In this edition of First and 10, Dak Prescott is on the franchise tag. He’s probably a ‘Cowboy for life.’ But there is a scenario that leaves me wondering, ‘What if?’ That an my top 10 Dallas Cowboys stories of the week ...
1) A DAK PRESCOTT SCENARIO THAT’S NAGGING AT ME
Earlier this week the Dallas Cowboys put the franchise tag on quarterback Dak Prescott. Should Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys fail to work out a long-term deal by July 15, then Prescott would make almost $33 million guaranteed this season. Then, the Cowboys and Prescott would have to do it all over again in the 2021 offseason.
In all likelihood, Prescott isn’t going anywhere. The Cowboys have continually said publicly that they’re committed to Prescott for the long-haul. Earlier this week Bri Amaranthus and our Mike Fisher talked a bit about the hold-up on the long-term deal, and it’s really simple when Fish breaks it down for us in this video post at CowboysSI.com.
So, in theory, at some point, the Cowboys and Prescott will agree on a long-term deal. The deal could happen soon, or it could happen right at the deadline, which is when former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant got his long-term deal. Or it might not happen at all in this calendar year.
I’ve watched the NFL as a fan my entire life, and as a beat writer and an analyst since 2004. I’ve seen these situations develop the way you hope. I’ve also seen them deteriorate. And it doesn’t take much, either. Players hate the franchise tag, almost universally, even though it’s guaranteed income at the average of the five highest-paid players at the position. Players want that security, much like the security that wide receiver Amari Cooper got earlier this week. It was A five-year, $100 million deal, but the thing Cooper and his agent like about the deal is the $60 million guaranteed ($40 of it is guaranteed no matter what, with another $20 million guaranteed if Cooper is injured before March of 2022).
Prescott is looking for a deal with a large chunk of guaranteed money. The good news is more teams are front-loading contracts with guaranteed money. So, if Fish is right and it’s just the duration of the contract that is the holdup, then we should see a deal soon.
But … something nags at me. What if this all goes south? What if the Cowboys are, well in the background, hedging their bets? What if we’re sitting here next March having the same conversation? What if they know that’s possible?
Having Prescott under contract for this year isn’t the worst thing in the world, even if some Cowboys fans are plain unhappy with the money. He’s locked in. He’s not going anywhere. And it gives the Cowboys a chance to explore a compelling question for the next month or so:
What IF the Cowboys decide to draft a quarterback in April?
It’s a long shot, of course (you know how Jerry Jones is once he finds a quarterback he likes). But as free agency starts to come together, the Cowboys have protected themselves at some key positions already, most notably defensive tackle and safety. It’s not to say the Cowboys shouldn’t draft those positions come April, but it does give the Cowboys some room to maneuver.
So let’s explore this for a bit. What IF the Cowboys want to make sure they’re protected at the quarterback position beyond this season? Then franchising Prescott is prudent. The Cowboys could do it again in 2021, and if they found the RIGHT quarterback to serve as a understudy, it would give the Cowboys up to two years to develop that heir apparent. When the Cowboys drafted Prescott four years ago, that was the plan — start Tony Romo and give Prescott time to develop. Of course, we all know that plan went south fast. Fortunately, Prescott grew into the job quickly.
To me, there are two wild cards. The first is the contract negotiation between Prescott and the Cowboys. As long as it doesn’t get too contentious, Prescott should get his-long term deal. The second is head coach Mike McCarthy.
McCarthy took the job knowing full well that Prescott would, most likely, be his long-term quarterback. He has said all the right things publicly, as a head coach inheriting a quarterback should. He should have made his peace with that the day he signed up. McCarthy’s history as a head coach is defined by his two quarterbacks in Green Bay — Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. His version of the West Coast offense allowed both to sit in the pocket and pick defenses apart, while sprinkling in mobility to make things happen when plays broke down.
