Although Dak Prescott hasn't been able to hammer out a long-term deal with the Cowboys this offseason, he did get some good news on the contract front this week when the NFL ruled that his franchise tag for 2020 will be worth more than $30 million.
If Prescott ends up signing his franchise tag, the one-year deal will pay him $31.409 million for the upcoming season. The reason that's notable is because there had been some question about how much Prescott would actually be paid under the franchise tag, which pays a player the average of the top five salaries at his position.
When Prescott was tagged on March 16, the top five quarterback salaries in the NFL looked like this:
Jared Goff: $36 million
Ben Roethlisberger: $33 million
Kirk Cousins: $31 million
Russell Wilson: $31 million
Jimmy Garoppolo: $26.6 million
With those five numbers, that would have suggested that Dak's tag would be roughly $31.5 million. However, shortly after Prescott was tagged, both Ben Roethlisbeger and Kirk Cousins restructured their contracts, which knocked them out of the top five.
After the two deals were restructured, the top five looked like this:
Goff: $36 million
Wilson: $31 million
Garoppolo: $26.6 million
Philip Rivers: $25 million
Tom Brady: $25 million
With those five numbers, Dak's franchise tag would have only been worth $28.7 million, which is a difference of nearly $3 million. As Pro Football Talk pointed out on March 18, the difference was big enough that it could have set the stage for a showdown over the difference in money.
There's a CBA loophole that could set the stage for a franchise-tender fight over whether the Cowboys owe Dak Prescott $31.62 million or $28.55 million in 2020 https://t.co/LCdVrbzA8V— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 18, 2020
However, the battle over the $3 million didn't happen, because Prescott had NFL rules on his side.
As CBSSports.com's Joel Corry noted on March 25, it was all going to come down to timing. If the Cowboys filed the paperwork for Prescott's franchise tag BEFORE the paperwork was filed on the restructured contracts for Cousins and Big Ben, then Prescott would be entitled to the higher amount.
I wouldn't be so sure about a decrease in Dak Prescott's exclusive franchise tag number. Kirk Cousins & Ben Roethlisberger's renegotiations needed to occur before Dallas placed the designation on him for his number to drop. It's going to come down to the timing of those events. https://t.co/yM1HGinjjn— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) March 26, 2020
Prescott was hit with the tag on March 16, which ended up working out well for him, because the paperwork for Cousins' deal was filed on March 17 while Big Ben's deal was filed on March 18. Due to that timing, the NFL calculated Prescott's franchise tag number using the salaries that Roethlisberger and Cousins had before they restructured.
The reason this is a huge deal for Prescott is because it potentially gives him much more leverage over the Cowboys. With his franchise tag total at $31.409 million for 2020, that means the Cowboys will have to pay him $37.69 million for 2021 if they tag him again since he would be entitled to a 20% raise that comes with a second franchise tag. If that happened, that means the Cowboys would owe him $69.1 million over the next two seasons. With an average of $34.55 million per year, there would be no reason for Dak to accept a deal worth under $34 million per year.
If Prescott had received the lower tag number of $28.7, then his two-year total would have been $63.2 million ($31.6 million per season), which is nearly $6 million less over the course of two years.
The other thing working in Prescott's favor is that he would get a 44% RAISE over his 2021 salary if the Cowboys tag him for a third time, which means Dallas could potentially be on the hook for a $54.3 million base salary in 2022 (Just to be clear, that $54.3 million would be for one year of work).
If the Cowboys have to tag Prescott for three straight seasons, that will cost them $123.4 million ($41.1 million per year). Prescott knows this, which is likely why he's not settling for what the Cowboys have offered. Prescott likely isn't asking for $40 million per year, but that's what the Cowboys are going to have to pay him if they tag him from 2020 thru 2022.
Cowboys Jerry Jones was asked about Prescott's contract on Tuesday and reiterated that the team doesn't have a time frame to get a deal done, although if something is going to get done, it will have to happen before July 15, which is the NFL's deadline for extending franchise tagged players.
"I don't have a time frame," Jones said during a conference call, via Pro Football Talk. "It's not in a list of priorities as you could imagine with everything that we all are dealing with as well as what we're doing with the draft. I don't have the time frame, but I'm not concerned about that at all as to any of those issues. Again, no surprises here. No surprise on the amount that the franchise counts against the [cap], and no surprise we're sitting here relative to where we are without a long-term agreement."
Jones might not be in a rush, but Prescott's price is only going to go up with every passing day, so the Cowboys would be smart to get a long-term deal done with their starting quarterback sooner rather than later.