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.