Dak Prescott is a shrewd businessman. He knows he's on the verge of landing a historic deal from the Dallas Cowboys, and he's tightening the screws early this offseason to ensure it's finally an offer to his liking. Prescott was ready to sign a longterm contract with the Cowboys before the 2019 season, and even early into it, but an offer that satisfied his palate never arrived.
That isn't to say the organization didn't make offers, because they did (several), but by all accounts -- although labeled as a "top-five deal" by the front office -- it didn't exceed an average annual salary of $33 million to $34 million. Prescott waved them off and opted to play the market while betting on a big year he'd be able to parlay into more leverage. It worked, because he's coming off of a career-best season that followed deals landing on Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, setting the framework for talks to resume this offseason between Prescott and the Cowboys.
Unfortunately for the latter, the price to secure the two-time Pro Bowler and former Rookie of the Year will now be much higher, as he enters what he calls a "wild" offseason wherein top flight signal-callers like Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill and Jameis Winston are all set to join him in pushing the financial bar at the position into the Martian atmosphere.
, and owner Jerry Jones -- along with team exec Stephen Jones -- in finally coming to terms with their franchise QB. The team wants to avoid using the $26.9 million franchise tag on Prescott, because although they can afford it, he doesn't have to sign it; and likely won't.
The danger in using it is obvious, because it might push Prescott into an offseason holdout, and he's already considering it. Speaking from Super Bowl Media Week in Miami, the 26-year-old refused to commit to reporting to offseason workouts without a new deal in place.
"We'll get to that when we get to that," he said, via The Dallas Morning News. "I look forward to talking to my agents and when that [tag] comes to play -- the direction that we'll go. Until that's a reality, I won't worry about it. But I do feel like some of this should get done.
"I'm a little disappointed that it hasn't, but that's part of it."
He expanded on his stance in ways he didn't do before and during the season, making it chandelier clear he's ready to sign, but not something he believes is below his value at the position and to the club.
"You would hope and you would think something is going to get done, right?'' Prescott said. "I mean, you would have thought something would have gotten done before the season. In my brain -- it only says that it gets done."
It's the next three words that contain the sharpest message he's sent the team to date regarding contract talks, though.
"Without the tag," he said.
The good news for the Cowboys is that's their goal as well, but now comes the challenge of valuation, and that's the hurdle they failed to successfully leap after multiple attempts in 2019. With the team being all-in on Prescott for the future and needing him at The Star in Frisco, Texas as early as possible this spring -- to acclimate to Mike McCarthy, the new coaching staff and the new West Coast installations being prepped for Kellen Moore's offense -- and the franchise tag deadline of March 10 rapidly approaching, the onus is on the Joneses to ante up and figure it all out quickly.
In reality, they could tag Prescott and would still have until mid-July to ink a longterm deal, but that doesn't resolve any potential holdout issue, and that's the rub.
"I don't think any of that is necessary," he said. "But that's business. That's all calculated. That's all on them."
Not long removed from seeing All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott hold out for a new deal, the Cowboys understand they can't afford to have Prescott do the same as they move from Jason Garrett to McCarthy, but with potentially $90 million to $100 million in cap space this offseason -- what they can afford is to satisfy Prescott's contractual ask. It'll get done, but the sooner the better, if you're the Joneses.
Prescott has no plans to be in Dallas much this offseason, unless.
"Report that," he said. "Be sure to report that."