One week from today, the window closes on the ability of the Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott to execute a long-term deal in 2020. Given that negotiations of this nature tend to accelerate as a deadline approaches, the time has come for the team and the player to move toward their respective bottom lines.
So what is the bottom line? As previously explained, the Cowboys need to make Prescott an offer that persuades him to give up the bird in the hand. That bird is big. Prescott gets $31.4 million this year, fully guaranteed. If tagged in 2021, he gets $37.68 million, fully guaranteed. That’s $69.08 million for two years.
Then comes 2022, when Dak gets a 20-percent bump if the Cowboys use the transition tag ($45.2 million) and a whopping 44-percent bump if the franchise tag is used a third time ($54.25 million). Alternatively, the open market will determine Dak’s value in 2022.
Whatever the Cowboys offer will be balanced against Prescott’s current rights — rights that flow directly from the team’s decision to keep him from becoming a free agent in March by applying the exclusive franchise tender.
When assessing the best offer from the team, nothing else matters. Other quarterback contracts don’t matter. It’s $69.08 million over two years plus either $45.2 million or $54.25 million for a third year or whatever he can get as a free agent. If tagged in 2022, that’s a three-year cash flow of $114.28 million or $123.33 million with, most likely, a trip to the open market in 2023.
It’s a tremendous amount of leverage, leverage that Dak has earned by rejecting prior offers, betting on himself, and finishing a fourth-round rookie deal that paid him a paltry $2 million in 2019.
How much leverage is it? Under the franchise-tag approach, Prescott will make nearly three times more than Patrick Mahomes in 2020. Through 2021, Prescott’s $69.08 million more than doubles Mahomes’ $33.625 million. Through 2022, Prescott’s $114.28 million (if transition tagged) or $123.33 million (if franchise tagged) dwarfs Mahomes’ $63.07 million.
Most assume when they see the “Half Billion Dollars!” headline that any other quarterback would pounce on the Mahomes offer. Even without a long-term deal, Prescott’s situation for the next three years is clearly better than Mahomes’ situation, if Prescott is willing to continue to carry the year-to-year injury risk. (He’s never missed a game, and he surely has a significant amount of disability insurance.)
Thus, while the Cowboys may be tempted to copy the Mahomes contract verbatim and extend it to Prescott, Prescott would be crazy to accept it. Which underscores the tremendous amount of leverage that Prescott has, thanks to the fact that the Cowboys didn’t sign him to a long-term deal in 2019 and did apply the highest level of the franchise tag to Prescott in early 2020.
Which brings it back to the original point. To get a long-term deal in place, the Cowboys have to offer Prescott something that he regards as better than his current status. His current status, especially in comparison to the greatest . . . deal . . . ever!, is incredibly strong.