Cowboys plan to use exclusive tag on Dak Prescott

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For those who have a lifetime subscription to PFT (i.e., anyone), the question of whether the Cowboys will use the non-exclusive or exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Dak Prescott first emerged in October. With March approaching, the Cowboys apparently have made their choice.

Via Ian Rapoport of the NFL, the Cowboys will apply the exclusive version of the tag to Prescott. While that limits Prescott’s ability to potentially leave the Cowboys, it also gives him considerably more leverage in talks on a long-term contract.

The non-exclusive tag, which provides a theoretical path to a new city (but entails a pair of first-round picks as compensation), likely will be in the range of $27 million for 2020. The exclusive version will come from the average of the five highest-paid quarterbacks in 2020, based on cap number.

That average will be subject to change, as quarterbacks sign new contracts and as quarterbacks currently under contract restructure their deals to reduce cap numbers. Ultimately, the number locks in at the end of the restricted free agency signing period, in April.

Currently, the five highest-paid quarterbacks based on 2020 cap number are Rams quarterback Jared Goff ($36 million), Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ($33.5 million), Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins ($31 million), Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson ($31 million), and 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ($26.6 million). That’s an average of $31.62 million, and it could go up or down in the coming weeks.

Assuming it stays the same for present purposes, Dak can choose to continue to refuse long-term offers from the Cowboys, eventually sign the tender (he can wait until Labor Day weekend or thereabouts), make $31.62 million this year, and then be in line for a 20-percent raise in 2021. That’s $37.9 million in the second year of the tag.

That’s also an average of $34.7 million over the next two years, and it would set Prescott up for a one-year salary of $54.63 million in 2022 — which likely means that the Cowboys wouldn’t use the franchise tender a third time on Prescott.

The challenge for the Cowboys will be to offer Prescott a long-term deal that causes him to sacrifice his year-to-year earning potential under the exclusive tag and, eventually, the power that he will have. And that’s the only analysis that matters at that point. Market becomes irrelevant. Contracts signed by the likes of Tom Brady and Philip Rivers and Ryan Tannehill become irrelevant. The math relative to the exclusive tag drives the discussion at that point, and the sum and structure will need to be enough to make Dak abandon the ability to put a major squeeze on the Cowboys.

And no one should get mad at Prescott for doing it. The Cowboys could let Prescott become an unrestricted free agent, allowing the market to determine his value. Instead, the team is choosing to exercise its rights under the CBA to keep Prescott in place. That decision unlocks a chess match that gives Prescott some very potent pieces that players often are reluctant to use to their full potential.

Le'Veon Bell did. Kirk Cousins and Trumaine Johnson did. Prescott has done nothing over the past year to suggest that he won’t.

24 responses to “Cowboys plan to use exclusive tag on Dak Prescott

  1. The cowboys should use the non-exclusive tag. Let some other team take him and give them first round picks. I expect he will regress to the mean and not have as good a year as he did last year.

  2. Did the Joneses not pay attention to WAS when they played this chess match with Cousins? This is a losing game for the franchise. Sign him to $40mm AAV now. The number for a long term deal will go up a lot next year and a TON in 2022.

  3. Bad move by the Cowboys. Learn from the Redskins’ mistake. If Prescott is your guy, pay him now. If not, get what value you can for him now. Be decisive! Don’t expect the tag to give you any advantage–it won’t. Waiting only makes the team’s position worse and in the end costs a lot more money.

  4. Tag him this year and draft a QB in April. Next year the leverage will shift back to the Cowboys. I’m a fan of the Dak that wants to be a Cowboy and wants to win a Super Bowl. Not so much a fan of the “me first” version.

  5. Did anybody who brings up his stats ever actually watch the games? Guy could’ve had 6000 yards if he had any kind of accuracy. Most of his stats were garbage stats. Only beat one winning team last year. As a 30 year fan I pray he leaves Dallas. Gonna kill the team for the next half decade with an over inflated contract.

  6. How is a QB with ONE playoff win worth the same contract as QBs with Super Bowl wins? Dak is good, he is not $25 mill a year plus good.

  7. “Trade him”

    Um, they can’t until he either signs the tag or they work out a deal and he has a new contract.

  8. Wow, the haters have it all figured out, and think they know a thing or two about negotiating contracts. How many are employed by NFL teams in this capacity? Right……..

    Leave the negotiating to those who know it the best, and leave your armchairs on the curb. Besides, what Dallas does will be overly scrutinized, and will be put in a negative light regardless of what they ultimately do.

  9. Long term he is better playing under the franchise tag this year. If this new CBA is ratified people are predicting a HUGE bump in the salary cap in 2021. There will be a huge difference in what the Cowboys can offer long term in 2020 vs 2021.

    Do I think the bumps in salary cap should go directly in to QB pockets? No, but i am sure the agents for QBs do.

  10. He’s about the 10th best qb in the NFL. I’d use the transition tag because I find it highly unlikely anyone would offer two 1sts for Dak Prescott.

  11. $31M? He’s not worth that. But go ahead Jerruh. You’ve been making dumb decisions ever since your ego fired Jimmy Johnson. Take that $31M and sign a QB who can actually show up in big games then draft a QB and get rid of Dak. Or pay him $30M+ and be mired in mediocrity for as long as he’s there. Of course they are mired in medicority now because Jerruh is an idiot.

  12. 8-8 is the best he could do last season? with all of that offensive talent even in spite of poor coaching, a $35M QB should be expected to do better – all the balls thrown short into the ground – come on, with games on the line

  13. Jerry just can’t let his grandson Dak go. Prescott has entered the JJ circle, where business sense goes out the window and the feeling of family is strong. I expect Dak to get a 5 year 170 mil contract with 100 of it guaranteed. 8-8 lives on for another half decade!

  14. 8-8 when all that extra money was going to the pieces around him, in the league’s sorriest division. I just don’t get it. Belichick has spent 20 years demonstrating that ruthlessness and lack of sentimentality are how you build a winning team. Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.

  15. I think at some point if your Dak you have to consider the value of a long term contact. What if he gets hurt this year? What if he has a bad season? What if the Cowboys finish with a bad record and can pick in the top 10 of the draft and get a QB? It’s not a lock that Daks number keeps going up

  16. The Cowboys will pay a ton of money to keep as many free agents as possible – to bring back the core players to an 8-8 team. The have made several players (DeMarcus Lawrence, Elliot, Smith, Frederick, Martin) among the highest paid players at their positions to get to 8-8. So they will rely on the draft to improve but their draft history is very suspect. So get ready for more 8-8 or 9-7.

  17. He has shown one interception in each cowboys packers game. And his team has lost with one score difference.
    I would sign Mathew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, case Keenum or even Alex Smith for 1-2 million $ less and team would do better

  18. Hmmmmmm. The haters club is out in force on this one! I think this is a really tough choice. A) go long term and “Goff” the whole thing up (Maybe. Probably not. I like Dak over Goff, but the injury potential thing is a bit nerve wracking, though Dak seems to be built-Ford-tough, more than most others), or at best he’s just “good” and not “great” over time. Or, B) pay him solid under the tag, and see what happens over the next two seasons (still a TON of dough), and as the market resets, or not, adjust then and take your lumps — good or bad. I like B better. If Dak hold’s out, then that get’s a bit more interesting, but we’ll have to see who has the bigger stones at that point. I think he’ll be danged good under the new staff. Lot’s of moving parts on this one.

  19. The Cowboys should use the non-exclusive tag. This let’s Dak go out and see what his value actually is with other teams.

    Hint: I’m willing to bet that it is NOT as much as Dak thinks it is.

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