For now, the main concern regarding Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is his health. Before too long, however, the focal point once again will become his contract.
The options moving forward are simple, even if the selection of one will hardly be. Prescott will collect the balance of his $31.4 million franchise-tag salary for 2020. After the season ends, that’s when the next phase begins.
The Cowboys will have until the closing of the two-week franchise-tag period in late February/early March to sign Dak to a long-term deal or to apply the franchise tag again. By rule, Prescott will be entitled to a 20-percent raise over his 2020 pay, unreduced by his injury or any other factor.
That’s $37.68 million, in a year that could see the salary cap dip to $175 million — making Dak’s cap number more than 21.5 percent of the salary cap.
The question becomes whether the Cowboys would use the franchise tag if a long-term deal can’t be struck with Dak before the deadline for using it. If there’s no long-term deal, then Dak would become a free agent in March.
Will he be medically cleared in March? Will there be complications or setbacks? These are all factors that will influence whether and to what extent the tag will be in play. (The transition tag, which guarantees only a right to match, would also require a 20-percent raise.)
This could prompt Dak and the Cowboys to work out a deal that takes his health into account. Dak, however, could decide to let things play out, forcing the Cowboys to take the demand for his services elsewhere into account, if they chose not to tag him.
Really, the best way to determine Dak’s market value would be to let him hit the market. That may happen by March. And it could be that someone else may decide to take a chance on a player who may not be 100 percent but who is worth assuming the risk that it may take some time, because his on-field skills and his off-field value more than justifies it.
From the Jets to the Broncos (maybe) to the Jaguars to the Colts to the Lions to the Giants to Washington to the Eagles to the Falcons to the Saints (maybe) to the Buccaneers (maybe) to the 49ers, plenty of other teams will be looking for quarterbacks and would be foolish to not consider making a run at Dak, if the Cowboys fail (again) to sign him and allow him (finally) to see what the market will bear for his services.