OXNARD, Calif. • Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott pretends he can’t hear questions about a new contract, while wide receiver Amari Cooper steadfastly says he simply doesn’t think about his negotiations.
Both reported to training camp on time as they prepare for the final year of their deals, unlike running back Ezekiel Elliott. The two-time rushing champion has been holding out for more than a week, seeking a new contract with two years still left on the existing one.
“Different strokes for different folks,” Cooper said. “Everybody’s situation is different.”
Cooper is about to make $10 million more than Elliott – $13.9 million to $3.9 million.
“I have a fifth-year option coming up to where I get paid a significant amount of money if I play on that,” Cooper said. “But the running back position, you know ...”
Cooper was the fourth overall pick of the draft in 2015, a year before Elliott went with the same choice. Elliott’s salary is supposed to jump to $9.1 million next year. Another current holdout, L.A. Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, was drafted 11 spots behind Cooper – putting his fifth-year salary at $5.6 million this season.
All three of those players surpass the $2 million base salary for Prescott, drafted 131 spots behind Elliott in the fourth round before winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2016 after Tony Romo got hurt. The Cowboys have two NFC East titles and a 32-16 record with Prescott.
But there was never any talk about Prescott, the former Mississippi State standout. staying away from California. He acknowledged during the offseason that “generational money” was coming – his deal could surpass $30 million annually – and he had faith an agreement could be reached.
“I’m not here to talk about my contract and that stuff,” Prescott said early in camp. “For me, it’s to come out here and focus on this, not be distracted.”
Owner Jerry Jones and executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones, his son, face the daunting task of getting their three offensive stars signed with deals with upgrades for a pair of emerging linebackers in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch looming in coming years.
The incentive for the Cowboys to get Cooper signed comes from giving up this year’s first-round pick in a midseason trade with Oakland last year. While his career highs are modest (1,153 yards receiving, seven touchdowns), his arrival was a big boost for a stagnant offense.
“I guess I’m just optimistic about it,” Cooper said.
The big remaining question is whether the third piece of the star trio, Elliott, will be around when the season starts.
Representatives for Elliott have told the Cowboys that he will not play this season without a new contract, ESPN reported Tuesday.