There’s a lot of hand wringing, slow singing and flower bringing when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys’ failure to secure a long-term agreement with Big Poppa, their quarterback Dak Prescott. Like refusing to listen to the fourth of the 10 Crack Commandments, Jerry and Stephen Jones have been getting high on their own supply, figuratively of course, believing they don’t have to pay market value for a franchise quarterback.
We already know the Jones’ are out of pocket when it comes to the underrated Rule 7, failing to keep family and business separated. They’ve also failed at Rule 2, because they’ve done nothing but let everyone know they plan on signing Prescott, but the deal isn’t done yet. So where does the organization go from here? They are going to need a QB for Week 1 and like B.I.G.’s notorious warning, we have 10 possibilities for how things could play out in the state with rolexes, the Lexus and Texas license plates.
Today’s a perfect day to sign Dak. And if not today, then tomorrow.
I’ve talked about this topic for so long, I actually sat out the last several months of conversation and I still probably lead the league in conversations about Prescott and his yet-to-be-signed new contract. In 2018 I suggested Prescott should have been paid $29 million a season once his contract could be renewed in 2019. In 2019 once it was possible to sign him, I again thought $29 million was the adequate rate.
Then the 2020 season happened. Despite Dallas’ shortcoming as a team, Prescott ascended in Kellen Moore’s offense under Jason Garrett’s regime and $29 million looked like it would have been an incredible deal. Of course the market developed around him, as expected, with draft classmates Jared Goff and Carson Wentz surpassing $32 million averages in their extensions. Still, no deal for Prescott. 2020 came and Prescott played on the franchise tag while DeShaun Watson neared and Patrick Mahomes surpassed the $40 million a year plateau.
So now it’s 2021 and thanks to a record-setting pace before a Week 5 injury and the subsequent suckiness that were the QB performances in his absence, Prescott has more leverage than before. The Cowboys can technically sign Prescott at any point, but because Dallas is Dallas, they will likely wait until the 2021 salary cap is announced so that they can structure the specifics of the deal around the reductions in cap space they’ll have to absorb.
In the meantime, the NFL quarterback carousel has been set ablaze. Multiple quarterbacks have either retired or hinted at it. Multiple quarterbacks have demanded a trade from their current organization. Other quarterbacks have said they want out without officially saying it. It’s a topsy turvy world and because the Cowboys are the Cowboys, they of course are front and center in every rumor put out there.
One needs a cheat sheet to keep track of it all. Don’t worry fam, we got you.
Here’s the various scenarios that Dallas could undertake, spanning the realistic to the perplexing to the ridiculous. We lay it all out.
Franchise Tag Prescott
(AP Photo/Steven Senne)
The most obvious scenario here. Dallas could slap a franchise tag on Prescott for the second consecutive season. It would cost 120% of last year’s tag ($31.4 million) or $37.7 million. Franchise tags all appear on the current year’s salary cap, so Dallas will need enough room to tag Prescott and comply with whatever the 2021 cap is. With the reduction from 2020 ($198 million) that could be as low as $175 million, which is a far cry from what was projected (maybe over $210 million) when they signed all these players prior to the pandemic.
Tag and Negotiate
(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
The Cowboys can tag Prescott anytime between February 23 and March 9, so if there’s no agreement before that window completes, this will almost assuredly happen. If Prescott is tagged again, the club will have from that point until July 15 to work out a long-term deal, or else he’ll play on that number. They cannot negotiate a long-term deal after that point. No player has been tagged twice and returned to their team the following year as a third tag costs 144% of the previous tag. For Prescott, that would be a one-year number of $54.2 million.
Negotiate before, or without, a tag
(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
The Cowboys don’t have to tag Prescott, though that would be the prudent thing to do if there’s no deal struck before the beginning of the league year on March 17. At that point, Prescott would be allowed to negotiate any of the other 31 teams as an unrestricted free agent. All bets would be off, but he’d still be able to negotiate with the Cowboys, just without the parameters of the franchise tag. This would be a dangerous game for Dallas, but one they may try to spin as an olive branch.
Tag and Trade
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
So if the Cowboys aren’t interested in meeting Prescott’s demands, then another possibility is to tag him and find a trade partner. Prescott would have to ok any move; even without a no trade clause he’d have to be willing to sign a long-term agreement with the other team. Dallas would likely be able to command a slightly smaller bounty as what Houston is rumored to be in line for if they were to trade Deshaun Watson; which is being rumored as three first-round picks. Dallas could probably get two firsts and other considerations, but the fact an acquiring team would still have to pay a signing bonus to Prescott makes him slightly less attractive than Watson, a similarly skilled player. It’s an enticing bounty if the Jones family has been lying about believing Prescott is their guy for the long-term future, or if they just refuse to meet his salary demands and pay him at market value. If they trade Prescott, then one of the following five moves would have to be made along with that.
Breaking down the Cowboys conscious approach to Dak Prescott's contract… and me and @VoiceOfTheStar got distracted and a bit sidetracked.
But we brought it back! The latest video ep of #CatchThisFade is live. SUBSCRIBE!
— KD Drummond (@KDDrummondNFL) January 26, 2021
Trade for Matt Stafford
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
The most recent one making the rounds, and the one that may have legs. Or at least toes. The Jones’ family is enamored with Stafford and there are rumors floating that former NFC North coach Mike McCarthy is as well. Stafford is a good quarterback who has played on a bunch of bad teams, but in no way is he as good as Prescott. He also won’t be as expensive so the balance here is if Dallas thinks improving the team around Stafford will improve his play and it will be good enough to compete with. It will cost Dallas likely a first-round pick to attain Stafford, so No. 10 would be out the door. With some of the other trade proposals being floated, Dallas might get back a mid-round pick in the exchange. They’d also get two years of Stafford for just $43 million, which could end up being closer to Prescott’s average salary at this point. In theory, Dallas gets acceptable QB play with what they believe a much better head coach and OC than Stafford’s ever had, with more cap space than if they sign Prescott.
Trade for Aaron Rodgers
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Rodgers has been coy in the press about returning to the Packers, but he clearly is pissed they drafted Jordan Love in the 2020 first round. He’s looking for assurances but it smells like he really wants to be traded. Quiet as kept, the Packers have cap issues and trading Rodgers would save them around $5.6 million in space. He costs just $22.85 against the cap this year and $25.5 million each of the following two years. He’ll want a new deal and he’s shown he still has several years left at an elite level. The question is what level of compensation would be required to attain him. Most likely two first round picks is where the conversation starts.
Trade for Deshaun Watson
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
If the Cowboys had a bounty received for Prescott, then they’d have the ammunition to acquire Watson without mortgaging their future. So while it makes no sense to those who love Prescott to make what would seem a lateral move, there is merit at some level. Watson would cost Dallas $10.5 million in salary and space in 2021, then $35 million, $37 million, $32 million and $32 million over the next four seasons. Conversations that suggest Dallas would need to trade Houston Prescott and two additional first round picks make zero sense. Less than zero sense really. But trading Prescott and No. 10 for Watson and some Day 2 picks (which would be what trading Prescott out and then trading for Watson essentially looks like) isn’t as atrocious, even if it’s much wiser to just pay Prescott.
Draft a QB in the Top 10
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
If Dallas moved on from Prescott, another other would be to just play the QB lottery and draft a top-10 QB. Spoiler Alert: This is far too risky to be a good idea. Just look through the history of first-round draft picks; it’s hit or miss whether the guy will ever achieve the growth Prescott already has. But that may be what things come to for Dallas. If they received a bounty trading Prescott away, some or all of those picks could be used to trade up to secure their guy, or they could hold tight at 10 and pick someone still available there. The pandemic rules about in-person workouts and interviews makes this even more risky, but again, here we are.
The Journeyman Quarterback
Not every franchise QB is followed by a franchise QB. Cowboys fans have every reason to fear the abyss between Troy Aikman and Tony Romo and with Jerry Jones’ advancing age that seems like something he’d never consider. But Dallas could find themselves with a placeholder QB for a year or two if everything falls down in this dance. Here’s a list of names they’d consider.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
LOL. Never get high on your own supply.