Jerry Jones says Cowboys, Dak Prescott can 'be better'

INDIANAPOLIS -- The disappointment of the Dallas Cowboys' playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers might have lessened over the past 47 days, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones has turned to resolve as his team looks to 2024.

"We had a very disappointing finish. We had a very really, in my mind, top year before we lost the last football game," Jones said in a 42-minute session with local reporters from the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. "We had some great coaching and we had some great playing.

"We stunk it up in the last football game. You don't throw all of the stuff out because of what we did in the last football game. That should be obvious. That's what we're doing. I'm really selectively picking the good things we've done and being energized about those. And I'm taking the things we didn't do good and fed up with that."

At the Senior Bowl, Jones used the term "all in," to describe the team's approach to 2024. Asked about it again Friday, it did not sound as if the Cowboys would be heavily involved in the top end of the upcoming free agent market, but Jones offered up an explanation of what "all in" means to him.

"We just have in mind the team that's going on the field this year," Jones said. "And we all know that every team in this league has limitations as far as where they are on the cap and where they are in the draft and where they are with their free agents, who they can use the franchise tag. You only have one. All of those kinds of things.

"But my point is that we can be better. Dak [Prescott] can play better than he has maybe, we could argue one of the best years he's ever had in his career. But the good news is, I'm convinced that he can play better and I'm convinced that we can do some things better all the way around and so we're all in."

Prescott's contract expires after 2024 and the Cowboys cannot place the franchise tag on him in 2025. Without an extension, Prescott is set to count $59.45 million against the salary cap. The Cowboys can lower his cap figure with a new deal that could make him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL or simply restructure his current deal and create about $18 million in room while adding to dead money in 2025.

Jones said the Cowboys will be working on Prescott's contract in the near future with hopes of a new deal. Without a deal, Prescott would hit the open market in 2025.

"No, I don't fear that," Jones said. "Well, because I have gotten my mind on being better than we were last year. And that's where the focus would be. Every player you got has some time when his contract is up. You would walk around with the shakes if you feared it. You can't because they all come up. They all can get hurt. They all can lose some talent.

"So all of that is not fear. I know you're asking for a reaction to that. It is my job to when somebody gets hurt or when their career is at the end or when you don't get things negotiated, it's my job to do something else."

Prescott led the NFL in touchdown passes with 36 last season and had just nine interceptions after tying for the league lead in 2023. He was named a second-team All-Pro in his first season with head coach Mike McCarthy calling plays. Jones believes the second year of the McCarthy-Prescott pairing will lead to more improvement.

"What we do there or don't do [with Prescott's contract], I couldn't say at this time," Jones said, "but the main thing is he's going to be our quarterback."

Prescott isn't the only decision to make. The Cowboys have 16 players set to become free agents. They met with the agent for tackle Tyron Smith and center Tyler Biadasz on Friday, but there have not been any substantial discussions with any player, including Prescott, All-Pro receiver CeeDee Lamb and All-Pro pass-rusher Micah Parsons -- who is eligible for a contract extension for the first time this offseason.

On Smith, who is entering his 14th season and has not played a full season since 2015 because of injuries: "We'll get in there in the right way and discuss his business and work out something that's good for both of us. He's had a great career. He's a Hall of Fame player. And not only that, his personal life is one of the great stories that I've been a part of with players, or coaches or anybody, commissioners or anybody in the NFL. So where I'm going with this is to certainly get something that would have him on the field."

On Lamb, who is entering the final year of his deal and set to make $17.9 million: "Our goal is to extend CeeDee and plan to do that. ... We do want to extend CeeDee."

There will be financial decisions to make on wide receiver Michael Gallup and a career decision made by linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who missed the final 12 games last year with a neck injury. Jones said the Cowboys' focus on the field is to improve the run offense and defense, which has decisions to be made on free agents, running back Tony Pollard and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

McCarthy, who has led the Cowboys to 36 regular-season wins and three straight playoff appearances from 2021 to 2023, is also entering the final year of his deal. New defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who replaced Dan Quinn following his departure to be head coach of the Washington Commanders, also came on board with a one-year deal.

It might be "all in," or else.

"We're going to be doing every solution or working toward the solution being to win this year," Jones said. "Every solution. And that's what I mean 'all in.'"