As expected, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott signed his $31.4 million exclusive franchise tag on Monday. He’s officially entrenched as the team’s starting signal-caller for 2020, not that there was much doubt.
The two-time Pro Bowl passer also is cemented, for now, as the highest-paid player in single-season franchise history, Mike Fisher of SI.com noted. Prescott, barring a long-term contract, will pocket the aforementioned $34.1 million — fully guaranteed — while attempting to secure a deal that could make him the richest player in NFL history.
Of course, as Fisher points out, that deal obviously will feature the most lucrative checks that owner Jerry Jones has ever written. So, regardless, Prescott is bound for the record books entering his fifth season.
As are the Cowboys, the league’s only club to roster three players (Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper) who are scheduled to earn at least $20 million in 2020, per ESPN Stats & Information.
Lawrence, who inked a five-year, $105 million extension last year, will pull in $21 million for the upcoming campaign. Cooper, handed a five-year, $100 million contract earlier this offseason, will net $20 million.
Dallas has roughly $11.25 million in available salary cap space, per OverTheCap.com.
The club stands to benefit from Prescott’s potential multi-year megadeal, as it’d allow them to spread out what should be colossal future cap charges and, in the short term, lower his $31.4 million hit.
Which ties up a significant chunk of the Cowboys’ cap allotment at a time of great uncertainty; the organization is projected to lose a league-high $621 million in stadium revenue if the upcoming season is played without fans in the stands. Teams across the sport are bracing for the inevitability that COVID-19 will impact how much money can be spent on players, and who they should spend it on.
The Cowboys know Prescott holds a fair bit of leverage in ongoing contract talks. If tagged again in 2021, he must be given a 20 percent increase in pay — approximately $37.7 million — per the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This, assuming he doesn’t eventually receive his windfall from the Joneses.
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Dak, Dallas Not Close to Agreement
In reporting that Prescott formally put pen to paper, NFL Network Ian Rapoport’s brought along some cold water, reminding that the sides “aren’t close” to a long-term pact. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler passed along the same word, adding length and value remain the biggest “sticking points” as the July 15 deadline looms.
Dak Prescott signing his $31.4-million franchise tag restarts the clock on a long-term deal, but there haven't been any new developments on that front for a while, with length of contract and money still sticking points. Expecting this one to press up against July 15 deadline.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 22, 2020
Rapoport and Fowler essentially echoed what ESPN’s Ed Werder reported Sunday, after news broke of Prescott’s intention to sign his tag. Sources close to the situation told Werder it wasn’t “an indication that a long-term agreement is close.”
One source also described to Werder how Dallas feels pressured to lock down Prescott while simultaneously navigating around potential salary cap-related pitfalls stemming from the coronavirus and estimates of its financial ramifications on the sport in 2020.
“Their problem is the second year, because this salary cap is going to crash unless there’s an intermediate deal,” said the source. “They would have to gut their team to keep him then. So there’s even more incentive for the Cowboys to do a long-term deal with Dak because of the coronavirus and where the cap might be next year.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL