Negotiations between Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys continue in earnest as the quarterback attempts to lock down long-term security at the highest rate possible and the franchise attempts to lower his price tag down to what they feel is a reasonable level. If all else fails, Prescott will likely play on the franchise tag yet again in 2021 with his salary increasing 20 percent to a hefty $37.1 million. That road would lead to another whole offseason of the same rumors we heard last year and surely will hear this year.
The latest report from Jane Slater suggested Prescott is looking to get paid "right behind" Patrick Mahomes, which would essentially reset the market rate for top-flight quarterbacks. Again. By that metric, he wants a bigger deal than either Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson signed last offseason. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, however, doesn't believe the current market value for franchise QBs matters in the slightest.
Florio is essentially saying that Prescott is going to get paid no matter what. It's simply a matter of who is doing the paying.
The Cowboys do not have an easy choice. They could capitulate to whatever Prescott's current salary demands are, which would be a shorter contract in the realm of $40 million per season and guaranteed money nearing or surpassing $100 million. That is a lot of money for a team that already has a handful of huge contracts on the books and for a quarterback coming off a season-ending injury. But what other option do they have?
Replacing Prescott is not as simple as tagging-and-trading him to the Seahawks for Wilson or the Texans for Watson. Dallas has the No. 10 overall pick in this year's draft, just out of range for the best QB prospects in this year's draft. The free agent market doesn't have anyone with the same ceiling as Prescott. Dallas is built to win now and Prescott is their only real path to contending. Locking him down to a long-term deal this offseason would be ideal, but they can afford to franchise-tag him again and pay him $37 million for 2021.
What they can't do is franchise-tag him for a third year in a row if they can't agree to a deal this offseason or next. As Florio points out, doing so would cost the Cowboys $54 million. Even if the cap skyrockets next year as the revenue stream reverts back to something resembling normal with (hopefully) more fans in stands by the fall, Dallas can't afford to pay one guy $54 million.
So their choices are as follows: sign Prescott to a deal this offseason, sign Prescott to a deal next offseason, or let him walk next offseason for nothing because they can't tag him again. That's an uncomplicated place of leverage for Prescott and his agents. He'll get more than market value if he hits free agency because players of his caliber at that position at that age are never, ever free agents. The money is coming his way no matter what.
The only risk for Prescott is what unfolded last year. He gets tagged, makes an enormous amount of money, but gets hurt and potentially tanks his value. If he broke that same ankle again in 2021, who knows what he would look like? Prescott would have made more than $70 million between the two franchise tags for his troubles if that does happen, but that is not the $100 million-plus he could earn if he signs on the dotted line.
Prescott is getting paid. The Cowboys won't bend as of now to giving him what he wants. But at some point both sides will reach an impasse, where Prescott has to decide how big of a risk he wants to take in 2021 and the Cowboys have to evaluate the likelihood of Prescott heading elsewhere and leaving them with nothing but empty wallets for their troubles. That is where the future of the franchise will be determined.