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March 03, 2023

A look at what the Cowboys, Giants, and Commanders are up to at the 2023 NFL Combine

Between contract talk for Dak Prescott and Daniel Jones, plus the release of Carson Wentz, the NFC East is handling quarterback issues.

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030323MikeMcCarthy Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

We don't want to score a lot of points, can't you understand that? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!

The 2023 NFL Combine is underway, as agents, players, college prospects, and the brass for all 32 teams have met in the Midwest to conduct business and watch a bunch of dudes try to run fast in underwear. Let's take a break from our coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles to take a peek around at what the rest of the NFC East's teams are up to.


The Cowboys are already looking at extending Dak Prescott's contract

During the 2021 offseason, Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million contract with $126 million in guarantees, including a $66 million signing bonus, reportedly receiving $75 million the first year of the deal. He only counted for $17.2 million on Dallas' cap in 2021 and $19.3 million in 2022. He is scheduled to count for $49.1 million on the cap in 2023 and $52.1 million in 2024, with some dummy years tacked on in 2025 and 2026.

When Prescott and the Cowboys got that deal done only two years ago, there was actually reason to believe that Prescott might get more than the $40 million per year he received, so in that sense, it was something of a minor win for the Cowboys to at least keep it at that number. However, the benefits of the deal to Prescott were in the details, and they were significant. It was only a four-year deal, which meant that as the salary cap increased and quarterbacks pushed the earnings ceiling higher, the Cowboys and Prescott would be right back at the negotiation table in two or three years, when Prescott could score yet another top-of-the-market quarterback contract, especially since the deal signed in 2021 will not allow the Cowboys to franchise tag him again, which they did both in 2020 and 2021.

Whether the Cowboys simply restructure Prescott's contract, lowering his 2023 cap number while kicking the can down the road, or do some sort of contract extension with him, that contract is taking its toll on the Cowboys' ability to spend on other positions both now and in future years.

To make an Eagles point here, Howie Roseman and the Eagles will want Jalen Hurts' contract to be as long as possible, while Hurts and his camp should desire a short contract like the one signed by Prescott.

Mike McCarthy's vision for future play-calling should delight the rest of the NFC East

The Cowboys fired former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore after Dallas once again failed to make any real noise in the playoffs, bowing out to the 49ers in the divisional round. Head coach Mike McCarthy will call plays in 2023, and he intends on doing it differently than Moore, via Jori Epstein of Yahoo

“I’ve been where Kellen has been,” McCarthy said. “Kellen wants to light the scoreboard up. But I want to run the damn ball so I can rest my defense. Think when you're a coordinator, you know but you’re in charge of the offense. Being a head coach and being a play-caller, you’re a little more in tune.

“I don't desire to be the No. 1 offense in the league. I want to be the No. 1 team in the league with the number of wins and the championship. And if we gotta give up some production and take care of the ball better to get that, then that’s what we’ll do...

“It's fun as hell to call [pass-heavy] plays, but that's not the best thing for your team,” McCarthy said. “Time of possession goes to hell, risk for turnover goes up.

“So we’ve got to get the ball security. We got to secure it better. We need to be a top-five team and that's a skill.”

As Mina Kimes pointed out, the Cowboys' offense stayed on the field more effectively when they passed on first down last season than when they ran.

Let's say McCarthy's offense goes three-and-out with three runs while using up the entirety of the play clock. He'll burn around two minutes off the game clock before punting it away, and his defense will get two minutes of rest, plus commercial breaks. If he goes three-and-out on three consecutive incomplete passes while still using up the entirety of the play clock, the defense will get... again... two minutes of rest, plus commercial breaks. The only difference is that he'll burn 20-25 seconds of game clock with three incomplete passes vs. two minutes with three ineffective runs. Which... who cares? The defense will get the same amount of rest in real time. How is possible for an NFL head coach to seemingly not understand that?

And this is why they fired their offensive coordinator? Lol.


Daniel Jones is reportedly seeking more than $45 million per year on a new contract

According to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, "league sources tell the Daily News that Jones’ representatives are asking for more than $45 million per year on a multi-year contract extension."

As Leonard points out:

  1. "That’s over $12.6 million more than what Schoen could get Jones for in 2023 on the $32.4 million non-exclusive franchise tag."
  2. "That’s at least $8 million more than what the Giants would have to pay Jones on average annually in 2023 and 2024 ($37.05 million) if they franchise tagged him for two consecutive seasons, based on’s projections."

That tells me that Jones' representation wants the tag, because the Giants are obviously not going to pay him $45 million per season, or anything really that close to it.

Jones was a turnover machine the first couple years of his career, but protected the ball far better over the last two. He even had the lowest INT percentage in the NFL in 2022, at 1.1 percent. However, his improved ball security came at a cost.

According to the NFL’s NextGen stats, Jones was the most conservative quarterback in the NFL in “intended average air yards,” at 6.3 yards through the air per throw, and “air yards to the sticks.” On average his passes landed 2.8 yards short of the sticks. The Giants' offense didn’t hit big plays in the passing game in 2022. They had 28 pass plays of 20+ yards, fewest in the NFL. For comparative purposes, the Eagles had 63. The league average was 49.

In the Giants' playoff win over the Vikings, many felt that Jones had his best game of the season, as he completed 24 of 35 passes for 301 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs, for a QB rating of 114.1. In that game, he didn't attempt a single pass more than 20 yards down the field, and he only attempted four passes more than 10 yards down the field.


So there's context that says that Jones' ball security improvements weren't as impressive as the numbers suggest. On the other side of the context coin, he wasn't exactly throwing to good receivers either, and he helped the Giants win their first playoff game in 11 years.

Honestly, Jones' representation might be doing the Giants a big favor by not having a realistic asking price and forcing the franchise tag. With Jones on the tag, the Giants would have the opportunity to see if he can improve once again in Brian Daboll's offense before making a long-term mistake that could set them back for years.


The Commanders placed the franchise tag on DT Daron Payne

Payne had 64 tackles (18 for loss), 11.5 sacks, 5 batted passes, 20 QB hits, and a safety (against the Eagles, actually) in a season that he made the Pro Bowl. He was the first player to to receive the tag in the NFL this offseason, and will make $18,937,000 in 2023. Payne and Jonathan Allen form one of the best interior defensive line tandems in the NFL (maybe the best?), so it's easy to see why the Commanders would want to keep that in place.

The Commanders released QB Carson Wentz

I'm a little late on this, but just wanted to quickly put a bow on Wentz's career in Washington.

It still amazes me that the Colts — revealed this past season to be a dysfunctional mess of an organization in their own right — somehow, some way found a way to unload Wentz on another team last offseason. As a reminder, in exchange for Wentz the Commanders gave up a pair of third-round picks (one in 2022, one in 2023), as well as a swap of 2022 second-round picks, in which the Colts moved up from pick 47 to pick 42. The Commanders also amazingly took on Wentz's $28 million salary in full. They gave up all of that despite Wentz having virtually no market, and the Colts having made clear through their words and actions that they did not want him on their roster anymore. 

The Commanders struggled with Wentz at the helm to start the 2022 season, getting out to a 2-4 record, when Wentz broke a finger on his throwing hand, landing him on injured reserve. In came Taylor Heinicke, who despite significant physical limitations, led the Commanders to a 5-3-1 record in Wentz's absence.

In a blowout loss against the Niners Week 16, Ron Rivera yanked Heinicke, and Wentz mopped up, leading to a decision on who their quarterback would be for the final two games of the regular season, and perhaps beyond. They chose Wentz, which honestly, I kind of understood in a weird way. They had zero chance of making a playoff run with Heinicke, and at least Wentz has an NFL arm. I mean, to be clear, they were screwed either way, but I can see why a team that was stupid enough to spend a couple of valuable picks and $28 million on Wentz would talk themselves into him being some kind of playoff answer.

Unsurprisingly, Wentz faltered in an elimination game, just like he did in 2021 with the Colts. He threw for 143 yards and 3 INTs on 28 pass attempts as Commanders fans at FedEx Field chanted for Heinicke. Beyond the picks, there were throws like this that were all too familiar.

In fairness to Wentz, he may have only choked in merely a "super important game" as opposed to an "elimination game," since the Commanders didn't know they could be eliminated that week, lol.

I mean, holy s**t! Lol. Rivera is up there like, "Wait, what? Our season might be over?" 🤯🤯🤯

And sure enough, the Packers did indeed win, eliminating the Commanders from the playoffs.

After that end-of-season failure, Wentz's time in Washington was clearly going to be over. The question going forward is whether his career is over. Personally, I think he lands as a backup with a team that has an unquestioned starter already in place. I just can't see him content to go out this way.

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