As expected, the sides did not strike a long-term deal ahead of Wednesday’s 3 p.m. CT deadline, putting to bed fruitless, oft-stalled negotiations, with Prescott eschewing the Cowboys’ last reported offer: a five-year deal worth between $33-35 million annually and more than $100 million in guarantees.
By rejecting the proposal, the two-time Pro Bowl passer essentially chooses to bet on himself. He’ll earn a fully-guaranteed $31.4 million for the 2020 campaign, the cost of his exclusive franchise tag which he signed last month.
Prescott is the eighth QB since 1993 to receive the tag and will become just the third to play a regular-season on the one-year tender. The other two — Drew Brees in 2005 and Kirk Cousins in 2016 and 2017 — defected to new teams the following offseason, according to NFL Research.
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What Went Wrong
Length, not necessarily total value, was the primary culprit in failed talks. Prescott, 26, preferred to tie his pact to the NFL’s ever-increasing revenue streams and cash in again at 30, while the Cowboys held firm for a five-year commitment, standard for in-house extensions.
The front office didn’t budge from its offer or cave to Dak’s demands. There also were significant communication gaps, suggesting an agreement was never imminent. Per Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, agent Todd France and the Cowboys hadn’t held meaningful discussions since March. ESPN’s Ed Werder claims the parties’ most recent communication was on June 22.
On Tuesday, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport furthered what became a popular refrain over the past several hours, that “no further talks are scheduled” as player and team were “dug in” to their respective positions.
ESPN’s Todd Archer reported Monday that “more urgency in getting a deal done” was expected — but not achieved.
According to Hill, the Cowboys were willing to pay Prescott in excess of $34 million per year with $110 million guaranteed. Still, less than what Dak was willing to accept as QB contracts continue skyrocketing to uncharted heights.
Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, fresh off his half-billion-dollar windfall, currently leads the league in average per-year salary ($45 million), followed by Seattle’s Russell Wilson ($35M), Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger ($34M), and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers ($33.5M).
What Happens Next
Prescott will rank as the NFL’s seventh-highest-paid QB this season, which may seem like a loss for his camp. But, looking ahead, the 2016 fourth-round pick is sitting in the driver’s seat, holding all the proverbial cards.
In a worst-case scenario, if tagged again next March, he would collect another $37.7 million. So he might clear roughly $71 million, guaranteed, before possibly testing the free-agent market in 2022 — still only 28 years old.
Even better for Prescott, the $37.7M figure will represent the absolute floor in future negotiations, especially with Deshaun Watson yet to cash in (and perhaps cross the $40M threshold, joining Mahomes). The Cowboys probably would need to offer at least $38 million annually on a long-term deal, assuming they intend to retain him.
If untagged in 2021, Prescott will reach unrestricted free agency where a desperate but cap-flush team assuredly coughs up the money he’s so desperately seeking, commensurate to what he believes his value is.
There’s a very real chance this marks the beginning of the end of the Dak Prescott era in Dallas. Regardless, this botched negotiation should go down as an unalterable blemish on Jerry Jones’ track record, one of the worst of his tenure.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL