Cowboys 2020 contract talks: 'No. 1 priority' is Dak Prescott extension, team wants to avoid franchise tag

Yes, the Dallas Cowboys remain all-in on Dak Prescott being their franchise quarterback of the future. That's an affirmation for those who'd think otherwise simply because no deal has been secured yet, but the reality remains that the absence of a long-term extension is on Prescott, and not the Cowboys front office.

Multiple offers were lobbed toward Prescott in 2019, but each was shrugged off as the Pro Bowl quarterback opted to let the market and his play drive the price higher. Both worked in his favor masterfully, with Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff -- the latter two being his 2016 draft mates he's mostly outperformed as a fourth-round compensatory pick -- all reframing the QB price point before Prescott himself went on to have a career-best season, racking up 4,902 passing yards with 30 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions. 

He also achieved those numbers despite suffering a sprained AC joint in his shoulder in December, still having not missed a single start in his four-year career. 

All of that now being on the table before them, it's far more likely Prescott opens both of his ears this offseason to whatever the Cowboys offer up, just as it's a foregone conclusion their next offer will far surpass their last -- which came in around the $33 million to $34 million range, a source tells CBS Sports.

With both DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes potentially landing competing historic deals in 2020, the Cowboys have an increased sense of urgency (not that they ever lacked it in the first place) to get Prescott's contract finalized. Speaking from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL, team exec Stephen Jones wants the deal done pronto, and the last thing he and the Cowboys want is to be forced into using a $26.9 million franchise tag.

"It's been urgent for us [to sign Prescott]," he said, via Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We certainly want to get that done. That's our No. 1 priority as we go into the off-season is to get his contract -- hopefully find some resolution to it and get that done."

The club will scrape the $100 million mark in cap space in 2020, so they can afford it, but avoiding the franchise tag would be a wise move for several reasons. That said, should they need to employ it, if only to buy themselves until the NFL deadline in mid-July to hammer out a new contract, they will.

The deadline to do so is March 10.

The problem with utilizing that tag is obvious, however, because it could nudge Prescott into an offseason holdout that wouldn't be great for the Cowboys by default, but made that much worse when considering there's a sweeping change in the coaching ranks with the hiring of Mike McCarthy; and the sooner Prescott and McCarthy can get to work, the better. Waiting until training camp to become acquainted on the field risks stunting the Cowboys transition to McCarthy's injection of the West Coast offense into Kellen Moore's scheme/playbook, making it critical Prescott is in tow as early as the spring to get things rolling.

Advantage [again]: Prescott.

Speaking nearly 500 miles due west from the Houston Sports Awards to honor the late Bob McNair, longtime owner of the Texans, with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Jerry Jones took a moment to double down on what Stephen Jones had to say about the Cowboys quarterback. 

The man who recently and famously proclaimed he "doesn't get hand cramps when writing checks" knows what's coming for Prescott, and it's a massive payday, which is just fine for Jones. Considering Prescott's leverage along with what's barreling down the pike for Watson and Mahomes, don't expect Jones to play coy.

After all, this isn't a defensive end or running back he's talking about. 

"'It's always been expensive for quarterbacks," Jones said, via The Houston Chronicle. "My first one was Troy Aikman and I made him the highest paid player in the NFL.'"

Jones again pushed the bar in 2013 by making Tony Romo the highest-paid player in Cowboys history with a deal that also set an NFL record at the time for guaranteed money, and the same agents who negotiated Romo's deal -- the well-known Creative Artists Agency -- represents Prescott now, the 26-year-old ditching his former agent for CAA in preparation for extension talks in Dallas.

There's virtually no chance Prescott isn't in a Cowboys uniform in 2020, be it franchise tag or longterm deal, but the team would rather it be the latter so they can focus on other pressing matters like the contract on Amari Cooper, who the team lists as their definitive "No. 2" priority this offseason -- also quite aware they have access to both the franchise and transition tag this offseason if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn't land before the mid-March. 

The Cowboys are also looking to begin talks with All-Pro cornerback Byron Jones, to begin their free agency due diligence with mid-March rapidly approaching, dig into their 2020 NFL Draft preparation for April, so forth and so on. The bottom line is the sooner they get Prescott done, the better, and neither Jones is naive or willing to enact the usual "good cop, bad cop" routine in the media.

Not that anyone would buy into that song-and-dance anyway when considering Prescott's value and leverage.

"We know what our future is there," Jones said. "We'll keep our head down and keep working on that."

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