The second attempt the Dallas Cowboys made at securing Dak Prescott for the future timed out, as the two sides were unable to agree on terms before the NFL deadline of July 15. There was enough progress made , which included the team shrinking their ask of six or more years down to just five, but standing firm on that hill. Prescott, however, after initially countering with a three-year deal, compromised and moved up to four, but was also stern in his ask.
And so it went, that as the witching hour approached, neither budged, although sources confirmed to CBS Sports at the time that there were unofficial talks that ultimately led to Prescott having a conversation with team exec Stephen Jones. By the time that occurred though, the sands of time had run out, and Prescott will now play the 2020 season under a fully guaranteed franchise tag of $31.4 million.
Talks can not reignite until the conclusion of the coming season, and some have begun to wonder if the door is not cracked for a potential divorce -- be it in 2021 or 2022. Separate sources tell CBS Sports the two-time Pro Bowler never in any way wanted out of Dallas and still doesn't.
For his part, Prescott made sure to drive home that point in his first press conference with media at the start of training camp in Frisco, Texas.
"It doesn't [impact my outlook]," Prescott said of the again-stalled talks. "Business is business. Once I'm in the locker room and a part of what's going on now, I don't focus on the future -- it's more about today. I'm excited as hell to be a Dallas Cowboy.
"I've been a fan of this organization and this program for years. I love every bit of the opportunity and the platform that I get to be the quarterback here. I love this team and I'm excited about what we can do and accomplish this year. There's no frustration.
"I believe something will get done, and I believe I'll be a Dallas Cowboy for the rest of my career."
That's a sentiment echoed readily by the Joneses, in particular the younger Stephen, who doubled down on his recent comment of having "100 percent" belief in Prescott, and the fact he sees a deal getting done in the near future.
"It doesn't change how we feel about Dak," Jones said. "… We ultimately know we're going to have to figure out how to get this done. I'm more convinced than ever we're going to be able to get this done. He believes this will ultimately get done -- as do we."
The elder Jones, who has been deathly silent for months now, also chimed in on the state of negotiations on Wednesday; noting how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic also playing a key part in halting talks that otherwise might've gone more smoothly and involved fewer periods of quiet time.
"Dak is outstanding," said Jones. "He's one of the top people I've been around when it comes to being aware and understanding. We think he's outstanding. We think he's our QB of the future.
"We just couldn't get together at this time, and one of the biggest reasons is the backdrop of COVID-19 -- along with the economic issue. … Candidly, no one knows what's going to be [the salary cap] for next year, and the next year and the next year. This was a very sensitive time to be speaking about generational dollars, so that was certainly a key [holdup]."
Jones' point is a valid one, and the 2021 offseason should bring with it more clarity on the salary cap and revenue infusions from both renegotiated TV contracts and sports gambling. The NFL and NFLPA have already agreed the cap for each team will not dip below $175 million, but it can certainly be higher, variables permitting.
For the Cowboys, who would prefer to not carve out $37.7 million to pay Prescott under a second franchise tag next year, it'll be about truly hitting the ground running when all return to the table. They want Prescott locked in for the future, and he doesn't want to play for any other team.
Someone's going to have to bend though, or the entire marriage will break.