If the Dallas Cowboys want Dak Prescott to be their franchise quarterback for years to come, time is running out. Set to enter the second consecutive offseason with his star passer scheduled to hit free agency, Jerry Jones’ hopes of keeping Prescott in Texas might be taking a hit.
Jones and the Cowboys have insisted for the past two years that Prescott is their future. Even after he suffered a gruesome ankle fracture, the team’s owner expressed his commitment to the star quarterback. With the NFL offseason set to begin, though, Dallas finds itself in the same position as last year and things could get even more complicated moving forward.
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According to ESPN, Prescott and the Cowboys are not close on a long-term contract. They were prevented from negotiating with Prescott during the regular season, due to league rules regarding the franchise tag, but the negotiating window reopened after Week 17. Despite over a month since discussions could reopen, progress is far away.
A lack of communication and a desire for a fifth year in a long-term deal have largely prevented the Cowboys from reaching a deal. Prescott wants a four-year contract and was seeking to make more than $35 million annually under any agreement. Discussions with Dallas were slow last offseason, leading to the organization applying the franchise tag. The two sides would go months without negotiations up until the extension deadline for franchise-tagged players approached.
Both sides tried to make a deal happen before July 15, but couldn’t bridge the gap. The organization received overwhelming criticism from NFL fans and agents for failing to take advantage of the negotiating window and not signing Prescott to a long-term contract. Prescott ultimately signed the franchise tag and while he went down with a season-ending ankle fracture in Week 5, his absence also proved how badly this team needs him moving forward.
The Cowboys are still reportedly committed to their 27-year-old quarterback, but they’ve put themselves in a rough position. Even Jerry Jones has admitted that Prescott has all the leverage in contract talks. So, for as much as he wants to remain the leader of this team, he will likely use that power to land an even bigger contract than he proposed last offseason.
Applying the franchise tag to Prescott is the Cowboys’ last resort, but the move is on the table. He earned $31.4 million last season, all of it guaranteed, and his salary will climb higher next season. Even with the 2021 NFL salary cap dropping, a second consecutive tag means he making $37.7 million.
A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Prescott would have no trouble finding an even larger annual salary in free agency. He wouldn’t reach Patrick Mahomes’ record-setting deal, but teams would be more than comfortable approaching the $39 million average annual value Deshaun Watson signed for last season. As a result, Dallas will need to apply the tag if both sides can’t agree on a long-term deal. If that happens, though, Prescott would be eligible for free agency in 2022 and using the exclusive tag for the third time is out of the question.
This means that any contract extension begins at $38-plus million. Prescott would be doing Dallas a favor by signing this offseason, allowing the team to spread out the money it owes him over multiple years and lowering his 2021 cap hit.
Dak Prescott will be back with the Dallas Cowboys next season, it’s close to a guarantee. But if he plays under the franchise tag, it might be his last year with the team.