Sunday afternoon brought our first update on the Dak Prescott-Dallas Cowboys negotiations in quite some time when the news leaked that Prescott planned to sign the franchise tag that will pay him $31.4 million in 2020 if a long-term deal can't be reached. This isn't a huge surprise but is a big disappointment to those hoping for a protracted and ugly contract dispute between America's Team and its star quarterback. Or the few remaining Andy Dalton fans. Whether or not the two sides can agree to a new contract, Prescott will be suiting up for Dallas in 2020.
Adam Schefter jumped on Get Up today to discuss the ramifications of Prescott's decision to sign the tag three weeks before he technically has to. Given the deadline to sign is July 15, one might figure he's losing leverage with his intentions hitting the news cycle this early, but Schefter argues otherwise. He believes Prescott now holds more leverage than ever.
"I think it starts the clock on Dak's leverage. He's got the leverage in my mind. There aren't many quarterbacks that wind up with the franchise tag. There aren't many quarterbacks who wind up playing with the franchise tag. He's scheduled to make $31.4 million this season. If the two sides cannot get a long-term deal worked out by July 15 and Dak continues to insist he wants a four-year deal and the Cowboys want a five-year deal, neither side willing to budge, and they have to franchise him again next year when the cap could be flat or down due to the lack of attendance and the lower revenues? That means his franchise figure next year would be $37.7 million when the cap is flat or down. That could be crippling to a Cowboys cap where they're already paying Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper and some of the offensive linemen," said Schefter. "Then the year after, if we're going to extrapolate even more, his franchise figure for that year would be $54.4 million. So unless Dallas signs him to a long-term deal, Dak is just going to continue to make more and more money... But for the time being, Dak is locked into this year at $31.4 million and if you wanted to buy stock in a business, you'd want to buy stock in the business of Dak Prescott."
The way Schefter frames it, the Cowboys have more incentive to get a long-term deal done than Prescott unless they're willing to let him walk after one year on the tag. That doesn't seem likely, given that uncertainty is at a premium right now and Prescott is, at his worst, a league-average quarterback. With all the money Dallas has tied up in their offense, hoping they find someone to replace Prescott rather than bite the bullet and give him top-tier quarterback money is a leap of faith I don't see Jerry Jones taking.
Schefter's points about the salary cap next year are also interesting and shine a new light on the importance of this negotiation in particular. Normally, we could rest assured the cap would raise in 2021, but that's a long shot right now. At best it will remain where it is. No relief will be coming for Dallas in that department anytime soon. Prescott's cap hit won't be low with a new contract, but it will definitely be less than the $31.4 million coming their way in 2020 if he plays on the franchise tag.
Normally, Prescott's best path would be playing his cards close to his chest. But times are anything but normal, and by revealing his intentions to sign the tag, Prescott is trying to force the Cowboys' hand as soon as possible.