After a week of heavy discussion, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seemed confident Friday that Deion Sanders is close to making a football-only commitment to the reigning Super Bowl champions.
"We've had talks this week, and without saying any more, I think Deion and I both knew there was a legitimate possibility he might play only football when he signed his agreement with us," Jones said.Jones unleashed his powers of persuasion as Sanders remained without a contract to play major-league baseball with teams opening spring training camps this week. The Cowboys want him to be a two-way starter in football rather than a two-sport phenom.
Sanders was evasive but conceded he might play full time for the Cowboys and promised to announce his intentions next week.
"Jerry and I talked about ruling the world and stuff," he said with a laugh. "When I do what I'm going to do, it will be big. I tell you what: You will know for sure next week."
Jones has been pushing the concept that Sanders would suffer no decline in image or marketing clout without baseball. He could be the NFL's only starting offensive and defensive player if his receiving were refined throughout the off-season and in training camp.
But Sanders said if he decides to limit himself to playing for the Cowboys it will be because he wants to spend more time with his wife and their two small children. Sanders purchased a $1.9 million home in suburban Plano, Texas, shortly after signing with the Cowboys.
"This is not about spending more time with football," he said. "This is about spending more time with the family. Football-wise, there is no appeal. Family-wise, there is appeal."
Jones spent heavily for Sanders in providing a five-year, $25 million contract with a league-record $12.99 million signing bonus. The decision proved worthwhile as Sanders helped lead the Cowboys to their third Super Bowl championship in four seasons between making national television commercials with Jones.
The decision Sanders makes could be crucial for the Cowboys. They confront the prospect of starting next season without their top four cornerbacks if Sanders plays baseball. Kevin Smith is attempting to rehabilitate from Achilles' tendon surgery, Super Bowl MVP Larry Brown is probably an unaffordable free agent and Clayton Holmes has been released.
Sanders made $2.5 million last season as a center fielder with the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. He became an unrestricted free agent when the Giants released him.
Sanders claims several teams he declined to identify continue to pursue him. But nobody has offered Sanders the money to motivate his return to baseball.
The only team known to have mild interest is the Reds. They have made the same offer to Sanders and Kevin Mitchell: a non-guaranteed $500,000 with incentives.