The deadline for NFL teams to reach long-term agreements with franchise-tagged players is Tuesday, and the Dallas Cowboys are still dragging their feet on Dak Prescott.
Not only have the two sides been unable to find common ground, but according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the Cowboys and Prescott are not even scheduled to speak again before the deadline.
Apparently, the hold-up is over an extra year in the deal. Prescott wants four years; Dallas wants five. That may not seem like a big deal, but clearly, Prescott wants the flexibility, and the Cowboys want the security.
Neither side is budging, and this comes in the wake of Patrick Mahomes landing a monstrous 10-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs last week.
So what exactly is going on here? Why has it been so difficult for Dallas and Prescott to come to terms?
Negotiations began last offseason, and here we are, a year later, and they still haven’t gotten anywhere. As of right now, Prescott is slated to play out 2020 under the franchise tag. In that scenario, he would make $31.4 million, and the Cowboys would not be able to resume contract discussions until January. Dallas could elect to tag him again in 2021, but if Jerry Jones does that, Prescott would earn a hefty $37.7 million, which is probably a bit more than the Cowboys want to pay him annually.
Prescott is coming off of a 2019 campaign in which he threw for 4,902 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions while completing 65.1 percent of his passes and posting a passer rating of 99.7. Yes, Dallas missed the playoffs, and while Prescott deserves some blame as the quarterback, it was hardly his fault.
Based on those numbers and the fact that Prescott is just 26 years old (he turns 27 in a couple of weeks), you would think the Cowboys would jump at the chance to lock him up. Franchise quarterbacks are incredibly difficult to find, and while the jury may still be out on Prescott in that regard, his current trajectory is pretty promising.
But maybe Dallas thinks otherwise? Why else would the Cowboys be so hesitant to simply give Prescott what he wants?
While I understand that Jones and Co. would prefer to have that extra year of stability, four years is still four years. Lock him up now, and you can revisit another contract down the line.
The Cowboys’ reluctance to simply give in to Prescott’s demands and to risk playing out the 2020 season with a disgruntled quarterback may be a sign that they aren’t entirely sold on Dak for the future.
Of course, that is just my theory. No one knows if that is actually true, but why else would Dallas be so stubborn and so ambivalent throughout these contract discussions?
Remember: it was Jones himself who once said that “I overpaid for my biggest successes every time.” Ironically enough, that quote came back in 2016, when Jones expressed regret for not trading up for Paxton Lynch in the second round of the NFL Draft and instead taking Prescott in the fourth round. But it is still appropriate here.
Actually, I’m not even sure the Cowboys would even be overpaying for Prescott given the current climate of the quarterback market. Jared Goff will earn $33.5 million in 2020. Kirk Cousins will get $33 million. Carson Wentz is slated to make $32 million. Prescott is as good—if not better—than all three of those signal-callers.
Now, we don’t know what Dallas’ offer to Prescott has been. Chris Simms of NBC Sports reported a couple of months ago that Prescott turned down a five-year, $175 million offer, which would have put him at $35 million a year. Apparently, Prescott wanted $45 million for that fifth year, which would have turned the deal into a five-year, $185 million pact.
If that is still the case and Prescott is asking for more money than Russell Wilson, who is making $35 million annually, then yes; Dallas’ trepidation is founded. But is it really worth potentially losing a franchise quarterback over $10 million?
Something tells me that if Jones was 100 percent sold on Prescott moving forward, he wouldn’t have any problem giving Prescott the extra $10 million. This is Jerry Jones we are talking about here. He has never been shy about opening up his wallet.
Perhaps he is just aiming for more financial flexibility in terms of having enough money left in the till to supply Prescott with the appropriate talent on both sides of the ball. But again, I don’t think that would be too much of an issue if Jones was confident that Dak was “the guy” for the future.
Think about it: Jones has taken care of everyone else. Ezekiel Elliott. Amari Cooper. Jaylon Smith. DeMarcus Lawrence. But somehow, he hasn’t taken care of the most important position? Something is off here.
I have been on the record saying that the Cowboys should just bite the bullet and give Prescott what he wants. It is very tough to find a franchise quarterback. I also don’t think people are aware of the fact that you don’t have to be Mahomes or Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers to be considered a franchise guy. Sometimes, just being good is good enough, and Prescott is certainly good and may very well be knocking on the door of elite.
Maybe the Cowboys want to take a wait-and-see approach and watch how Prescott performs in 2020 before locking themselves into any long-term decisions. That’s fine. But they are also taking a pretty big risk if they are doing that because if Prescott has a big year, his price tag will only increase.
At its core, I really think this comes down to Dallas not knowing for sure if Prescott is capable of leading the club to a Super Bowl. I don’t think any dollar amount would prevent Jones from inking Prescott if he thought without a shadow of a doubt the Cowboys could win with him.
What I don’t like is the potential problems this could cause during the regular season. Dallas’ 2019 campaign was sabotaged largely due to a poor locker-room dynamic, and if Prescott is discontented going into 2020, the same thing could happen.
No one knows for sure exactly what is going on behind closed doors, but I don’t think anyone can doubt how truly intriguing—and somewhat mystifying—this situation truly is.