Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has continued to express frustration over his team’s wild card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers last weekend, but that disappointment didn’t extend to star quarterback Dak Prescott, with whom he signed a four-year, $160 million contract last March.
Prescott, who passed for a team-record 37 touchdowns in 2021, clearly didn’t have his best game in the 23-17 loss to the 49ers on Jan 16. He completed 23 of 43 passes for 254 yards with one touchdown and one interception. And the game ended when the clock ran out following a questionable quarterback draw with 14 seconds to go.
But Jones was emphatic in his belief that Dak Prescott can lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl. “Yes, I do. I sure do,” he said. “I start right there with a big circle and a big plus [for the] future is Dak Prescott. He’s shown that he is a winner in football. He’s shown that every time he’s ever had the chance to. Dak Prescott has the skill to make it happen.”
The same grace, however, was not afforded to receiver Amari Cooper, who signed a five-year, $100 contract before the 2020 season.
Cooper was the league’s highest-paid receiver in 2021 with a $20 million base salary and a $2 million roster bonus, but his production dropped off dramatically. He had just 68 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games, which is low considering he averaged 85.5 catches and 1,151 yards in his first two full seasons with the team.
He further frustrated the Cowboys when contracting COVID-19 as an unvaccinated player landed him on the league’s protocol list and out of action for two key November contests. The Cowboys lost both games — 19-9 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 21 and then 36-33 in overtime to the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving four days later.
Cooper is also a victim of strategy and circumstance. On offense, the Cowboys prefer to spread the ball around rather than repeatedly target one specific receiver, and it’s not uncommon for opposing teams to throw two defenders at him.
But none of that matters to Jones. He refused to talk about Cooper’s contract, but he did speak on teh star receiver’s lack of impact relative to the size of his contract.
“How he fits in and he should take half the field with him when he goes and runs the field,” Jones said. “Not half, that’s an exaggeration, of course, but a whole bunch of that defense should have to honor Cooper. He ought to be able to catch it when they’re going in the middle with him. Others do. You throw to people that are covered all the time in the NFL.”
What does this all mean for Cooper’s future with the Cowboys?
Jones wouldn’t say, but he allowed that it’s something worthy of discussion. “The reason those contracts are being discussed is because they have two sides to them; one’s got it coming and the other’s got to pay it,” he said. ”And the one that’s got it coming is going to go out and perform usually to the level of the contract. That’s usually the way I think about those contracts.”
Cooper is under contract for three more years and has already said he wants to stay. “I don’t make those decisions,” he said after the 49ers game. “I honestly don’t know, but hopefully.”
The Cowboys will have to make a decision by March 20, the date s when his $20 million salary for 2022 will become fully guaranteed.