Cowboys Contracts: Does Dak's Future Start With Franchise Tag and End at $40 Million APY?

Mike Fisher

Signing quarterback Dak Prescott to a long-term extension remains the Dallas Cowboys’ top priority, of course, a fact reiterated this week at the Senior Bowl by COO Stephen Jones. He even used the word "urgent'' to describe the mood and motivation.

"It's been urgent for us," Stephen told reporters. "We certainly want to get that done. That's our No. 1 priority as we go into the off-season is to ... hopefully find some resolution to it and get that done."

But there may be a misinterpretation of what Stephen said regarding Dallas' path to eventually, inevitably, making Prescott the highest-paid player in franchise history.

The franchise tag deadline is March 10. Given the fact that the two sides have been working on this seemingly forever, it seems unlikely that a deal will be finalized between now and then. So, the tag is probably coming. Some interpretations of the Cowboys plans here suggest Dallas is "reluctant'' to use the tag. But sources tell that the front office views the franchise tag (which would guarantee Dak $27 million for 2020) as a "tool'' on the way to an eventual deal.

Simply, the tag would be in place only to solidify Dallas' ownership rights of the player's contract. It it's not a punishment or an "ending.'' 

It's really just the continuation of a negotiation that, as we reported in this space in September, nearly came to fruition when Prescott's side expressed a willingness to accept a deal in the "mid-$30-million range'' APY.

Not the inaccurately reported-at-the-time "$40 million demanded.'' ... But mid-$30-million range.

Stephen Jones, by the way, recently acknowledged on the record how "close' the two sides were to being done in September, after which time Prescott chose to table discussions and to "bet on himself.'' That decision worked out well, as despite a disappointing 8-8 season, Prescott produced a career year with 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns. He is of course seen as a centerpiece of new coach Mike McCarthy's team going forward ... and that $40 million number becomes more realistic as time has gone on.

So, Stephen, about that tag ...

“No, no,” Jones said. “We can work around that.”

But don't misunderstand; "Work around it'' doesn't mean "won't use it.'' But it does mean that while Dallas has ample cap room and earmarked money for the QB, a delay could cause disgruntlement and conflict. Would Dak sit out the offseason programs (which start April 6) or even training camp while unsigned?

In addition to those 4,902 yards and those 30 touchdowns, what Prescott established in 2019 is that at age 26, he is the leader of the football team who handles his business in a "Cowboy Way.'' His behavior is among the reasons the Joneses will likely end up paying him near the $40 million APY ... and also among the reasons they hope this doesn't become acrimonious, even when the "tool'' of the tag is utilized.

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Cowboys 4ever
Cowboys 4ever

Dak should have been signed in 2018.