Cowboys' Mike McCarthy feels Dak Prescott can win championships, wants Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb re-signed

The offseason is in full swing for the Dallas Cowboys as the 2020 NFL Combine fires up in Indianapolis, and Mike McCarthy is in attendance as he begins to check off boxes in his first few months as the ninth head coach in the franchise's storied history. The pressure is on from minute one for McCarthy and his experienced staff to hit the ground running, with owner Jerry Jones opting to lean on his experience as a Super Bowl-winning coach to finally get the Cowboys turning the corner to make a deep postseason run -- shrugging off talented, but inexperienced, collegiate coaches in the process.

McCarthy took a year off from football following his divorce from the Green Bay Packers in 2018, with the goal of evolving his already proven style of leadership. He's now ready to embrace the importance of analytics as a tool and being more open-minded to creative ideas from young football minds -- as evidenced in not only retaining offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, but also assigning him play-calling duties -- and after once stating he'd "never again" give up play-calling duties.

"I have a new job," McCarthy said from the combine. "I get to start over and take those 'never again' statements back. ... I've had a lot of time to think about it."

This shows very real growth in McCarthy, but before he can truly begin to install his West Coast tweaks to Moore's offense, he needs the team to make sure quarterback Dak Prescott is on the field for Day 1 of the Cowboys offseason program. The expectation remains Prescott will soon become the highest-paid player in franchise history, but there are variables creating a slowed progress in the contract talks, and the current state of collective bargaining agreement negotiations is at the top of that list. 

One thing's for certain already, however, and that's the fact the Cowboys have never once thought about moving on from Prescott and that McCarthy is all-in on starting his tenure in Dallas with the two-time Pro Bowler behind center. 

"Definitely," he said. "It's exactly where we want to be with Dak. I think what he's done to this point speaks for itself. Dak is in a business situation right now. 

"I've gone through this as a head coach with a number of my players in the past and I think, like anything, it's just time to be patient and let the business people work out the business matter."

And what exactly has McCarthy so enamored with Prescott? Well, lots, but it began with the first time he ever saw him play.

"No. 1 -- you look at what he's done in his time in the league," McCarthy said. "He's been impressive. I've been impressed with him since the first time I saw him up in Green Bay. ... He's gotten off to a great start and built a really good foundation. 

"I'm told he's a tremendous leader." 

McCarthy didn't stop there, truly hammering home his belief in Prescott for all who'd lend an ear.

"Defenses get you to the championship," he said. "[But] the quarterbacks win championships, and I definitely feel Dak is that quarterback."

As the Cowboys work through CBA issues that impact the timing of Prescott's deal, they find themselves in a similar holding pattern with wide receiver Amari Cooper. Prescott is basically a proverbial skeleton key to unlock passage to negotiating the other potential deals, such as Cooper's, and the goal to avoid using the franchise tag on Prescott isn't simply to ensure he reports to offseason workouts -- but also to leave it available to be utilized on Cooper, if needed. 

An extension on Prescott will get done but the longer it takes, and depending upon what happens with the new CBA, things get more challenging on the Cooper front. To that point, the team is fully prepared to use the franchise tag on Cooper, sources confirm to CBS Sports, and could go as far as tagging him as non-exclusive to allow him to negotiate with other clubs and create the possibility of landing two first-round picks if they decide to not match another team's offer. 

They'd prefer to not use the transition tag, assuming it's even available, on Cooper because it would open them up to a bidding war wherein they'd get no compensation if they don't want to match the top-tier offer. 

In the end, while this is all a game of chess within a game of chess, they'd like to keep Cooper for the future. McCarthy loves what he's seen on film from the four-time Pro Bowler, and is also keen on re-signing Randall Cobb, who spent his best NFL seasons with McCarthy as members of the Packers organization. The hiring of both McCarthy and assistant head coach Rob Davis all but assure Cobb stays put, but there's always a chance he won't.

"The goal is to have both those guys," McCarthy said, citing an "impressive" chemistry they both have with Prescott. 

Keeping both Cooper and Cobb is not only doable, but expected to occur -- something that can't be said for every one of the 30 in-house free agents the Cowboys must assess. As the team sorts through it all and compiles a list of who deserves an offer and who doesn't, McCarthy understands that before he can truly begin peeking outside the building for potential free agent adds, he needs a chandelier-clear picture of what he has right in front of him; to prevent accidentally letting the wrong talent walk, only to then have to replace it with a newcomer who may or may not be a good fit.

That also goes for All-Pro cornerback Byron Jones, who the Cowboys would like to keep, but not set the market for.

"First goal is to get as many of those guys back as we can," he said. "And then see what we can add."

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