But while the Dallas Cowboys can lead their quarterback to the bargaining table, they cannot force him to sign. Such is the crux of the ongoing standoff — why team vice president Stephen Jones feels negotiations may not reach an apex until the July 15 deadline for Prescott either to ink a new deal or his $31.4 million franchise tag.
“I think so,” Jones recently told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “I mean, at the end of the day I know everybody’s out there, ‘How have you not paid Dak?’ At the same time, we’ve tried to pay him, and he has to accept what we want to pay him. But the deal’s got to be right for Dak, it’s gotta be right for us. As you know, the salary cap makes this a zero-sum game for owners. This is not something where Jerry and myself are trying to save money so the Cowboys can make more money for the Jones family. We’re just trying to do our very best working with [coach] Mike [McCarthy], working with [V.P. of player personnel] Will McClay. Really divide up the pie in the best way possible to win a Super Bowl.”
The Dallas Morning News’ David Moore confirmed a Sports Illustrated report that the Cowboys are willing to make the 26-year-old signal-caller both the highest-paid player in single-season franchise history and perhaps the richest player on a per-year basis in league history, potentially surpassing Seattle QB Russell Wilson ($35 million AAV).
The guaranteed money, however, would fall short of Los Angeles QB Jared Goff’s record-setting $110 million.
At $175 million in total value, Prescott would dwarf Atlanta QB Matt Ryan’s $150 million pact. However, that’s assuming Dallas springs for a four-year agreement — Prescott’s preference — instead of securing a five-year deal, on which the organization is standing its ground. The latter scenario “reduces” the windfall to “just” $140 million, putting Prescott and Wilson on equal footing.
It’s a complicated situation for the sides, each with their own leverage and self-serving interests. So complicated that Jones characterized Dak as “the elephant in the room.”
“Everyone knows it,” he told Moore. “We’ve just got to keep grinding.”
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Jones Speaks to Prescott’s Franchise Tender
The Cowboys have already ruled out rescinding Dak’s tag, an extreme measure Jones said he’d “never” take. But there’s risk involved in letting the two-time Pro Bowl play out 2020 on the one-year band-aid.
As Florio previously noted, under that scenario, the team would need to offer Prescott at least $37.68 million in 2021 — a 20-percent increase in salary — to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent next March.
Jones was asked whether this future spike is factoring into long-term discussions. His response, predictably, was of the non-answer variety.
“We’re only focused on getting a long-term deal on Dak,” Jones told Florio. “We’re not focused on next year, the year after that. We’ll have the resources. We all know quarterback’s the most important position on this team. We won’t ever be in a position where we can’t tender a franchise offer. But our strict focus is on signing Dak to a long term deal.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL