Time is running out for the Cowboys to re-sign quarterback Dak Prescott. The two-week window to apply for the franchise label on the pending NFL free agent has opened in 2021, with March 9 being the deadline for Dallas, if he wishes.
Prescott performed under the exclusive label last season and earned $ 31.4 million guaranteed. This year, if the Cowboys tag him again, that number would rise 20% to $ 37.7 million.
The Cowboys and Prescott would prefer to agree on a long-term deal, however, to have it contracted beyond one more season and to lock in more overall money guaranteed from the top of the QB market.
Here’s a look at Dallas’ position to take either avenue with the Prescott contract:
What’s the status of the Cowboys’ salary cap for signing Dak Prescott?
The NFL-wide salary cap will have a floor of $ 180 million for teams, with a cap that isn’t much higher than that. So far, the Cowboys are in pretty good shape, ranked 12th in the league with around $ 19 million under the cap.
That said, they can’t afford Prescott’s labeling cap of $ 37.7 million without restructuring contracts and releasing players from their deals.
Their most logical source of savings would be to designate linebacker Jaylon Smith as a June 1 cut after a volatile season. That would come with $ 7.2 million in additional relief. The Cowboys can do it with two players, which should also make them think of passing from aging left tackle Tyron Smith. They could recover an additional $ 10.5 million there.
That would bring Dallas down to around $ 36.7 million below the cap in two moves, meaning they can make the tag work on Prescott by cutting out one more player. If they want to keep Tyron Smith while still clearing enough room for the cap, they can cut down on cornerback Anthony Brown, punter Chris Jones, defensive end Randy Gregory, tight end Blake Jarwin and a few players from the lower list to accompany Jaylon Smith.
The Cowboys would be forced to make tough decisions with other veterans looking to score Prescott and will also have no ceiling space to do anything else in free agency, with their own players or away. .
What a second franchise label would mean for Dak Prescott
From Prescott’s perspective, a second consecutive tag isn’t that bad. That would mean he made $ 69.1million in guaranteed money over two years, and the Cowboys would still have shown confidence in him as an elite and durable QB despite an ankle injury limiting his 2020 season. to five games.
That would be the scenario of Kirk Cousins from Washington at work again. Cousins has been tagged in consecutive offseason as a non-exclusive franchise player, making $ 20 million guaranteed in 2016 and rising 20% to $ 24 million guaranteed in 2017. A third tag from Washington is said to have increased his value 44% to $ 34.6 million in 2018., making sure that it would achieve free will.
Cousins ended up being signed by the Vikings for three years at $ 84 million, all guaranteed. From 16 to his extension in 20, Cousins secured the equivalent of a five-year contract worth $ 128 million, all guaranteed.
Cousins ”bet on himself” and wins the jackpot. Prescott might be hesitant to try and do the same after his ankle surgery, but before the stroke of luck to injure himself against the Giants, he’s started and finished every game healthy for four and a quarter seasons since entering the league in the fourth round. draft pick in 2016.
If Prescott were tagged again in 2021, the value of his tag would climb to $ 54.4 million in 2022, well above the top of the QB market. That would force the Cowboys or another team to offer him a long-term high-end contract, assuming he has a sustainable and productive comeback season.
What should Dak Prescott’s contract with the Cowboys look like?
According to reports, Prescott wants a shorter deal, so think more of Deshaun Watson’s four-year fork (at $ 156 million) than Patrick Mahomes’ 10-year fork (at $ 450 million). These two QBs from the 2017 first round signed their mega deals at the end of last summer, just before the 2020 season.
Mahomes ended up making an average of $ 45 million per season, getting $ 63 million guaranteed at signing with over $ 141.5 million guaranteed in total. Watson ended up making an average of $ 39 million per season, $ 73 million guaranteed at signing and $ 110.7 million guaranteed in total.
Prescott is already going $ 31.4 million guaranteed over one year, so essentially a four-year deal would serve as an extension. Since the average annual salary is significantly lower than the best in the market, don’t be surprised if Prescott is raised to an average of $ 40 million per season, or a total of $ 160 million over four years.
That would translate to five years, $ 191.4 million including 2020, which is the true average of $ 38.3 million, which seems fair since it’s a little more than what Prescott would get on the label in. 2021.
Watson’s contract gives the Cowboys a good way to structure Prescott’s. Around $ 75 million guaranteed at signing and $ 115 million guaranteed in total would make a lot of sense compared to an overall value of $ 160 million.
The Texans, with Watson’s extension, reduced his original cap to $ 9.8 million in 2020 and $ 15.9 million in 2021, if he stays with the team. The contract does not climb more than $ 40 million from the cap until 2022 and 2023. The Cowboys can create similar short-term flexibility with their cap and stay clear of any kind of blockage.
In the end, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Cowboys to score Prescott again, but after doing it once as the easiest fix in 2020, they’d be much better off finalizing the long-term deal before. March 9. , they could be dangerously close to letting Prescott enter the NFL free agency free market.