PALM BEACH, Fla. - "El Paso'' doesn't mean what you think it means - not to Jerry Jones, it doesn't.
Randy Gregory has put the Dallas Cowboys behind him - contractually, if not emotionally, moving along to a new deal with the Denver Broncos.
And Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was hands-on in the breakup. ... using an old pet phrase to describe the setup.
Toxic - Britney Spears
Said Jones on Monday at the NFL annual meetings here in Palm Beach, Florida: "Literally, I was on the phone with Randy and his agent, and I said ‘El Paso,’ that little West Texas town.
"‘El Paso' - thank you, but no thank you’ ... of my own volition."
Wait ... what?
This requires some you-had-to-be-there background.
In the early 1990's, Jones and Michael Irvin were negotiating a contract. Once they'd signed it, the two of them - and one or two reporters - were part of a celebration at Cowboys Cafe, right around the corner from the team's old Valley Ranch HQ.
And that's when Irvin told the tale of Jerry rejecting one of his contract requests.
"I slid my number on a piece of paper across his desk,'' Irvin said. "And ol' Jerry took one look at it and said, "Michael - El Paso.''
Jerry wasn't referring to the city. And he's not "making fun of Spanish,'' as some have wrongly assumed in the wake of the Gregory talk.
He means "El Paso'' as if to say, "I'll pass.''
And yes, it's a lot more funny over Champagne toasts on Irvin's contract being done than it is on Gregory's contract not getting done.
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Of course, Gregory is in no mood to toast Jerry or the Cowboys, claiming the team negotiated in "bad faith'' and responding to pokes on Twitter by writing that the Cowboys have “a toxic fan base that believe I owe them something. LOL.”
Earlier this week, just moments after the Cowboys announced they had agreed to terms on a new five-year deal with the defensive end, Gregory (and his agent) has a changing of the mind, spurning Dallas to instead agree to a five-year, $70 million deal with Denver.
Randy Gregory, Sophie, Coach Hackett, GM Paton
"This is a week I'll never forget,'' Gregory wrote on IG while at dinner at Elway's Steakhouse. "(I) appreciate the Broncos organization for believing in me.''
"Belief.'' Trust. Gregory feels he got that in Denver's offer ... and not in Dallas'.
Gregory's agent, Peter Schaffer, alleges the Cowboys - who had on the table the same dollars and years in their deal as the Broncos did - inserted language into the proposal that his side found offensive.
The language concerns the possibility of forfeiture of guaranteed money in the event of fines or suspensions by the NFL related to the league's Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse, an area in which Gregory has a history of trouble. He's battled back from his issues and in 2021 recorded six sacks while showing signs of dominance.
But the fact is, Gregory has missed more than 50 games due to suspension and has yet to play a full season. So the clause is in his contract - as it is, as a standard operating procedure in most Cowboys contracts.
Schaffer has insisted he's never in "30 years in this business'' seen such a clause. But in fact, again, it is standard in Dallas deals ... including the last guaranteed-money deal Gregory himself signed with the Cowboys.
Nevertheless, a feeling of distrust resulted. Should the Cowboys have deleted or softened the wording? Should Schaffer have either better-understood himself or better-explained to Gregory the wording?
Jerry says he made the call to not change the language - for better or worse.
In the end, Gregory's lingering catch phrase is "toxic fans.'' And Jones' lingering catch phrase is "El Paso.''
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