Kirk Cousins and Dak Prescott have more in common than the position they play.
Cousins, currently the Minnesota Vikings‘ starting quarterback, was where Prescott is just three short years ago: franchise-tagged and unable to score a new contract. Then with the Washington Redskins, Cousins was tagged in 2016, and again in 2017, before finally reaching the open market — financial freedom.
It became increasingly apparent as last season wore on that Prescott might be destined for a similar fate. Around the time this was happening, Minnesota polished off Dallas, 28-24, in an early November matchup, after which Cousins shared a crucial bit of advice with his NFC counterpart, a message he probably wishes his 28-year-old self could have received.
“Anybody who I run into who’s been franchise tagged, we have one on our team this year in Anthony Harris, I believe the franchise tag can be your friend,” Cousins said on ESPN on Thursday night, via Pro Football Talk. “I don’t think it’s something to be disappointed with. I think it enables you to be well compensated, and deservedly so, for the upcoming season. Then, I always say the cream will rise to the top. If you’re good enough, the cream’s going to rise to the top, and you’re going to get compensated the way you want to. Sometimes it doesn’t happen as quickly as you would like, but if you deserve it, and you’ve earned it, it’s going to happen. So you’ve just got to stay the course and stay patient. Certainly in my journey, it all worked out. I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.
“So my message to Dak, when I saw him midseason last year, was, ‘Hey, whatever happens, don’t be afraid of the tag. It can be your friend, and you can use it to your advantage.’”
Cousins’ short-term setbacks ultimately paid off in the form of long-term wealth. He broke the mold in 2018 by landing a fully-guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal from the Vikings, earning an annual salary of $28 million while preserving another bite at the apple in his prime.
That bite came early — this past March, when Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million extension, which included a $30 million signing bonus.
Thus, hope for Prescott, who’s younger and arguably a better quarterback than Cousins. He remains deadlocked in negotiations with Dallas; the hold-up continues to be length, as Prescott wants a four-year contract and the team prefers a five-year pact.
According to reports, Prescott is seeking to overtake Seattle’s Russell Wilson ($35 million annually) as the NFL’s highest-paid signal-caller. He reportedly rejected two offers within the last calendar year that would have paid him in excess of $33 million annually and $105 million in guarantees.
The Cowboys applied the exclusive franchise tag to Prescott in March. The sides have until July 15 to reach an agreement, or else the 26-year-old will be forced to play the 2020 season on the $31.4 million tag, which he’s yet to sign.
Prescott made $2.025 million in 2019, the final year of his rookie deal in which he finished second in the league with 4,902 passing yards, one short of tying the single-season franchise record held by Tony Romo.
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Cowboys Convinced Dak Extension Will ‘Get Done’
Despite what Dez Bryant thinks, Andy Dalton’s arrival in Dallas and Prescott’s lack of a long-term contract resolution are not mutually exclusive.
“Obviously, it has no bearing on Dak,” Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said Wednesday on 105.3 The Fan, via ESPN’s Ed Werder. “Dak is the quarterback of our franchise now, and for many years to come. We’ve gotta get his contract—we’ve gotta get over that hurdle. But we’ll do it, it’ll ultimately get done.”
These days, as talks between Prescott and the club are moving at a glacial pace, Jones is preaching positivity. Unlike his father, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who stated last month there’s no time frame to hammer out the megadeal, Stephen “totally believes” the sides will strike an accord at “the right number.”
“No one thinks more of Dak Prescott than Jerry Jones and myself. I know [coach] Mike [McCarthy], when he signed on, part of why he signed on was Dak Prescott. It’s just getting it done,” Jones said on a recent episode of SportsCenter, via The Athletic and Bleacher Report. The bigger these deals get, Jerry and I have always found that to be the case in business, the bigger the dollars get, the harder they get. We believe in our track record of getting players signed. I totally believe we’ll get Dak signed at the right number that’s good for Dak, good for the Cowboys, good for this team. And I think at the end of the day, the fact that we’re getting some nice hype for our draft, I think he’s going to want to get in here and get with these players, whether it’s CeeDee Lamb or anyone else. He wants to win.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL