Like a long-time boyfriend wavering on whether or not to buy an engagement ring, the Cowboys continue to play hardball with Dak Prescott in contract negotiations. We're in year two of this saga and it's fair to wonder whether Jerry Jones and Co. will ever end the speculation and finally put a ring on his finger.
With no long-term commitment yet in place, and the prospect of the Cowboys needing to use the franchise tag on Prescott for the second straight year, the natural conversation turns to what's next for the Cowboys if Prescott moves on at some point in the near future. Longtime Cowboys reporter Ed Werder has arrived at that place and said the Cowboys need to consider selecting a quarterback with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft...even if they franchise tag Prescott again!
The 2021 NFL Draft features five quarterbacks expected to go in the first round -- Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones. Most mock drafts have the first four going in the first 10 picks and Jones has been moving up draft boards recently too. So for Werder's idea to make sense, either Fields, Lance or Jones would have to unexpected fall to the Cowboys at No. 10 (Lawrence and Wilson are consensus Top 3 picks) or the Cowboys would have to move up.
It's an interesting idea for two reasons. First, the Cowboys cap space isn't currently great in 2021 (just over $27 million available) or 2022 ($63 million). Prescott will get around $40 million annually according to Ian Rapoport, which would make their cap situation even worse, whereas a rookie contract is much more cap-friendly.
Second, if the Cowboys don't believe Prescott is the guy to lead them long term (I have no idea why they would, but their lack of commitment thus far indicates that might be the case), this is their chance to draft his replacement but not force a rookie to start right away. Prescott can play in 2021 and then the rookie takes over after that. Of course, the success of that thinking assumes the replacement is as good a quarterback as Prescott, which is anything but certain.
The Cowboys have until March 9 to place the franchise tag on Prescott or sign him to a long-term extension. If they don't franchise tag him, Prescott becomes a free agent and can sign with any team. If they do tag him, the sides can work on a long-term deal until July. If a deal isn't reached by the middle of that month, Prescott will play on the franchise tag for a second straight year. After that, he would again be a free agent in 2022 and likely want out given the Cowboys' lack of commitment.
Jerry Jones has said he wants Prescott to be the Cowboys quarterback long term, but then throws caveats like it has to work for both sides. Prescott, from his end, has maintained his desire to stay in Dallas, though it's clear he's not taking a discount or a deal would have been done last year. It's obvious both sides are dug in and the only path forward is for one to make a concession. Or perhaps the Cowboys roll the dice and draft Prescott's successor. It's an interesting idea and at this point seems plausible given the Cowboys haven't shown up to the altar to marry Prescott yet.