In what is truly a lackluster free agency class for the 2023 offseason overall, there are some bonafide stars at the top of any rankings. And one such stud is former first-round pick Daron Payne, who has spent his first five seasons with the Washington Commanders, blossoming into a game-changing presence on the interior of the defensive line.
However, with Washington in-flux, there was chatter about Payne potentially leaving the team that drafted him in free agency. And one potential fit was the Dallas Cowboys — jumping ship to a huge divisional rival. It’s something that Micah Parsons had previously floated the notion of on Twitter and that, if the Cowboys could clear cap room, would make a ton of sense for the team’s needs.
Unfortunately, it’s probably not going to happen.
NFL Rumors: Potential Cowboys target Daron Payne expected to get franchise tagged
According to a report from Ben Standig of The Athletic (subscription required), the Commanders are expected to place the franchise tag on Daron Payne, which, if it’s the exclusive tag, would not allow him to hit free agency this offseason.
The Commanders are only $8.35 million under the cap, so they would have to create some room to keep Payne on the tag, but they’d be more than willing to do that. Having said that, it remains to be seen if the franchise would be able to work out a long-term deal with their star defensive tackle or if he’d play the 2023 season on the tag.
With that said, the Cowboys could have backup plans that would also steal from rivals that they could explore as guys like Javon Hargrave or Fletcher Cox come to mind at the same position. In any case, though, Dallas won’t be able to steal Payne from Washington, which is a big early domino to fall in free agency.
4 ways Jerry Jones’ ego could hurt the Cowboys this offseason
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
Even in a world of egos, Jerry Jones has one that’s unmatched and it’s already obvious how that will hurt the Cowboys in the 2023 offseason.
Over the last 26 years of heartbreak for Dallas Cowboys fans, the constant factor in every shortcoming, every bad decision, every bang-your-head-against-the-wall moment has been Jerry Jones. His ego to be the owner of America’s Team — and even to brand the franchise as such in the first place — is a problem. And it’s one that isn’t going anywhere.
Yes, Stephen Jones and Will McClay are the primary decision-makers in Dallas when it comes to the things like free agency and the draft. And for their part, they have made some good calls. At the end of the day, though, Jerry Jones still has final say and still has his hand on the pulse of everything that transpires.
After the way last offseason went and this season ended, though, it’s hard to be optimistic about what Jones will do next. In fact, it’s much easier to see the ways in which Jerry Jones’ ego is going to be a problem that ultimately causes the Cowboys problem in the 2023 offseason and moving forward.
Cowboys: 4 ways Jerry Jones’ ego will hurt Dallas in 2023 free agency, draft
4. Jerry Jones will continue to botch the situation with Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott
Some mistakes have longer legs than others and such is the case with Jerry Jones’ love affair with running back Ezekiel Elliott. You could argue that the mistake goes all the way back to the 2016 NFL Draft when Dallas selected the back out of Ohio State at No. 4 overall over Jalen Ramsey. But things have only worsened since.
Despite the elite production and performance of Zeke in his early career, the decline over the past few seasons has been depressing. Yet, Jones already locked the running back up as the highest-paid player at the position in the NFL while maintaining that Elliott is the backbone of the offense. That’s not true. In fact, Elliott hasn’t been the best back on the roster for the past two seasons with the emergence of Tony Pollard.
The rumblings have now started that the Cowboys could cut or trade Elliott this offseason in order to get out from his $16+ million cap hit for the 2023 season. Moreover, Pollard is also a free agent that could have a lucrative market if he gets to that point in free agency.
And therein lies where Jones is surely going to mess this up. Given his affinity for Zeke, it feels all too obvious for him to do something like restructure Elliott’s contract to keep him and let Pollard walk. Or even if he cut Elliott before June 1 and missed out on roughly $7 million more in cap savings than if he waited, that would be bad.
It’s been a series of bad decisions from Jones with Elliott, so it only stands to reason that it won’t stop in the 2023 season when the situation has reached a point of no return.