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CeeDee Lamb extension: Cowboys can go full steam ahead on a new deal after Justin Jefferson reset WR market

FRISCO, Texas — “We’d like to see some more leaves fall. We’d like to see some more action,” Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said on April 23, two days before the 2024 NFL Draft when asked why he hadn’t signed players like Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb to extensions this offseason since both are entering the final season of their current deals in 2024.

In regards to the wide receiver market for Lamb, Jones’ wish has been granted. Five high-dollar extensions have been doled out since his comments at Dallas’ pre-draft press conference, two of which were done just about 24 (Amon-Ra St. Brown re-signing with the Detroit Lions) and 48 hours (A.J. Brown re-signing with the Philadelphia Eagles) after those comments.Β 

The latest deal to go down, 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson re-signing with the Minnesota Vikings Monday on aΒ four-year, $140 million deal with $110 million guaranteed, will have the most significant impact on the Cowboys’ negotiations with Lamb. With an average per year of $35 million, Jefferson is now the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL, narrowly ahead of 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa’s $34 million APY on his five-year, $170 million contract. Jefferson’s $110 million guaranteed is, of course, now the most guaranteed money among NFL wide receivers after the completion of this deal.Β 

The Cowboys also may not have been thrilled about the idea of making the Lamb the highest-paid non-quarterback in the league with a $35 million-average-per-year figure on a new deal for their All-Pro wideout. Because they waited, that’s now the reality they are staring down.Β 

“Well, you don’t know what those big numbers might be,” Dallas COO and executive vice president Stephen Jones said back on April 23 regarding top-dollar deals for Prescott, Lamb and/or Micah Parsons. “As I said, if your gut feel was or Jerry’s gut feel was that it was a good number, then you might would do it.”

Following the additional context of Jefferson’s deal, NFL insider Josina Anderson reports that negotiations between the Cowboys and Lamb are set to “speed up.”

Notable WR contracts signed this offseason

  • April 15: Eagles re-sign DeVonta Smith to a three-year, $75 million extension with $33.997M guaranteed ($25M APY)
  • April 24: Lions re-sign Amon-Ra St. Brown to a four-year, $120.01M extension with $34.666 million guaranteed ($30.002M APY)
  • April 25: Eagles re-sign A.J. Brown to a three-year, $96 million extension with $51 million guaranteed ($32M APY)
  • May 28: Texans re-sign Nico Collins to a three-year, $72.750 million extension with $32.116 million guaranteed ($24.25M APY)
  • May 30: Dolphins re-sign Jaylen Waddle to a three-year, $84.75 million extension with $35.97 million guaranteed ($28.25M APY)
  • June 3: Vikings re-sign Justin Jefferson to a four-year, $140 million extension with $110 million guaranteed ($35M APY)

Stephen Jones indicated Jefferson’s negotiations with the Vikings would have a major impact on their discussion with Lamb at the Cowboys’ pre-draft press conference back on April 23

“If we felt like we could get a number that was a good number because unfortunately as we all know, representatives talk to each other. You don’t think the representatives for Jefferson and CeeDee and [Ja’Marr] Chase are not all talking? You don’t think they don’t have their eye on something really big? Please. They’re not ready to come in here,” Stephen Jones said. “Same thing with Micah. Same thing with Dak. It’s just a little cat-and-mouse. Total respect for them.” Β 

It’s totally understandable for the Cowboys to see Jefferson and Lamb as peers from production and compensation perspectives. Lamb was drafted 17th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft just five picks ahead of Jefferson, who went 22nd overall in the same class. Lamb has three more career catches (395 to 392) and two more receiving touchdowns (32 to 30) than Jefferson through their four seasons in the NFL. Jefferson possesses the edge in receiving yards (5,899 to 5,145). Lamb, though, has played six more career games than the Vikings’ WR1 (66 to 60).Β 

