Stephen Jones held court with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio last week and tackled a litany of Dak Prescott-related topics, including whether the team would rescind the quarterback’s $31.4 million franchise tag and if ballyhooed contract negotiations will push up against the July 15 deadline.
But the Cowboys’ executive vice president non-answered a most important query — one that some of Prescott’s teammates themselves assuredly are wondering.
Is the club now “comfortable,” with new QB2 Andy Dalton on board, in the event the disgruntled QB1 holds out of training camp and the preseason?
Jones sidestepped so fast you’d think it was Ezekiel Elliott juking a defender.
“Like I said only thing I can speak to right now — only thing I can speak to is that we’re trying to sign [Prescott] to a long-term deal,” he told Florio. “He’s a competitor. He loves this football team. He knows that we’re trying to put a great football team together and we’re gonna focus on getting him signed.”
Unsurprisingly, Jones’ reply — which has nothing to do with Dalton — is almost identical to that of his father’s, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who claimed earlier this offseason he won’t sweat Dak’s subtle threat (issued before the COVID-19 pandemic) to train away from the team facility absent a new megadeal.
“It’s not a concern of mine,” Jones said, per The Athletic. “Dak understands, in my mind, one of the great things about Dak is his commitment to building a team. I don’t have an issue there.”
Also unsurprisingly, Prescott indeed opted to skip Dallas’ virtual offseason program, a decision magnified due to the aforementioned pandemic, which brought the entire sports landscape to an unprecedented standstill.
In these uncertain times, Prescott is bartering to become the highest-paid player in both Cowboys and NFL history. He’s reportedly rejected two offers worth in excess of $33.5 million with $105 million guaranteed. The team’s latest proposal was increased to $35 million and at least $106 million in guarantees, according to Sports Illustrated’s Mike Fisher.
The proposal, like his franchise tender, remains unagreed-to.
Money isn’t the roadblock so much as length, per multiple reports. Prescott prefers a four-year pact, giving him the ability to cash in again at 30, while the Cowboys are standing their ground on five years, the standard for in-house extensions.
“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,” Jones told Florio. “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.”
If Prescott were to play the 2020 campaign on his tag, the Cowboys would need to offer the two-time Pro Bowler at least $37.68 million in 2021 — a 20-percent increase in salary — to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent next March.
Dalton signed a one-year, $7 million deal with Dallas, $4 million of which is tied to playing-time incentives. The former longtime Bengals starter has twice stated his intention to aid Prescott and rehab his own stock before re-testing the market. Dalton has accepted his backup role, ceding the spotlight to the 2016 fourth-round pick.
Who may or may not be there to greet Dalton at The Star this summer.
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Emmitt Sheds Light on Prescott, Cowboys Contract Talks
Similar to Donovan McNabb, Hall-of-Fame running back Emmitt Smith called for the Cowboys to bite the bullet and hand Prescott his much-sought-after windfall.
The Cowboys legend claimed he’s “not surprised” by a lack of financial resolution between the negotiating parties but urged the organization to avoid “playing games or playing chicken” with its cornerstone quarterback, whom Smith believes is capable of carrying the club to a Super Bowl.
“If you understand the business of leverage, when you have leverage then you try to set the rules,” Smith said on 105.3 The Fan. “And the only way you fight leverage is you fight it by establishing your ground and I think at some point this stuff will subside and it’s not that important right now. … It’s important to press people that need something to talk about because you don’t have much to talk about because we don’t have camps and minicamps and so forth. And now we’re talking about pandemic left and right, 24-7, seven days a week, however you look at it. So you look for something to discuss, but as far as the players go, Dak is not worried whether or not he’s going to get signed. I’m not even concerned. I believe he will get it done. And I believe the Cowboys will get it done because we don’t have room to be playing games or playing chicken.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL