We’re in the middle of the offseason which means contracts, and contract negotiations, are on our mind. Dealing with the statuses of DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, and others could prove to be difficult.
The most pressing issue is, without question, Tank Lawrence, as he is the one set to be a free agent this offseason (technically speaking). Dallas is trying to lock him down long-term (they’ve already made one offer) and could franchise tag him as a last resort on March 5th in an effort to buy more time. Dak Prescott is a close second as far as big deals are concerned, and we know that the Cowboys want to get one done this offseason.
There are others, though (legitimate ones, not the desperate plea to keep the show running like on Lost). Amari Cooper is entering the final year of his rookie contract, a fifth-year option that the Oakland Raiders picked up an offseason ago. And while Ezekiel Elliott’s own rookie deal doesn’t expire until after the 2020 season (assuming Dallas picks up his option over the next few months) he can also be negotiated with.
Good news is there’s a loophole of sorts in the CBA as far as the 2020 season goes. Good news is good!
NFL teams can apply both the franchise and transition tags next offseason
The Cowboys have said that they won’t apply the franchise tag to DeMarcus Lawrence for the second time in as many seasons, but anything is possible in contract negotiations. If and when Dallas does do this it will be their lone utilization of the tag this offseason because per the rules outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement teams can only drop the franchise or transition tag in a given offseason.
According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano though... that’s not the case in 2020. Next year NFL teams can apply both the franchise and transition (I’m dubbing this move “the fransition tag” by the way) tags. That is a game-changer. Graziano even uses an example with Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper to illustrate his point.
Article 10 of the CBA stipulates that, in the Final League Year, teams are allowed to designate one franchise player and one transition player. So, in a hypothetical (and, frankly, unlikely) example in which neither Prescott nor Cooper is signed to a long-term extension by the end of the 2019 season and no new CBA is negotiated by next March, the Cowboys would have the ability to keep both of those players off the open market by designating one a franchise player and the other a transition player.
Prescott and Cooper work in the example because both of their contracts expire after the 2019 season. While the Cowboys have said that they want to work out a deal with Dak this offseason, this bit is still very interesting as it could be applied in a number of situations.
For those who want to know the difference between the franchise tag and the transition tag, here is a simple explanation.
The transition tag is a less-expensive version of the franchise tag that allows a player to garner contract offers from other interested teams. It offers a team the right of first refusal when it comes to one of its unrestricted free agents. That gives the free-agent-to-be more leverage than he’d have under the franchise designation — but it benefits his current team as well. The tagging franchise has the opportunity to match the terms of the contract its player would otherwise sign elsewhere.
Byron Jones could be someone the Cowboys put off because of this
When you look at the impending contracts for Lawrence, Prescott, Elliott, Cooper, and Byron Jones there’s often one player that falls to the bottom of the priority list and it is in fact the last name listed. Jones’ contract also expires after 2019 and as a result he could be one of the tags that the Cowboys hand out next offseason.
Knowing that they could conceivably protect two players next offseason as opposed to the usual one is a valuable piece of information for all NFL teams, but it’s especially applicable to the Cowboys with all of these looming deals. We’re using Jones as the example here, but it could be anyone. Say Anthony Brown balls out to the point that you want to keep him, or imagine it’s a one-year contract player that the Cowboys hand out this offseason whom they don’t want to lose. This is a great fail safe.
Obviously, it would be great for the Cowboys to get all of their important contract extensions done as soon as possible, but the reality of the NFL is that they may not happen in time. This is exactly why Dallas might have to tag Lawrence in a few weeks to buy time. It’s nice knowing that they have those options to a greater extent a year from now when things could be particularly spicy.