The Cowboys are focused on getting quarterback Dak Prescott signed to a new deal before the July 15 deadline for finalizing multi-year contracts with franchise-tagged players. And regardless of whatever has been said or speculated or reported or whatever regarding the negotiations, only two things matter at this point.
First, neither side is going to approach its bottom-line position before the July 15 deadline approaches. That’s a fundamental principle of negotiation; let the deadline drive the process. Any chatter regarding positions at this point doesn’t matter. On or about July 15, the two sides will get down to business.
Second, whether a long-term deal gets done depends on one thing and one thing only: Whether the Cowboys will make Dak Prescott an offer that will get him to trade in his contractual rights without a new deal.
It’s not about the current quarterback market. It’s not about where the quarterback market may be heading. It’s not about whether the cap will go up or down next year. It’s about the gigantic bird perched in Dak’s hand, a bird that has grown morbidly obese on the seeds of delay.
By not swooping in and making Prescott an offer he couldn’t refuse the moment he became eligible for a second contract in early 2019, his leverage grew and grew and grew and now he has more of it than any quarterback in league history.
For starters, he’ll make $31.4 million this year under the exclusive version of the franchise tag, a tag that Stephen Jones told #PFTPM the team absolutely would not rescind. Dak can, if he so chooses, skip all of training camp and the preseason and still make the full $31.4 million.
Come 2021, and absent a long-term deal, Dak will get a 20-percent raise under the franchise tag. That’s another $37.68 million.
Sure, there’s a chance he’ll get injured or he’ll not perform well enough in 2020 to justify a second tag. If so, he’ll have the $31.4 million for one year of service, his endorsement money, and any insurance proceeds. He’ll also have a free and clear shot at the open market.
But if he’s tagged again (the same 20-percent raise applies even if the team uses the transition tag in 2021), Dak would get $37.68 million. That’s $69.08 million for two years of football. Thus, that’s the obvious starting point for a long-term contract — $69.08 million for 2020 and 2021, fully guaranteed.
Then comes 2022, when Dak either gets a 44-percent raise under the third franchise tag ($54.259 million), a 20-percent raise under the transition tag ($45.216 million), or Kirk Cousins-style unrestricted free agency. So what will the Cowboys offer to Dak beyond $69.08 million over two years to simulate his rights under the third season of a year-to-year approach? And will Dak take it?
Then comes year four and perhaps year five. What would the Cowboys offer for 2023 and 2024 in order to get Dak to trade in his current arrangement?
Ultimately, that’s the question. The Cowboys essentially are buying Dak’s rights under the franchise tag in 2020, 2021, and 2022. What’s the price on those rights?
Only Dak knows the answer to that question, and any numbers that may or may not get thrown around between Memorial Day and Independence Day don’t matter. Once the Roman candles fizzle, nut-cutting time arrives, and the Cowboys either will or won’t purchase from Dak the unprecedented leverage he currently holds.