Jerry Jones is as confident as ever in the Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott finding success.
The degree to which the team makes him correct will hinge on Prescott taking on a greater burden moving forward.
"I've really felt for quite a while that Dak has the ability," Jones said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I don't want to dare do this to Dak or me or anybody, but I think just as (Tom) Brady became, in my mind, better and better and more impactful on how [his team] won as he got into his career, I think Dak really has those qualities. I think he can get better."
The emphasis on Prescott's impact is a natural side effect of being the signal-caller for the Cowboys, but there's added pressure given the QB's recent play and incoming cap hit.
Despite missing five games in 2022, Prescott tied for the league-lead in interceptions with 15. He also failed to advance past the Divisional Round for the second consecutive postseason, a barrier the organization hasn't overcome since 1995.
Now, after a year with too many forced throws and too few results, Prescott's cap hit jumps from $19.7 million to $49.1 million, 21.5% of Dallas' salary-cap space, per Over the Cap.
Jones addressed the impending squeeze on spending, as well.
"You can't pay that position at that level, take that much of the available dollars and then put the exact thing around him," he said. "When Dak first got here, we had one of the best offensive lines, in my mind, that had been put on the field in a long time. And he had that. So we had skill around him, especially offensively.
"Well, when you do what you do today and invest in a quarterback the way you do with these premium quarterbacks, that automatically has to be diminished. And so, when you ask me the supporting cast around him, it'll be hard to get to a supporting cast the way he did when he started his career."
Even if the Cowboys' 2022 offensive line didn't earn three Pro Bowl nods as it did in 2019, when Prescott was on the last year of his rookie contract, it still allowed the fourth-least sacks last season and paved the way for the league's eighth-ranked rushing attack. And for now, it still has stalwarts Zack Martin and Tyron Smith, who are under contract for 2023 of $19.8 million and $17.6 million, respectively.
However, Smith could be a candidate for the chopping block. The team would save $9.6 million with a pre-June 1 cut or $13.6 million by parting ways afterward. A move such as cutting the eight-time Pro Bowler is in line with Jones' concerns, much like wide receiver Amari Cooper was traded the previous offseason to avoid a bloated contract at a skill position.
With rising defensive playmakers like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs swiftly approaching second contracts, something has to give somewhere. The Cowboys will eventually need to count on cheaper or unproven talent in previous positions of strength.
Prescott will be one of the foundational pieces counted on to pick up the slack in 2023 -- and in the seasons moving forward for the foreseeable future, if Jones has his way.
"When I see something on the field that would logically tell you, you need to start looking ahead past Dak, I don't see that kind of thing happening in the next years," Jones said. "And I say years."