Stephen Jones: Cowboys won't be a market-setter

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The Dallas Cowboys want to keep their young core intact, but don't want to pay top-dollar to do so.

With Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper all actively seeking new deals, Dallas is attempting to juggle giving the key players what the market dictates and keeping its own flexibility.

Speaking on 1310 The Ticket on Wednesday, Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones said the Cowboys don't want to be a "market-setter."

"We've got three really good football players that we're dealing with here and that have very good representation. And they want to see the market," Jones said, via Jon Machota of The Athletic. "We can't push the issue unless we want to be a market-setter. And we're damn sure not going to be a market-setter, because of all the things that go with being a Dallas Cowboy.

"We want to be fair. We want our players to feel good about their contract. But at the same time, we don't want to do things that are out of line because we can't afford to be that way. Whether it's Dak, whether it's Amari, whether it's Zeke, they all understand we've got a whole group of young players coming behind them that want to be Dallas Cowboys and want to stay here. When we save money, whether it's with Dak, whether it's with Zeke, whether it's with Amari, it's not saving Jerry and I a dollar. It's just money that's going to go to another player. ... We're very convicted that we're going to get these deals done."

Jones noted Byron Jones, Jaylon Smith and La'el Collins among those players the Cowboys also need to keep in order to remain a playoff contender down the line.

"All these are guys that are so important to our football team," Jones said. "I promise you, Zeke, Dak, Amari all understand that."

Stephen Jones' insistence that the Cowboys can't pay every top-of-market dollar echoes the sentiments of his father, Jerry Jones, earlier in the week. After years of overpaying to keep his own players, it appears a new Jerry Jones is showing restraint.

The Jones' comments mesh with NFL Network's Jane Slater's report this week that the Cowboys didn't like the way Todd Gurley's contract was structured and are trying to reset the market with Zeke.

Resetting the market, in this case, doesn't mean being market-setters.

With Michael Thomas earning a record-setting $20 million per year on his new five-year, $100 million extension with the New Orleans Saints, Stephen Jones was asked Wednesday if it raises the price for Cooper.

"No. I think it's probably in line with what we were thinking," Jones said. "I've got a little better numbers than that. ... We've drilled down on it and got some good numbers."

Whether those numbers are "good" for the Cowboys or "good" for Cooper remains to be seen.

Elliott's holdout with two years left on his rookie contract is currently the negotiation garnering the most attention as it threatens to stretch deep into training camp with Zeke spending his time in Cabo.

"Do we like it? Of course not," Jones said of Elliott's holdout. "Do we think there's a better way to handle things? We do. Are we focused and convicted on getting Zeke a contract? We are."

Focused and making strides are two different viewpoints.

If the Cowboys stick to their plans on not being market-setters, it's possible the contract discussions with their key players could last a while.

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