The Dallas Cowboys are entering a season full of hope and question marks simultaneously, to the point where the Cowboys could be darkhorse Super Bowl contenders or miss the playoffs entirely if things don’t shake out the right way.
Obviously, the biggest domino is Ezekiel Elliott, who has been holding out with no resolution in sight. With the regular season starting in two weeks, it’s looking less and less likely that the two sides will strike a deal, and that is incredibly significant.
Still, the show must go on in Dallas, a team that won 10 games and captured the NFC East division title this past year.
So, here are the three Cowboys players under the most pressure heading into 2019.
3. Amari Cooper
Like Elliott, Amari Cooper is searching for a new deal, but unlike Elliott, Cooper isn’t holding out to get it.
But with Cooper entering the final year of his contract, it would certainly strongly behoove him to have a career year in order to land a lucrative deal next offseason, whether that’s with the Cowboys or with someone else.
Dallas acquired Cooper from the Oakland Raiders midway through the 2018 campaign, and he ended up catching 53 passes for 725 yards and six touchdowns in nine games with the Cowboys (75 receptions for 1,005 yards and seven scores overall).
Is Cooper a top 10 receiver? He’s borderline, but he’ll get a chance to truly stamp his name among the best this year. If he does that, he’ll have a fat contract waiting for him.
2. Ezekiel Elliott
He might pull a Le’Veon Bell, he might play. Who knows?
Regardless, there is a heck of a lot of pressure on Elliott right now, who, even though he is holding out, actually has two years remaining on his current deal.
That definitely makes this a peculiar situation. Remember: when Bell missed the entire 2018 season, it was his final year. He held out through Week 1 of 2017, but ultimately returned.
Let’s say Zeke decides to make his way back at some point, whether that’s in the opening week or sometime later. If he does rejoin the club, with or without a new deal, he will have a ton of pressure on him to have a monster year.
You can’t demand a new contract and miss training camp and then come out and lay an egg.
1. Dak Prescott
That brings us to the third Cowboys skill player looking for a new deal, and it’s their quarterback.
Dak Prescott is said to be seeking $40 million annually, which has a whole lot of people raising their eyebrows.
Forty million for Dak Prescott?
Honestly, we really don’t know how good Prescott is yet or how good he can become. Realistically, throughout his first three seasons, he has been a glorified game manager: a guy who isn’t going to lose you a game, but probably isn’t going to single-handedly win one for you, either.
Prescott is a terrific leader and a fine quarterback, but is he worth the contract he is asking for? It’s definitely a big question, but he’ll get the chance to come out and show he is worth every penny of it this season.
If Prescott leads the Cowboys to another division crown and makes some noise in the playoffs, he’ll get his money.