of PFT Live. “He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s tough, he’s a playmaker, he’s a football player.

    “He fits our defense, he fits our offense, he fits special teams.”

    It’s been a trend for athletic quarterbacks to become role players for a team outside their position. Hill might be the face of utility men, but Houston Texans’ Joe Webb played receiver, quarterback and was on the kickoff unit last season.

    McSorley was a freak athlete for the Nittany Lions and should have a chance at making a career for himself in the NFL. Sure, he’ll be listed as a quarterback but remember, labels mean nothing.

    Still a QB league

    Every year, Vegas odds sends out a list of whom they think will be the NFL’s future MVP. More often than not, it’s filled with quarterbacks trying to take their team to the promised land. People might be changing their opinions on stuff in 2019, but Vegas is keeping it traditional.

    In the first listing sent out by Caesar’s Palace, the top six names are all quarterbacks looking for an active campaign. Naturally, Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes takes the early odds after winning the hardware last season. He’s followed up by former front runner Carson Wentz, +200 odds off. The list also features Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers to round off the list.

    All six quarterbacks honestly could be in contention thanks to the status of their roster. The Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles have present quality rosters with critical players expected to remain for the future. Mahomes’ team took a hit this offseason but will remain a contender for a playoff spot. Brady and Rodgers can never be counted out because, well – they’re freaking Brady and Rodgers.

    Since the start of the new century, only four times has the award gone to a non-quarterback. All were running backs which could lead to a promising day for players such as Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley. In the end, though, it’s clear that this is a quarterback league and they’re always going to be the first pick when it comes to the hardware.

    For giggles, my pick right now is Luck. Come back and tell me I’m wrong in February of 2020.

    Parting Shots

    10) The NFL is allowing reviews on pass interference calls and non-calls starting in the 2019 season. According to NFL Football Operations, the league’s competition committee voted for that to be the rule in effect next season.

    Long story short: next season we shouldn’t see a call made like the one in the NFC Championship title game. Coaches will now be able to use their challenge flag and let the replay booth handle this in the final two minutes.

    9) Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. stated that he felt “stunted” in the New York Giants locker room.

    “I just felt with the Giants I was just stuck at a place that wasn’t working for me anymore,” Beckham said in a interview with Complex.com “I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to reach my full potential there; mentally, physically, spiritually, everything I felt capable of doing, I just couldn’t see it happening there. So I think allowing me to be in an environment where I can be myself and give it a different approach, I feel like my football will benefit.”

    In five seasons with the Giants, Beckham grew into one of the league’s top targets. Collecting 90-plus catches for 1,3000-plus yards and 10-plus touchdowns in his first reason seasons, the former LSU star seemed to be the next great name in the league.

    Let’s see if those numbers enhance with rising start Baker Mayfield throwing him passes.

    8) Numerous reports have come out that the Green Bay Packers will be pulling back on allowing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to make play calls during the game. New head coach Matt LaFleur is expected to veto any request made by the former MVP and run the play he designs.

    Everyone remembers the fiasco that ensured under the Mike McCarthy era and how Rodgers had little respect for his head coach. One thing the two got right was control under pressure. With McCarthy, he had it. Let’s see how long LaFleur has power before this starts heading downfield.

    7) Former Packers quarterback Brett Favre made the news this week for stating on Instagram that he would come out of retirement and return next season. Favre naturally denied those reports and said someone hacked his account. He’s still on social media this week but for a whole different reason.

    Seriously, imagine little Charleigh when she grows up and can tell people one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time nearly walked off with her as a baby? What a class act move by the Hall of Fame gunslinger.

    6) Multiple reports have come out stating that Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played last season with broken bones in his back. According to Mike O’Hara from Lions.com, Stafford confirmed last season he was dealing with back problems. According to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com, Stafford continued to play to keep his consecutive game streak alive.

    You have to give some credit to Stafford’s drive. When suffering the injury in Week 13, the Lions were 4-8 and out of playoff contention. That’s dedication to keep up the streak Mr. Stafford.

    5) According to Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is the top NFL prospect for the senior class heading into 2020. The Ducks signal caller could have been a top pick in 2019 but elected to enhance his game and return to Eugene. Pauline stats that one scout gave Herbert the highest grade ever attained by a senior in the past decade.

    Many projects the Oregon signal caller will be the first quarterback taken in April’s draft next season.

    4) Whoever runs the Tennessee Titans social media account needs a pay raise. Following the Jacksonville Jaguars release of a video featuring cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Titans clapped back with a hilarious picture of Ramsey as a kid. He might be a fan of the enemy.

    Pay this person. Pay them now for trolling a rival as hard as they did.

    3) The Atlanta Falcons fanbase should be happy to know that Julio Jones isn’t going anywhere. According to reports, the team believes they will have a deal in place for the 30-year-old receiver before training camp begins.

    Since being drafted out of Alabama in 2011, Jones might arguably the top receiver in the NFL. Finishing with six Pro Bowl nods along with four All-Pro selections, the Falcons prime target was destined for a payday. With the Falcons in “win now mode”, they’re going all in on their top targets.

    2) Rookies seem to enjoy bonding following OTAs and minicamp with their teammates. The Oakland Raiders, however, have to take the cake for this offseason’s shenanigans. Thanks to new defensive end Maxx Crosby, the world now knows that while Ronald Ollie might love tackling quarterbacks, he hates roller coasters.

    1) Make sure you check out the PFN’s Podcast network. This week, Eric and Kai’Chien break down the AFC East running backs while Corey begins to look at the contract negotiations surrounding Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff.

    Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson

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