Todd Archer writes that the Dallas Cowboys and nose tackle Jay Ratliff have begun discussions about a contract extension, which is odd considering that Ratliff has two years left on his deal and teams (just ask Osi Umenyiora!) don't generally like to talk about extensions until the final year of current contracts.
Couple of thoughts on this:
1. Ratliff ought to be careful what he wishes for. The Cowboys haven't been shy about cutting ties with veterans this year, and while Ratliff is surely in no danger of being cut, it's probably not the wisest time to be complaining about your contract when the team is looking to create cap room and not shy about letting go of longtime productive contributors if they can find replacements for them. To Ratliff's credit and that of his agent, it doesn't sound as though he's "complaining," but rather exploring options in a professional way. And if they're talking, it sounds as though the team is receptive to the idea.
2. To me, this raises once again the question of Ratliff's position on the line. He's still a nose tackle, but there has been talk in recent years of moving him to end. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has said he wants to keep him at the nose, and in truth these designations don't matter much in a Ryan defense, where (once they're all comfortable) you'll see these guys lining up in all kinds of different formations and alignments designed to confuse offenses. But if they're re-thinking Ratliff's contract, there's bound to be discussion about how he fits into the defense long term, at what position and what kind of contribution they anticipate him making.
Ratliff has looked good this preseason and is surely one of the guys whom they're counting on in Dallas to bring the defense back to a respectable, pre-2010 level. And the Cowboys did just recently give cornerback Orlando Scandrick a contract extension, indicating that they believe him to be a key part of their future on defense. If they're willing to extend Ratliff as well, that could offer some clues about their plans for the defense in the coming years.