The waiting game continues regarding ongoing contract talks between the Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott, with the former essentially being at the mercy of the latter. Negotiations between the two sides truly started to gain traction in late April following the finalization of a five-year, $105 million deal for defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence that made him the highest-paid player in franchise history, but stalled shortly thereafter.
Prescott and his new representation, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), preferred to be patient and let the market drive up his value, and it's a plan that's worked masterfully. With Russell Wilson having reset the ceiling, fellow 2016 draftmates Carson Wentz and Jared Goff have now both reworked the market floor with deals that landed in June and August, respectively. Now, if you're Prescott, there is only one reason to continue waiting, and that's to drive your value even higher by way of playing career-best football.
Spoiler alert: Prescott is, indeed, playing career-best football in 2019.
With three weeks now in the rearview, the Cowboys are 3-0, and in large part thanks to both the proficiency and efficiency of Prescott in tandem with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The offensive output in Week 1 alone was enough to nudge owner Jerry Jones into erroneously claiming a deal was "imminent" with Prescott, having rightfully walked back his words shortly thereafter. The reality in that moment was promising, yes, because talks had again picked up steam following the opener.
, and two weeks later, still aren't -- sources confirm to me -- with one rather sizable caveat.
The issue here is Prescott already has an offer in front of him and, in that respect, you could justifiably argue things are close to completion. Considering the ball is completely in his court, he could sign five minutes after this article goes to file, but it's also a situation that could span the entire year and not be finalized until 2020. The bottom line is only Prescott knows when he'll sign, and that's why the Cowboys -- much unlike the tone and approach they took during the Ezekiel Elliott holdout -- have now taken a rare vow of silence when it comes to the status of talks with their franchise quarterback.
"No, it doesn't really do any good to comment about the negotiations," team exec Stephen Jones told 105.3FM the Fan on Tuesday regarding Prescott's contract talks. "Everybody knows we want to make a deal. I know Dak wants a deal. There's just things that have to be worked out when you have a contract of this magnitude.
"I just don't have any feel for when this is going to happen. I just know that we're committed to trying to make it happen, and I know Dak wants to."
The elder Jones has taken the same approach, opting to not negotiate through the media with Prescott; a tactic he's employed recently with both Lawrence and Elliott, who both landed market-setting deals in the end.
Furthermore, when it comes to Prescott, I get the sense the biggest holdup at the moment isn't really the money; but rather the length of the looming contract. While Prescott would seemingly prefer to have his extension on the shorter end of the spectrum to allow for at least one more negotiation in four to five years, the Cowboys would prefer to play the long game and stretch the term to around six or even seven years. The latter would keep Prescott locked in through the very same 2026 season Elliott is now married to the team through, but a lengthy deal such as that comes with its own set of complications to be hammered out.
It would inevitably make Prescott the highest-paid player in NFL history, but guaranteed money is what NFL players key in on. A seven-year deal, for example, would mathematically lower Prescott's average annual salary, and that would lead to him asking the team to make a concession on guaranteed money -- considering players don't always get a chance at playing out their contract. If he does ultimately sign a longer-term deal, the increase in guarantees would also help salve the wound of not being able to negotiate a third contract in the next half-decade.
Both sides want to get the deal done, all told, and there's virtually no chance it won't; but the final sticking point does appear to be length and the talking points that come along with that. Prescott and the Cowboys are seeing eye-to-eye on most of the other talking points, I'm told, so it really is just a matter of time now -- both figuratively and literally speaking.
This doesn't mean other extensions can't or won't land in the meantime, but wide receiver Amari Cooper has taken the same approach in deciding to hold off on putting pen to paper. The three-time Pro Bowler is also off to a fiery start to the year, his four touchdowns in three games already being more than half his tally in the category from 2018. Like Prescott, Cooper has successfully played the market in his favor by way of record-setting deals landing on Michael Thomas and Julio Jones, and he's willing to play out his contract year to prove he deserves a shot at being a top-two highest-paid receiver, if not No. 1 overall.
With nearly $26 million in cap space at the moment, the door is open for others to move forward in the lunch line akin to how linebacker Jaylon Smith and right tackle La'El Collins did this year, but the question remains of who that could be. With cornerback Byron Jones set to hit free agency in 2020 as well, the Cowboys wouldn't mind getting him secured for the future.
The problem is, much unlike the others, there haven't been any substantive talks with Jones at all just yet. The All-Pro cornerback has now returned from a hip injury that held him out of training camp and looks leveled up from his breakout 2018 season, which gives him more leverage by the week. There can be no doubt Jones wants to remain in Dallas and with passing game coordinator Kris Richard -- seeing as he's said such time and again -- but he's also in no rush to cost himself earnings by signing too soon.
There is also, of course, the matter of a Collective Bargaining Agreement that is currently being renegotiated; and that will have an impact on any and all big-figure contract talks around the league.
"No, we haven't started yet [with Byron Jones]," Stephen Jones said on Tuesday. "He hasn't approached us. Obviously Byron is the type of player, as you said, you mentioned it well. He's playing corner at a very high level.
"He's a great individual off the field and really plays the game at a high level on. He's the type of player you want to keep around here. Certainly as we move forward we're going to continue to massage our cap, our numbers as we know there is a CBA in progress, which will have an impact on how you manage your cap over the next 12 to 24 months.
"We'll keep our eye on that. No means, no way have we discarded having Byron on our team for the long-term. So, we'll just have to see how that plays out and knowing that he's the type of player we want to keep on our football team."
The good news is, despite uneducated rumors to the contrary,. Having upwards of $100 million in cap space come 2020 and also propped up by being arguably the best drafting team in the NFL, the organization is now simply focused on trying to keep the price down on those they want to keep around. There's nothing wrong with that, but should push come to shove, they can continue to make it rain on demand.
The only question remaining now is, who wants to uncap the hydrant first?