Nothing hapens in a vacuum with the Cowboys, so don't think owner Jerry Jones' seemingly jovial comments about nose tackle Jay Ratliff wanting a new deal came out of left field.
According to a source, Ratlff and his agent Mark Slough have talked to the Cowboys about a contract extension.
It is unknown how far long the talks are or if the Cowboys are receptive at all.
But Jones wasn't just making idle conversation when he brought up Ratliff while talking the about league's new collective bargaining agreement during the team's kickoff luncheon Wednesday at Cowboys Stadium.
"Jay Ratliff will tell you, ‘You’ve got a big issue, Jerry, with my salary. I need a little more money,’” Jones said. “We all want more money."
What's true is Ratliff is not only the top bargain on the Cowboys, he is one of the best bargains in the NFL. The only thing Tennesee Titans running back Chris Johnson and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora have on Ratliff is that they have publicly complained about their contracts.
But Ratliff has made three straight Pro Bowls since signing a five-year, $20.5 million deal in 2008. He will get $3.75 million in 2011 and $4.875 million in 2012.
It was a good deal when he signed it because it came after his first season as a starter. But he has severely outperformed the contract since and now is easily underpaid. Consider than nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick will get $10 million in guaranteed money over the next two years and has yet to make the starting lineup let alone be named to a Pro Bowl.
Slough doesn't deny his client has outperformed his contract and is underpaid from a football standpoint. However, he said it would be wrong to characterize Ratliff as unhappy. He also declined to acknowledge whether he has had talks with the Cowboys about a new deal.
“I would not characterize our position as unhappy, but I would agree with the characterization that he’s outperformed the contract,” Slough said. “We’ll let all the other discussions happen behind closed doors."
Slough said Ratliff understood his contract when he signed it and purposely hoped to outperform his deal. He would rather be a player who outperforms his contract than one who underperforms.
The Cowboys have certainly had a few of those around here, which led to the highly publicized business decisions made over last month _ namely the departure of several highly paid but underperforming veterans like Roy Williams, Leonard Davis, Marion Barber and Andre Gurode.
Ratliff and Slough also understand what's going on with the economy and have no interest in complaining publicly about being underpaid.
Making any renegotiation tricky for the Cowboys is that Ratliff has two years left on his deal. Doing something now would set a precedent the Cowboys don't want to have to follow.
But the facts are that Ratliff is underpaid.
And he needs a new deal while he is in the prime of his career. Waiting two more years could be too late for Ratliff, considering the toll playing nose tackle takes on the body.
The first step is acknowledgment.
Jones did as much on Wednesday.
Clarence E. Hill Jr.