Dak Prescott remains on track to become the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, and the two sides have until July 15 to finish hashing out a deal that's currently a year in the making. The club is all-in on securing the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback for the foreseeable future and doesn't need any extra motivation to do so, but it's getting some anyway. With news of the Kansas City Chiefs having opened negotiations this summer with Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, a second clock has now been placed above the collective head of Jerry Jones and Co. 

Granted, their inability to come to terms with Prescott isn't for lack of trying, but the fact he remains attached to a $31.5 million franchise tag that he currently has no plans on signing is, as team exec Stephen Jones calls it, the "elephant in the room."

Truth be told, it's more of a wooly mammoth, considering what's at stake. 

The tusks are made that much larger when when factoring in a Mahomes deal potentially landing first and cracking open the earth beneath it. It's paramount the Cowboys figure out a way to bridge the remaining gap with Prescott, one that's anchored by a difference of only one year on the deal and a few million dollars here or there. Should Mahomes land his contract before Prescott, considering it's expected to pay him numbers comparable to baseball money, the Cowboys will find themselves with their back pressed so firmly against the wall that there might be an indentation of their backside in the sheetrock. 

Why? Simple.

It's because when assessing the economy of the NFL, it's all about where the market sits. Much like Russell Wilson set the bar and saw both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz then scurry to get as close to it as possible, the same will happen with the next bar-setter. If Mahomes becomes the new ceiling, Prescott will no longer look to simply match or slightly eek past Wilson. His representation, Todd France (who is well-versed in all matter of QB contract negotiation and was responsible for Tony Romo's deal), will shove aside Wilson and begin pointing at Mahomes' numbers and contract structure.

Although different in scope, a similar situation exists with the Houston Texans, who are working on awarding DeShaun Watson a mega-payday. If Watson lands first, Mahomes and Prescott will use his market-setting contract as a talking point. If Prescott sings first, Watson and Mahomes will... well... you get the picture. The market — especially when you're a top 10 quarterback— always wins. 

None of this is to suggest Prescott is equal to Mahomes in the realm of achievements, but then again neither is Watson, and yet all three are inexplicably tied together as they negotiate their deals; as Julio Jones and Michael Thomas were a year ago, which then led to Amari Cooper negotiating a deal that averages $20 million per year when no one thought he could (ahem, I'm on record saying he would succeed in that mission, because the market... always... wins). 

Again, the Cowboys don't need any added motivation, but they're getting it anyway. Because while doubtful Prescott would exceed a Mahomes payday, it would inevitably cost them more if they wait for it to arrive, undoubtedly having to pay Prescott something farther above whatever he's currently asking.

While the Cowboys most comparable financial threat would be Watson, the biggest one is Mahomes.  

Prescott has no shortage of leverage in the negotiations, having missed zero starts in four years -- gathering a list of awards and record-breaking performances in the process -- and the 26-year-old is coming off a season that saw him fall just one yard shy of taking ownership of the franchise's single season passing record, throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions. All told, Prescott could've blown right past Romo for that crown and north of 5,000 yards total, if not for his receiving corps leading the league in drops, which cost him individually and the team as a whole, considering the Cowboys went on to finish 8-8 and out of the playoff picture. 

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Both of the Joneses are aware of what QB purgatory looks like, having seen it in the years after Troy Aikman but before Romo. From Quincy Carter to Ryan Leaf and Clint Stoerner, from Chad Hutchinson to Vinny Testaverde and Drew Henson, the Cowboys don't need reminding of what they're up against. Aikman himself has come out to stump for Prescott as of late, joining Emmitt Smith in taking up the mantle, which says a lot about his belief in the young quarterback.

The team went 35-45 from 2001-2005 as they searched for their future at the position, but Prescott gives them a chance to avoid repeating history after taking over for an injured Romo in 2016 and never looking back. He's now 40-24 in his four-year career -- having delivered more wins in one year fewer than seven different Cowboys quarterbacks in the aforementioned post-Aikman, pre-Romo era -- while passing for 15,778 yards and 97 touchdowns to only 36 interceptions in what was a run-first offense for three of his first four seasons. 

Additionally, Prescott is 18-6 against the other three NFC East teams, and the New York Giants haven't defeated him since 2016.

Prescott has one of the best deep ball accuracy rates in the NFL and his overall career accuracy rate of 65.8 percent is not only among the best in the league, but it's higher than that of both Goff and Wentz, both of whom were selected roughly 133 spots ahead of Prescott in the 2016 NFL Draft -- having also signed record-setting contract extensions in 2019. What's even more impressive is how Prescott, a fourth-round compensatory pick, has surpassed Goff and Wentz in passing yards and touchdowns thrown (and with fewer interceptions), despite those two having operated in mostly pass-first offenses designed around them from the moment they entered the league.

And while Goff has led the Rams to a Super Bowl, Wentz hasn't won a single playoff game in his career (available for only one, before leaving after the first throw with a concussion). Prescott is 1-2 in the playoffs, and both losses were attributable to either poor secondary play vs. Aaron Rodgers or poor run defense against Goff and the Rams. In his three playoff appearances, Prescott threw for 794 yards and five touchdowns, with an accuracy rate of 64.1 percent and only two interceptions and a career playoff passer rating of 95.7. 

Contrarily, the Cowboys defense allowed an average of 32 points in the two playoff losses, but held the Seattle Seahawks to only 22 points in the wild card win following the 2018 season. 

None of this analysis is conjecture, as the Cowboys can attest, which is why while the rival Eagles were selecting a quarterback in the second round of this year's draft, Dallas didn't grab one until the seventh; despite Prescott not yet being on a long-term deal. The reason why is because while talks are paused at the moment, there's been continued compromise on both sides as they move on common ground toward closure. Yes, the club signed Andy Dalton, but for backup purposes only. That's why Cooper Rush was released moments after, and Dalton's contract guarantees him only $900,000 more than what Rush would've made in 2020. 

To be more clear here, the Cowboys offered Dalton $3 million, but they're currently offering Prescott $172 million more. Dalton has proven he can win games in the regular season if Dallas needs him to, but he's 0-4 in the playoffs with only one touchdown to six interceptions. All things considered, his individual performance in postseason games is dwarfed by that of Prescott, so the Cowboys would much prefer the latter be on the field come January.

After all, you don't buy insurance hoping you can get a free rental car. You buy it in case something happens to yours. 

The two sides have until July 15 to complete a deal, and the expectation is it'll happen, even if it goes down to the wire. The latest offer from the team, sources tell CBS Sports, is a five-year deal that averages $35 million with upwards of $106 million in guaranteed money, and Prescott hasn't turned it down, despite reports to the contrary. I'm told he's currently mulling it, but continues to stand firm at four years, which puts the two much closer than they have been since talks began. Sources also refute reports Prescott suddenly asked for $45 million to accept a fifth year on the contract, labeling the rumors as "false," and reaffirming neither the Cowboys nor Prescott have concerns on if the deal will get done. 

The team paid DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper, and then added CeeDee Lamb with the 17th-overall pick to give Prescott an added weapon for the future. They've given no indication they're willing to move on from him, and head coach Mike McCarthy continues to preach patience to those lobbying for immediate resolution, and remains confident Prescott will be on a long-term deal come July 16. 

"I have all the confidence in the world it'll work out," McCarthy said on a recent conference call. 

As it stands, nothing is imminent, but it's progressing and there's still time to hash it all out. And thanks to Mahomes and the Chiefs, the talks may soon ramp up just a tad.