Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys are engaged in a game of brinksmanship.
The team no doubt wants to protect itself by avoiding a market-resetting investment, if possible. The player no doubt wants to cash in after playing for relative peanuts on his rookie deal. The former is prepared to use the franchise tag while the latter is staunchly opposed to the one-year olive branch.
With 10 days until the tag window closes and exactly two weeks until the legal tampering period begins, the sides are no closer to a resolution than they were in September, when Dallas reportedly made the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback an offer worth $33 million annually — an offer he promptly rejected.
But there may be a compromise, in the form of a short-term deal, similar to the fully-guaranteed, three-year, $90 million contract Kirk Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.
Per ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler, who confirmed he refused the $33 million-per-year proposal, this is the route Dak might opt to take, culminating in a massive windfall now and the opportunity to re-test the open market later, before he turns 30.
“One source suggested that Prescott might prefer to do a shorter-term deal than the traditional long Cowboys deal that allows them to keep restructuring for cap relief. If Prescott signed a Kirk Cousins-style three-year deal, for example, he’d hit free agency again at age 29. Prescott might also be waiting to see whether the Texans extend Deshaun Watson this offseason, and then he could work off of that deal if it establishes new quarterback standards.”
Coincidentally (or not), it isn’t the first time a resolution of this magnitude has been suggested. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Sept. 15 that Prescott was “holding out” for a shorter, lucrative pact rather than the extended-years megadeal some of his teammates had received.
“My understanding is these Dak Prescott extension talks which Jerry Jones termed imminent just a week ago have reached a little bit of an impasse,” he said, per NFL.com. “It doesn’t seem like things will happen for the foreseeable future. Obviously that could change but that is the read right now. …
“The Cowboys have signed a lot of their key players to really long-term deals. Zeke Elliott the latest all their offensive lineman are on long long-term deals. But then look at the recent deals quarterbacks have done. Four-year extension for [Rams QB] Jared Goff. Four-year extension for [Eagles QB] Carson Wentz. It would make a lot of sense if Dak is holding out for some of those shorter term deals to cash in at a sooner time.”
A more recent report claimed Prescott is seeking to become the league’s highest-paid QB on an annual basis, surpassing Seattle’s Russell Wilson ($35 million). His agent, Todd France, ignited discussions with Cowboys brass at last week’s Scouting Combine — their first communication since that September turn-down.
“Our goal is to get it done with Dak,” team vice president Stephen Jones said last Monday, via the Dallas Morning News. “I know he wants to be here. We want him to be here long-term. He’s our guy.”
According to Jones, however, no contracts will be consummated until the Collective Bargaining Agreement is ratified by the NFL and NFL Players Association, a process still in the voting stages. And here’s the rub: the new CBA is expected to prohibit teams from using both the franchise and transition tags. Meaning, if Prescott were to get it, Dallas could stand to lose wide receiver Amari Cooper, and they’d almost certainly wave bye-bye to cornerback Byron Jones.
The deadline to apply the franchise tag is March 12, after which the parties would have until July 15 to negotiate a longer-term arrangement.
Follow the Heavy on Cowboys Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Cowboys Reportedly Ready to Use Exclusive Tag
Jones wouldn’t disclose which tag — exclusive or non-exclusive — the club is prepared to place on Prescott, barring an accord. He only hopes to reach Point B from Point A without a detour.
Rapoport, though, has the scoop: Dallas will exercise the exclusive tag in the absence of a long- or short-term contract. This would pay Prescott $33 million for 2020, roughly $6 million than he’d earn on the non-exclusive tag.
“Whereas the non-exclusive franchise tag, the more commonly used tender, is worth no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position over the last five years, the exclusive tag is worth the average of the top five salaries for the current year. That player also cannot negotiate with other teams,” Rapoport explained.
For the sake of context, Prescott made just $2.025 million in 2019, the final year of his rookie deal, when he threw for a career-high 4,902 yards (second-most in the NFL) and 30 touchdowns (fourth-most).
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL