Cowboys, La'el Collins agree to 5-year deal; Jerry Jones reiterates 'pie is getting smaller' for others

·NFL columnist

With so much talk centering on which Dallas Cowboys offensive star will be the first to nail down his contract extension, the team has secured another one of its long-term building blocks. Just not one of the players you might have expected.

La’el Collins has gotten his deal.

A team source told Yahoo Sports the Cowboys have reached a five-year, $50 million deal — $35 million guaranteed — with the right tackle who appeared to be one of the players they might lose amid other extensions. The deal will land inside the top five average salaries at the right tackle position. Indications from the source are that it will slot above Detroit Lions right tackle Rick Wagner, who is earning an average of $9.5 million per season.

“He’s done nothing but make his mark,” team owner Jerry Jones said of Collins during his radio appearance on the team’s flagship station, 105.3 The Fan. “He’s the enforcer, as [offensive line coach Marc] Colombo so lovingly refers to him on the offensive line. He’s got the attitude. He’s got the kind of thing, I call it the Erik Williams attitude or Colombo attitude, for our offensive line. It’s good to get him agreed to for the long term. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he finished his career as a Dallas Cowboy.”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 30:  La'el Collins #71 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 30, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
La'el Collins went undrafted in 2015 before signing as a free agent with the Cowboys. (AP)

Collins was entering the final year of a two-year, $15.4 million deal. He was slated to be one of the most coveted offensive linemen in the 2020 free-agent class. His signing further escalates the salary-cap allocation to an offensive line that has been the highest paid in the NFL since 2017.

It’s impossible to ignore the Collins deal comes in the middle of the team’s intensified negotiations with running back Ezekiel Elliott, who appeared to be nearing a deal over the weekend but has fallen into some dragging negotiations over contract structure. Collins also gets his deal before quarterback Dak Prescott and wideout Amari Cooper – who along with Elliott were believed to be the team’s three highest priorities for extensions this offseason.

Instead, Dallas has locked in two other key cornerstones before even one of the big trio has secured a long-term deal. Aside from Collins, the Cowboys also extended linebacker Jaylon Smith, who agreed to a five-year, $64 million extension in August. After that signing, Jones noted that there was a limited amount of “pie” on the table in negotiations for players, an analogy he repeated Tuesday as Dallas continues to eye extensions for Elliott, Prescott and Cooper.

“Everybody can add, since there is a finite amount that will be being spent,” Jones said. “Now, there is a moving target [with future salary-cap limitations], but we don’t even know what that is, because we don’t know what the revenues are going to be in years to come. That’s a big deal. … We’ll see. There’s no question the pie is getting smaller. To the extent that we look at how much we’re allocating to each and every player, each and every position, that creates boundaries that you can go in other positions.”

A team source told Yahoo Sports that Collins’ is similar to Smith’s, specifically, that it could have been more lucrative if Collins had played out the season and headed to free agency. Instead, Collins protected himself from injury exposure this year by getting a long-term deal in place now, while also giving Dallas a slight discount on what his maximum free agency value would have been.

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