To be clear, I think Prescott could be successful in that type of system (McCarthy is even adapting his playbook to suit Prescott, including adopting current terminology). He’s an accurate passer, completing more than 65 percent of his passes in four seasons. That’s good enough to succeed in McCarthy’s offense. By comparison, Rodgers is a career 64.8 percent passer. And he’s just headed to the Hall of Fame one day.
McCarthy’s ability to adjust his thinking, and his offense, to suit Prescott, should Prescott play this season on the franchise tag, as opposed to a long-term deal, could influence how ‘all-in’ McCarthy might be on Prescott’s long-term success in his offense (though, to be clear, Jerry Jones will have the final word on personnel, being the general manager).
But as I look at this roster I see two quarterbacks that will likely be on the opening day roster — Prescott and Cooper Rush. If you trust Rush to be the quarterback “of the future,” if the need arises, well, so be it. Yes, Clayton Thorsen is on the roster. But while Fish as touted him a bit, I say he’s a practice-squad guy, nothing more.
If you’re gaming this out, there’s a 99-percent chance that Prescott is a Cowboy long term. But what about the one-percent chance? Shouldn’t the Cowboys account for that possibility, the one where talks between Prescott and the Cowboys break down and this becomes a Kirk Cousins type of situation?
The Cowboys should, at least, consider the possibility. And this is an interesting draft for quarterbacks. It’s top-heavy with some Day 2 depth, as noted by Sports Illustrated’s Kevin Hanson.
In this scenario, the Cowboys aren’t going to take a player like LSU’s Joe Burrow, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert or Utah State’s Jordan Love. These are the four quarterbacks Hanson projects as potential first-round picks. You’re actually looking at quarterbacks like Washington’s Jacob Eason, Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. These are the three players that could, potentially, find themselves on an NFL team on Day 2, in the second or third rounds. This could be a potential wheelhouse for the Cowboys to snag a quarterback that could be developed for the next 1-2 years while the Cowboys determine their future with Prescott.
Doing this, of course, would mean sacrificing the use of a Day 2 pick on a potential need on the defensive side of the football (see my 7-round mock drafts below to see just how defensive the Cowboys have been through February and March). But in a scenario where talks break down between Prescott and the Cowboys, in a scenario where the Cowboys expect Prescott to hold out from training camp, in a scenario where Prescott won’t sign a long-term deal until 2021 (if he signs it at all), wouldn’t the Cowboys want to have some kind of a back-up plan?
As fast as things move in the NFL, the Cowboys may have a deal in place with Prescott by the time you read this. But as slow as things move in contract negotiations, we could find ourselves in a protracted battle between the Cowboys and Prescott over money and years.
If so, the Cowboys could be exploring a plan-ahead scenario with a quarterback in THIS DRAFT. And wouldn’t that be a turn of events, as far-fetched as it might seem.
2) MY SEVENTH COWBOYS SI 7-ROUND MOCK DRAFT
Earlier this week I published my SEVENTH Cowboys SI 7-Round Mock Draft. I did this mock on Wednesday evening, after we knew at least some of the moves the Cowboys had made in free agency. How did those moves influence how the mock draft developed?
Check out the results of this mock draft here. And, next week, when I do Mock Draft No. 8, we will have even more free-agent moves to take into account. For instance, how will the acquisition of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix influence the mock?
And, don’t forget, links to my previous 7-round mocks are below:
Randy Gregory Out for Chargers; Cowboys New Plan?
The Cowboys are short-handed on defense and are 3.5-point underdogs in the game, which is set to kick off at 3:25 p.m. CT from L.A.’s SoFi Stadium.
Cowboys 3 Starters OUT at Chargers; Hooker Steps In?
Is Malik Hooker ready to sprint to the Cowboys rescue?
Advice For Aspiring ‘Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’
Women across the USA and globe are looking for an edge to set themselves apart.
In other Mock Draft news, Mike Fisher compiled mock drafts from Dane Brugler and Bryan Broaddus who have the Cowboys addressing other needs with the first-round pick.