However, Lamb is coming off a season in 2023 in which a case can be made that he played like the best wide receiver in football: He led the NFL in catches (135) and ranked second in receiving yards (1,749) as well as yards from scrimmage (1,862). He broke both the Cowboys’ single-season catches and receiving yards records, which were both set by Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin in the 1995 season, Dallas’ last Super Bowl-winning campaign. Lamb broke both of those records in 16 games, the same total in which Irvin accumulated the previous marks.Β 

CeeDee Lamb NFL ranks (2023 season)

NFL RANK

Receptions

135*

1st

Receiving yards

1,749*

2nd

Receiving TD

12

3rd

Scrimmage yards1,8622nd
Scrimmage TD146th

* Single-season Cowboys record

Now, it’s time for Dallas to pay up, and unfortunately for the Cowboys, waiting to get Lamb’s deal done will cost them. Surprisingly enough, Jerry Jones claimed he wasn’t worried about the price tag for his star players increasing when asked about that back in April.Β 

“You’re asking me if I worry about things going up. Not worry, but I probably have as good of feel as anybody living on this Earth what the cap is going to be three years from now, four years from now, five years from now,” Jerry Jones said. “I really do. We’ve got exceptional insight into where the cap is going to be.”

Dallas appears to be hesitant to sign top-dollar deals following resetting the running back positional contract market after re-signing Ezekiel Elliott to a six-year, $90 million extension when he had two years remaining on his rookie deal. Lamb is entering the final year of his rookie deal at age 25 after breaking franchise single-season records for catches (135) and receiving yards (1,749) in 2023. His 135 catches led the entre NFL. Since Dallas has waited for other leaves to fall in the wide receiver market, the $35 million per year figure they may not have been enamored by a little over a month ago likely now becomes the starting point for Lamb’s next deal.Β 

“Timing is obviously as important as the principle amount. Sometimes timing can keep you from making a mistake. That’s not just football. That’s not just the salary cap. That’s any decisions that you’ve got to have some ambiguity up to a bright line. The bright line is when it’s done,” Jerry Jones said. … “It’s not, ‘Boy, they should’ve done that last week because the price of tea in China went up.’ That’s not the way you do it, frankly. Certainly not the way we do it, and I’ve seen criticism that we wait too long to sign players or those kinds of things. They certainly have looked back and said had they have done it five years ago and when the price of living was much down then. Well, that might’ve been the case, but we wanted to see how a couple of players played and whether or not we want to keep them around. Again, no decision is based solely on that decision or that scope, that person, that thing. Because of the nature of the cap, it affects everybody down the line, so that has a big bearing on that, too.”

For all the politicking and waxing poetic about the best approach to salary cap management timing and value, the Cowboys front office is genuine in their admiration for Lamb, who they view as one of the league’s best.Β 

“I think CeeDee’s one of the best players in the NFL,” Jerry Jones said. “I think he’s very instrumental because of his position to quarterback success, personally. I think if you look at complementary football, he does it all there for you. He’s multifaceted in where we can line him up, the type things we can use him for. He’s dedicated in his practice and he’s sound physically. That puts him really right there at the top as far as a player. I’m trying to answer your question. I guess the answer is without saying anymore, I think he’s one of the top players in the NFL.”

Lamb made it clear he also sees himself that way, which means he is looking for a financial acknowledgement confirming Jerry Jones’ words about his value. Β 

“I can’t give you no numbers right now, but I’ll tell you this, one of the top paid receivers for sure, if not the [highest-paid WR). That’s always the goal,” Lamb said on “The Edge with Micah Parsons” on Feb. 11.

As highly as Jones thinks of Lamb, the All-Pro wide receiver feels the same about playing for him and the Cowboys for the rest of his career.Β 

“Absolutely,” Lamb said when Parsons asked if he wanted to be a Cowboy for life. “There’s no secret about that.” Β 

Time for the two sides to sit down and hammer out a new deal.Β 

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Author: Garrett Podell
June 3, 2024 | 1:05 pm

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