Dallas Cowboys: Mark Slough

Jason Garrett deflects Jay Ratliff questions

October, 24, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- A week ago when the Dallas Cowboys released Jay Ratliff, the defensive tackle had what was described as a “vicious” injury that would need about 12 months to recover.

On Wednesday, Ratliff was cleared medically.

What gives?

On Thursday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett mostly deflected questions regarding Ratliff.

“From a health standpoint we didn’t feel like he was ready to go,” Garrett said, “and we just thought it was the best decision for our club.”

The Cowboys released Ratliff with the “failed physical” designation.

On a conference call with reporters last week, Ratliff’s agent, Mark Slough, said his client “absolutely wanted to play football again,” but it wouldn’t be until 2014. The following day on ESPN 103.3 radio, Slough said Ratliff would be open to returning this season.

On Wednesday, Dr. William Meyers, who performed the sports hernia injury last December on Ratliff, determined the player could prepare for on-field tryouts. According to ESPN’s Ed Werder, Slough has been contacted by six teams and Ratliff intends to meet with teams in the next few weeks.

“Certainly health was a huge factor in that decision,” Garrett said. “He hasn’t been able to play for us for the last year and a half. That was the primary reason we made that decision and again, we wish him nothing but the best going forward.”

The Cowboys do not have any financial recourse in forcing Ratliff to pay back any bonus money from the extension he signed in 2011. If he signs with another team, they would be able to recoup some of the guaranteed money from his 2013 base salary because of offset language in the deal.

No reason to rush Jay Ratliff's deal

September, 9, 2011
IRVING, Texas – Perennial Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff deserved a new contract.

That doesn’t necessarily make it good business for the Dallas Cowboys to give him a new deal now.

The deal is done, however. He’s agreed to a five-year extension through 2017 worth $40 million with $18 million guaranteed, including a $10 million signing bonus.

Nobody can question whether Ratliff outperformed his previous deal. The former seventh-round pick was a first-year starter when he signed a five-year, $20.9 million contract. That’s solid money for a starter, but he’s been way underpaid while earning trips to the last three Pro Bowls.

“You rarely see guys at that position athletically do the things Jay can do – dropping back in coverage, covering screen passes, getting downfield 10, 15, 20 yards to tackle runners from behind,” agent Mark Slough said. “He’s not the prototypical nose tackle, which is what everyone was concerned about when Jason Ferguson got hurt [to open a starting job for Ratliff]. But not being a prototypical nose tackle has made Jay what he is. Very rarely do guys come along in this league who sort of redefine a position.”

The question now is whether Ratliff, an undersized player for his position who just turned 30, can continue being a Pro Bowl player. He’s being paid like an elite nose tackle now, although the structure of the contract is likely favorable for the Cowboys. Ratliff will be determined to prove he’s worth that kind of money, as was the case with his previous contract.

However, truth be told, Ratliff didn’t really earn his Pro Bowl trip last season. It was a reputation selection. His sack total dropped to 3.5 and he didn’t have a single tackle for a loss for a defense that allowed the most points in the NFC.

Don’t consider that irrefutable evidence that Ratliff is on the decline. It’s dangerous to doubt a man as talented, motivated and well conditioned as No. 90.

Ratliff’s numbers could soar in Rob Ryan’s scheme, which will utilize his unique athletic ability by lining him up all over the field, picking matchups to exploit on a weekly basis. That’s clearly what the Cowboys are counting on happening.

It’s nice that the Cowboys rewarded Ratliff for being a bargain the last few years, but paying for past performance causes problems for NFL teams. There’s a long list of ex-Cowboys who are evidence of that.

What was the rush with Ratliff? He wasn’t going anywhere with two seasons left on his contract. The price wasn’t going to go up much, if at all.

Why not wait eight weeks or so to be certain that Ratliff is still a disruptive force and not a declining player?

Cowboys, Jay Ratliff continue talks

September, 7, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Mark Slough, the agent for Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff, was at the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch facility on Wednesday as the sides continued negotiations on an extension.

Ratliff is signed through 2012 and is schedule to make $3.75 and $4.875 million over the next two years as part of a deal he signed in 2007. Slough has said his client is not displeased with the contract situation and that he would like to remain with the Cowboys.

Ratliff, 30, declined to talk about the contract talks last week.

The Cowboys have not extended the contracts of players with two years left on their contracts, which somewhat complicates the talks. Buffalo signed Kyle Williams (six years, $39 million) and Arizona signed Darnell Dockett (six years, $48 million) to extensions with two years left on their deals

Jerry Jones jokes about Jay Ratliff's deal

August, 31, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas – Maybe it was just an off-the-cuff joke by Jerry Jones. Or maybe it was a hint at a contract extension to come.

The Cowboys owner/general manager was discussing the importance and fairness of the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement during his speech at the franchise’s annual kickoff luncheon when he briefly shifted the attention to one of the biggest bargains on the roster.

"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."

Ratliff, who has made three consecutive Pro Bowls since signing a five-year, $20.5 million deal during his first season as a starter, reacted with a sheepish grin and by raising his hand and eyebrows.

Jones and Ratliff were not available for comment after the luncheon, as the Cowboys rushed to the airport to fly to South Florida for the preseason finale. Ratliff’s agent, Mark Slough, made it clear after the comment was relayed to him that he believed his client had earned the right to renegotiate.

“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. Jay wants to be a Cowboy for life.”

Slough declined to comment when asked if discussions were underway, although a source indicated the sides have talked about an extension. He stressed that Ratliff wasn’t bitter about his current contract – which would pay him $3.75 million in 2011 and $4.875 million in 2012 – but has accomplished his goal out outperforming the deal.

The Cowboys would have leverage in contract talks with Ratliff, who turned 30 on Monday, because there are two seasons remaining on the deal. There are, however, recent examples of defensive tackles being rewarded with rich extensions in similar circumstances.

The Bills ripped up the last two seasons of defensive tackle Kyle Williams' deal last week when he signed a six-year extension worth a maximum of $39 million with $17 million guaranteed. Williams is a 28-year-old who is coming off his first Pro Bowl season.

Arizona’s Darnell Dockett had a pair of Pro Bowl appearances on his resume and two years remaining on his contract last year when he signed an extension through 2015. Dockett, 30, got $30 million guaranteed on a $48 million deal, including $35 million in new money.

Slough declined to discuss potential numbers. Jones can joke about the subject in front of an audience of fans, media, coaches and players, but Ratliff and his agent would prefer to address the issue in private.