3) COWBOYS FREE AGENCY IN ONE LINK
If you’ve followed CowboysSI.com all week, you know our Mike Fisher and the rest of the staff have been all over Cowboys free agency this week. From transaction stories to contract details to what comes next, there is no better source for Cowboys news.
The best part is you only need one link to experience this. Every transaction, every story, every bit of analysis from our entire CowboysSI team is on our Free Agency Tracker. This includes player-by-player breakdowns of each coming and going.
Click here for the Free Agency Tracker. We’ll keep updating it for the foreseeable future.
And yes, of course it includes what Dallas has done with Gerald McCoy ... and what the Cowboys are "open'' to doing with "Snacks'' Harrison.
4) DOES THE GURLEY RELEASE IMPACT EZEKIEL ELLIOTT?
As our Mike Fisher wrote earlier this week:
‘There is a great argument to be made that NFL teams shouldn't overvalue great running backs and shouldn't plan on giving them massive second contracts. One reason this argument is in vogue? The Dallas Cowboys successfully made it when they said goodbye to 2015 NFL rushing champ DeMarco Murray, all because their in-house study showed that heavy-lifting star runners fall off a cliff right at age 27.’
Earlier this week the Los Angeles Rams released running back Todd Gurley, one of the game’s highest-paid backs. The Cowboys have one of those ‘highest-paid backs,’ too, in Ezekiel Elliott. But not all contracts are created equal. Fish tells us why in this story.
5) 4,300 COWBOYS FANS KNOW WERE TO GET GREAT VIDEO
If you’re not already subscribing to the CowboysSI.com YouTube channel, you should be. With great content from our Mike Fisher, Bri Amaranthus and the rest of the CowboySI staff, it’s a one-stop shop to get instant video comment on what’s going on with the Dallas Cowboys, along with great video features, breaking news and interviews.
6) CELEBRATING THE COWBOYS’ 60TH
The Dallas Cowboys are celebrating their 60th season in the NFL in 2020 and contributor Richie Whitt is counting down the 60 biggest moments in franchise history. Here’s the link to the full list.
7) WHITT’S END ON … A TROY AIKMAN PAY DAY
As you know, the Cowboys slapped the franchise tag on current Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott earlier this week, to the tune of $33 million. That’s for one season. For some context, our Richie Whitt back in time a bit, to 1993, when Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman was looking forward to his new contract. Wanna know what he made? Well, Whitt has that, and so much more, including:
Whitt’s end appears every Friday at CowboyMaven, part of the SI network.
8) COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) STARTS TO HIT THE NFL
Earlier this week New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton revealed that he had tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Our Mike Fisher detailed the report from ESPN and it sounds like Payton is in good spirits and isn’t showing much in the way of symptoms.
At the moment, we know of no Cowboys that have the coronavirus. And professional sports are changing policy daily on what players can and can’t do. For instance, the NBA closed practice facilities this week and told players to stay home. The one advantage the NFL seems to have right now is that most players would be at home this time of year, anyway. But, in order to ease concerns about travel and social distancing, the NFL is requiring teams to do the rest of their draft prep and player visits using remote conferencing tools.
9) COWBOYS BLITZCAST REACTS TO FREE AGENCY
It didn’t take long for the guys at Cowboys Blitzcast to react to the Cowboys’ moves in free agency.
‘The Blitzcast – A Dallas Cowboys Podcast’ by Drunk Sports in partnership with CowboysSI.com. “BigRed” Lance Dorsett and Timm “IndyCarTim” Hamm are your hosts as they discuss all things Dallas Cowboys and all things NFL.
On this show we breakdown all the exciting free agent signings from the week, both Cowboys and other teams, and how that impacts the upcoming season. Come to think of it, will there even BE an upcoming season? We also delve into the strange and baffling DeAndre Hopkins trade between Houston and Arizona and how an old-fashioned thermal fax machine might have played into all of this.
10) TWEET OF THE WEEK
Wanna talk Cowboys? Hit up Postins on Twitter at @PostinsPostcard or Mike Fisher on Twitter @FishSports