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How soon is Now, When will the Cowboys be Super Bowl ready?

FRISCO, Texas — According to six NFL analysts from ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys are viewed as a team that is two years away from a Super Bowl.

When it has been a 25-year wait to play in the championship game, what is two more years?

The odds, however, do not favor the Cowboys’ chances at a Super Bowl run any time soon. Not with quarterback Aaron Rodgers playing at a high level for the Green Bay Packers. Not with Tom Brady taking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl LV and looking like he has a few more seasons left in him. Not with the Los Angeles Rams making a gutsy move for Matthew Stafford.

Not with Russell Wilson playing at an MVP-type level with the Seattle Seahawks and showing no decline. Not with the San Francisco 49ers expected to return to full health and either having a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo or making a bold move for, say, Houston’s Deshaun Watson.

Almost all of the thoughts regarding the Cowboys being two years from a Super Bowl have to do with quarterback Dak Prescott. What if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal and is effectively playing his final year in Dallas in 2021?

Using this two-season-out model, what if the Cowboys don’t get to the big game and win it by 2022?

A quick snapshot of what the Cowboys’ 2022 season could look like:

  • Prescott could be gone.
  • Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith has not played a full season since 2015 and will turn 32 on Dec. 12, 2022.
  • Running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s $12.4 million base salary in 2022 becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2021 league year, but the Cowboys would be free from the guaranteed money they owe him.
  • Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will be 30 in 2022 when he is due to make $19 million in base salary and has a $21 million base salary in 2023.
  • Linebacker Jaylon Smith is scheduled to make $9.2 million in 2022 and $11 million in 2023, provided he is on the roster in 2021.
  • Guard Zack Martin will turn 32 during the 2022 season. He makes $11.8 million that year.
  • Wide receiver Amari Cooper has $20 million base salaries from 2021 to 2024, but the Cowboys can get out of his deal after the 2021 season ($6 million cap hit).

The Cowboys already missed a window of opportunity when Prescott was playing on his rookie contract. That 2016 season, when the Cowboys went 13-3 in his rookie season, seems like a long time ago. But they looked primed to be a perennial contender with a young roster and little money invested in the quarterback position.

They have made the playoffs once since (a 2018 divisional-round loss).

Going “all-in,” and teams being in “win-now mode,” are terms that get thrown around a lot but actually mean very little.

“I don’t know why you would be in this business if you couldn’t win a championship,” coach Mike McCarthy said following the Cowboys’ 6-10 season.

The saving grace for Dallas over the immediate future could be the state of the NFC East.

The Washington Football Team won the division with a 7-9 record in 2020, but is, shall we say, offensively challenged at the moment with uncertainty at quarterback. So, too, are the New York Giants, although the return to health of running back Saquon Barkley should help. The Philadelphia Eagles hired Nick Sirianni as coach and have a major quarterback decision to make, along with an aging roster.

According to ESPN’s Super Bowl tier-system, the Eagles are four-plus years away from a Super Bowl, while Washington and the Giants are three years away, although on the upswing.

The Cowboys might even be called the favorites in the NFC East by the time the summer rolls around when the Prescott situation is finalized and the draft is over.

If they win the division, they’ll be in the tournament, as former coach Bill Parcells used to say, and they’ll have a chance at Super Bowl LVI.

But that’s it. Just a chance.

Two years from now this team is likely to look vastly different, and they would be far more than two years out from a Super Bowl as the title-game drought inches closer to 30 years.

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