2020 NFL free agency: How a new CBA would impact Cowboys talks with Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones

The NFL is hoping to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement in 2020, but they're discovering it'll be more difficult than anticipated. The latest proposal agreed upon by owners was swiftly met with disgust by most everyone -- current players, former players and media alike -- ahead of an all-important formal presentation to the NFLPA in the hopes of getting the needed two-thirds vote to install it before the new league year begins on March 18. 

While it's unlikely that happens, it's possible it could and if so, the Dallas Cowboys will find themselves working to figure a few things out when it comes to Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones.  For added irony, Jones also happens to be the Cowboys player rep who'll cast a vote for or against the CBA. 

That means he's quite literally voting on not only the future of other players, but his own in Dallas.

Thanks to 2020 being the final year of the current CBA, all teams have the ability to use both the franchise tag and the transition tag, giving the Cowboys the ability to keep both Prescott and Cooper secured while extensions are being negotiated if deals aren't struck by the NFL deadline on March 10. The team is racing to get Prescott secured, who would like a shorter deal more friendly to the new CBA timing, to both ensure he shows up for Day 1 of offseason conditioning under new head coach Mike McCarthy and because it'll leave the franchise tag available to use on Cooper -- who they'd be open to placing a non-exclusive franchise tag on

That would allow them to receive two first-round picks in the event they opt to not match an offer he receives from another team, but initially it would serve as a placeholder to give them more time to work out a deal with him. 

Both Cooper and the Cowboys want it done, but nothing indicates that'll occur by March 10.

Because talks with Cooper are paused until Prescott's deal is finalized, the latter becomes the skeleton key to unlocking what happens with the former as well as Jones. Signing Prescott free of the franchise tag creates a trickle-down effect that leaves the transition tag available for Jones, and the Cowboys want that as an option to use for his valuation on the open market. 

A source confirms to CBS Sports the club will make an offer to Jones but they won't engage in a bidding war to keep him around, instead planning to stand firm on whatever offer they slide his way. That will likely be in the range of $12 million to $13 million, but that's not going to outpace offers from expected rabid suitors like the Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Washington Redskins and others.

There are lots of moving pieces to the Cowboys free agency puzzle, including them setting up for a run at pass rusher Robert Quinn, who would also like to stay put in Dallas, if it makes sense both financially and schematically. The presence of both tags helps give them flexibility to maneuver things how they see fit, but truth be told, that will/would be a luxury item for the Cowboys whereas it would be much more of a necessity item for teams who have very little cap space. Because the Cowboys are projected to have roughly $80 million in cap space and can easily mushroom that to $100 million or more, they don't actually "need" both tags.

They want them, yes, but they don't need them. If push comes to shove and only one tag is available, the club can do one of several things with their top three free agent talents. 

One option would obviously be to extend Prescott, Cooper and Jones before the tag deadline and not worry about using any tag whatsoever. That's not going to happen though, so another would be to extend Prescott and Jones, and tag Cooper. The problem there is the want of Quinn is tethered to the future of Jones, and so comes another option, which would be to extend Prescott, tag Cooper and let Jones walk to a higher bidder -- the more probable of all three scenarios. 

As you're undoubtedly catching on by now, there are plenty of ways to work it, because it's not an affordability issue for the Cowboys. It's simply who they want to sign and to what amount. 

Additionally, if the new CBA is ratified, the already cash-rich Cowboys would see an increase in this year's cap -- giving them that much more money to throw around. Interestingly enough, that makes it easier to get both Prescott and Cooper extended prior to March 10, leaving the sole use of a tag still available for Jones, should they decide to pull that trigger. So while they'd love to have both tags available to wave around like light sabers this offseason, they don't need any at all, financially speaking. 

As far as deadlines go, however, two tags are still better than one.

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