Forget the franchise tag. The Dallas Cowboys (reportedly) mean business.
Rather than engaging in protracted, deja-vu negotiations with Dak Prescott, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Cowboys want to sign the cornerstone quarterback to a long-term contract “now.”
Rapoport explains, however, that Prescott’s camp holds a majority of the leverage as the 27-year-old, despite the hideous ankle injury he suffered last October, is guaranteed to make no less than $37.7 million for 2021 — the cost of the exclusive franchise tag and a monstrous cap number the Cowboys hope to lessen.
“The job of an agent is to get the best deal for his player, and letting it play out like this certainly will result in Dak Prescott making a lot more money than he would’ve had the Cowboys and Prescott agreed to a contract before last season. Probably would have been in the low-30 [millions per year] then. Now looking up around probably $40 million [per year],” Rapoport said Tuesday.
“The most significant thing that is going on here, as far as my understanding, is the Cowboys want to get this done now. The reason why that’s significant is obviously Dak Prescott is coming off major surgery from a serious ankle injury. The fact that they are confident enough in his rehab to do a big-time, long-term deal now speaks very well to how he’s coming along, his future, and how badly they not just want — but need — him to become the franchise quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys for the foreseeable future.”
The window to apply the franchise tag opened Tuesday and will close March 9. If tendered, the Cowboys and Prescott would then have until July 15 to work out a long-term pact or opt to play the season on the tag.
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Rapoport claimed Monday, in completely non-breaking news, that Prescott can “expect” to be tagged for a second straight offseason “except if the Cowboys are able to do a long-term deal.”
“And my understanding, is the Cowboys do want to work out a long-term deal with Prescott before they have to tag him,” Rapoport said. “They are confident in his recovery to do that.”
Prescott is a little more than four months removed from surgery to repair a compound fracture and dislocation in his right ankle. He was expected to miss 4-6 months, putting him on track to be ready for spring practices.
The Cowboys currently own $27.905 million in available cap room, per Spotrac.com, which also projected Prescott to land a four-year, $147.28 million contract — $36.8 million annually — in free agency. The two-time Pro Bowl passer reportedly rejected a proposal last year worth around $34.5 million annually with $110 million guaranteed.
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Optimism for Agreement
ESPN’s Todd Archer reported Monday that Dallas has held “discussions, if not actual negotiations” with Prescott’s agent, Todd France, who could score his client an ever-elusive long-term pact by March 9, the final day to use the 2021 tag.
“Between Tuesday and March 9, the Cowboys hope to work out a long-term deal with Prescott. There have been discussions – if not actual negotiations – with Prescott’s rep. Without a long-term deal by March 9, the next deadline to watch is July 15, the final day the sides can reach an agreement or else Prescott has [to] play the season on the tag,” Archer wrote.
At this point, the reason a contract didn’t foment in 2020 — despite the Cowboys floating several offers — is public knowledge. Prescott held firm for a four-year commitment, allowing him to re-test the market in his early 30s, while the organization wanted a five-year arrangement to spread out the massive salary-cap hits.
Archer recently reported that the sides remain deadlocked on the length of a prospective deal. But he believes there’s middle ground to be found: a six-year agreement that voids to four years.
“Both sides can then claim a win,” Archer wrote. “The Cowboys can get their salary-cap flexibility in the first two seasons of the deal when teams will be paying somewhat of a price because of the coronavirus pandemic (the NFL’s salary cap is projected to be down, at roughly $180 million for the next year), and Prescott can be back on the market in 2025.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL