2020 NFL free agency: Cowboys franchise tag Dak Prescott, will continue working on long-term deal

It's an expected move, but one the Dallas Cowboys hoped to avoid. I reported on Feb. 11 of the team's intent to apply the franchise tag to Dak Prescott if the two sides were unable to reach an agreement prior to the NFL tag deadline. They received extra time to do so by virtue of said deadline having been moved back not once, but twice, from March 12 to March 14 before finally holding firm on March 16. Despite the added days and conversations, no deal was struck, and the Cowboys have taken measures to ensure no other team will get a chance at wooing away Prescott.

They've applied the exclusive franchise tag to the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback, a source tells CBS Sports, a designation worth a projected $31.509 million in 2020. This will allow the Cowboys to continue negotiating with Prescott until July 15, at which point they will have to cease doing so until 2021. 

While they missed the "first" deadline, they don't currently intend to miss the second. 

Prescott has made it known he's not ruling out a possible holdout this offseason if he's strapped with the franchise tag, and that gives him key leverage when considering just how paramount his presence will be in helping newly-signed head coach Mike McCarthy install West Coast tweaks into Kellen Moore's offensive scheme. Absent Prescott, who McCarthy is all-in on keeping for the future, progress under the new regime becomes slowed until the "business people" finish working out "business things."

Both sides are motivated to get something done in short order, with sources having confirmed the latest offer to Prescott amounted to an average annual salary of around $34 million with more than $105 million being placed on the table. The holdup remains now what it was when I reported on it in early February, in that Prescott wants a shorter deal that will allow him to negotiate another contract under the new collective bargaining agreement in a couple years, while the Cowboys are doing all they can to get him to agree to a longer-termed deal that lands anywhere from five to seven years or more.

In order for the latter to occur, concessions must be made and agreed to, and guaranteed money is key driver in seeing which direction things go. The Cowboys are slated to open their offseason program on April 6, so mark that down as a soft deadline, considering it's also voluntary for players. 

Owner Jerry Jones recently compared the possibility of letting Prescott walk to that of allowing his own son, team exec Stephen Jones, to leave the organization. That is to say neither will happen, and the Hall of Famer who also proclaimed he "doesn't get hand cramps while writing checks" simply needs to prove it -- while also compromising on either the length of the new deal and/or the guaranteed money contained therein. 

Stay tuned.

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