Can the Franchise Tag Be Dak Prescott's Friend?

Liam McKeone
Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott / Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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The NFL Draft has come and gone, and Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have yet to reach a long-term contract extension. As things stand, Dallas franchise-tagged Prescott, but the latter has yet to sign the tag, and probably will not do so until it's absolutely clear that he and the team cannot compromise. Even then, he may not sign it.

From several angles, the franchise tag is a huge advantage for teams over the players. While it doesn't come cheap, it grants franchises the ability to essentially force a star player to stick around town for another year, even if he really does not want to/wants long-term financial security. Kirk Cousins is perhaps the most infamous example of a franchise abusing the tag to keep a player around far longer than he seemed to want to. So if anybody understands the positives and negatives of the franchise tag, it's Cousins. Earlier this week, he hopped on ESPN to say that the franchise tag can actually be Prescott's friend instead of an obstacle to what he wants (starting at the 3:10 mark):

"Anybody who I run into who's been franchise-tagged, [the Vikings] have one this year in Anthony Harris, I believe the franchise tag can be your friend. It enables you to be well-compensated, and deservedly so, for the upcoming season," said Cousins. "I always say, 'The cream will rise to the top.' If you're good enough, the cream is going to rise to the top and you're going to get compensated the way you want to. Sometimes it doesn't happen as quickly as you would like, but if you deserve it and you earned it then it's going to happen."

It did indeed happen for Cousins, who was franchise-tagged in consecutive years by Washington and made nearly $45 million for his troubles over two seasons. He then went and signed a fully-guaranteed three-year deal with Minnesota worth $84 million. Cousins played well and got what he wanted, eventually.

But not everything was in his control, just like how not everything is under Prescott's control. Cousins may have had something different to say if he got hurt during one of his franchise-tagged years that tanked his immediate worth and potentially lowered it in the long run, and that's really what Prescott is fighting for-- security. While he'd make $26 million this season if he played on the franchise tag and slightly more if he played under the tag in 2021. All it takes is one false step or one late hit for Prescott to lose most of the leverage he currently has over the Cowboys.

The Cousins situation is the platonic ideal for franchise tags from a player's perspective. If a team wants to play hardball, it'll cost them a lot of money, and they'll eventually lose their guy to a team willing to grant the years and money asked for by the player. But he's the exception, not the rule.

Can the franchise tag be Prescott's friend? Absolutely. He could play under the tag in 2020, ball out, and Dallas has even less leverage in 2021 than they do now. But given the variety of things that could go wrong, both within Prescott's control and outside of it, the tag isn't his friend right now. He'll get his money one way or the other in 2020, but as it stands, the tag is the biggest detriment to Prescott getting anything past this season.

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