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It's no secret NFL teams are supremely concerned about the coming 2021 salary cap, but are more pressed than the Dallas Cowboys front office. Owner Jerry Jones and the team's front office as as whole has been squirreling away as much cap as they can by way of restructures and releases in 2020, with two eyes on retaining two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott in 2021 and potentially beyond. The problem is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to droves of empty seats in stadiums around the country and, as that revenue is absent, a likely dip in the projected salary cap applies pressure to the Cowboys to -- at minimum -- create enough cap space to squeeze in a potential second franchise tag on Prescott.

And make no mistake about it, neither the Cowboys nor Prescott plan on parting ways.

Help might be on the way though, if recent NFL cap rumors prove true. What's known already is that the NFL and NFLPA agreed the floor for the 2021 salary cap would be $175 million and no lower, but that's a far cry from the initial, projected pre-pandemic cap of approximately $210 million or more. The unknown is what has the Cowboys nervous, but a recent report from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggests the possibility of the 2021 salary cap hovering closer to $195 million -- a $20 million bump north from the worst-case scenario.

This jibes with the coming negotiation of new TV contracts and soon-to-be-infused gambling revenue, at minimum, but could also be bolstered by a return to fans in NFL stadiums. The latter is a much more tenuous situation given the current state of affairs in the battle against the novel coronavirus, but there's at least some optimism for what might be $20 million in breathing room. It's key to note that while the cap is negotiated every season, based upon both current and expected revenue, and the NFL and NFLPA could agree to spread any significant losses from 2020 over the next several years. 

That would benefit both owners and players, because the latter gets more flexibility while the former will avoid seeing gutting ax swipes at veteran contracts to create needed space. 

Currently sitting at $27.39 million in cap space, per OverTheCap, the Cowboys themselves will enjoy rollover of whatever they have remaining at the conclusion of 2020 onto the 2021 cap, yes, but they'd land at roughly $47.5 million in space this coming offseason if the cap hops upward to $195 million. Considering a second tag on Prescott would create a $37.7 million placeholder against the existing cushion -- buying the Cowboys until July 15 to get a long-term deal done with Prescott -- they'd be left with only $9.8 million. That is a positive by virtue of it literally not being a mathematical negative, and it'll at least give the team a smidge of financial comfort after failing to strike a deal with Prescott in both 2019 and again in 2020, the latter attempt going to the wire and having failed due to a disagreement on the length of the deal

Of course, if the two sides can strike a deal before the franchise tag deadline in February, all the better -- considering the Joneses must also have money in the war chest for free agency spending and to pay the 2021 draft class. 

They have all the incentive in the cosmos and then some when it comes to making sure they get Prescott on paper without utilizing a second franchise tag because, if they don't, they'll be cash strapped and that would force another round of contract restructures and likely some very uncomfortable conversations about recently signed contracts versus lack of production -- e.g., linebacker Jaylon Smith and more. As it stands, those conversations would only be mandatory if the cap stays at $175 million, and still not entirely avoidable if it's $195 million with Prescott on a second tag.

And so it goes that the Cowboys might see a loss of $15 million in cap space for 2021 over the initial projection of $210 million, but that would be far better than the worst-case scenario they're now planning against -- a potential $175 million cap floor that would hit them (and other clubs) with a whopping $35 million reduction. Now recovering from a season-ending ankle injury, Prescott knows the team 'needs' him and, having won only one game in their last six without him under center and fielding a mostly flaccid offense weekly, the Cowboys have no room whatsoever to disagree with his value to the organization -- as either a player or leader on the whole. 

So regardless of how the cap shakes out in 2021, agreeing with Prescott before the franchise tag deadline is mission numero uno for the Cowboys in their chase to secure jersey numero cuatro.