In what should be considered a placeholder for a future extension, the Dallas Cowboys on Monday assigned the exclusive franchise tag to unrestricted free-agent quarterback Dak Prescott, hours before the NFL’s 11:59 a.m. ET deadline, the team announced.
The expected move, which prohibits him from negotiating with outside suitors, keeps Prescott under club control for 2020. He’ll make roughly $33 million, the most in a single season by any player in Cowboys history — assuming the two-time Pro Bowler actually signs the tag.
Prescott, long embroiled in slow-rolling and infrequently contentious contract talks, previously expressed contempt toward the tag once it became the apparent course of action.
“You would hope and you would think something is going to get done, right?” he said in January, via the Dallas Morning News. “I mean, you would have thought something would have gotten done before the season. In my brain, it only says that it gets done. Without the tag. … I don’t think any of that is necessary. But that’s business. That’s all calculated. That’s all on them.”
The Cowboys ramped up discussions during and after last month’s Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, first offering $33 million annually and $105 million guaranteed before submitted an increased proposal, which likely would have paid Prescott more than $33.5 million per year, eclipsing Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff.
Agent Todd France then countered with an overture and, as of Sunday night, “all was quiet,” according to NFL Network’s Jane Slater.
Dallas will have until July 15 to ink Prescott to a long-term deal. He put a bow atop his rookie pact — earning “just” $2.025 million — with a career season in 2019, throwing for 4,902 yards, one shy of the club’s single-season record, and spearheading the league’s top-ranked offense in yards per game and second-best aerial attack.
Prescott has hinted he won’t participate in voluntary portions of the club’s offseason workout program, scheduled to begin April 6, absent a multi-year contract.
“Report that,” he said in January. “Be sure to report that.”
But this is standard operating procedure by Jerry Jones and Co., working on their own terms. The last time the Cowboys used the franchise tag, in March 2019, it went to defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. A month later, Lawrence received a five-year, $105 million contract.
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Focus Turns to Cooper
The plan all along was for the Cowboys to tag Dak while working out a lucrative, potentially market-resetting contract with star wide receiver Amari Cooper. Both sides were motivated to reach an accord. Until they weren’t.
The Cowboys failed to lock down the Pro Bowl pass-catcher by the league’s noon deadline, making him an official unrestricted free agent, able to speak with 31 other teams. Slater reports “a little bit of everything” is preventing the Cowboys and Cooper from putting pen to paper.
Dallas surrendered a first-round draft pick when they acquired Cooper from the Raiders in October 2018. They want an extended return on that investment, so negotiations will continue while the 25-year-old shops his wares.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL