The franchise tag deadline has come and gone and there was no deal between the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. This means that Prescott will play out the 2020 season (assuming it happens) on the tag, which has only happened for two other quarterbacks in history.
#Cowboys QB @dak is the 8th QB to be designated a franchise player since 1993 but only 2 have actually played a season under the tag— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) May 27, 2020
• Drew Brees in 05 (Chargers)
• Kirk Cousins in 16 & 17 (Redskins)
Both would go on to sign deals with a different team the following season
First it was Drew Brees with the Chargers, a move that’s still somewhat confusing given that the team had already groomed Philip Rivers for a year on the bench. Not only did they hold on to Brees on the franchise tag going into Rivers’ second season with the team, they tried to bring him back for a five-year deal. Brees ended up choosing the Saints, led by newly hired head coach Sean Payton, and the rest is history.
Then there was Kirk Cousins. Like Prescott, Cousins was a successful college quarterback who fell to the fourth round of the draft. Cousins was taken by the then-Redskins, who had already mortgaged their future to move up in the draft and select Robert Griffin III. It seemed Cousins was destined for a career as a backup.
Three years in, though, Cousins became the full-time starter because Griffin couldn’t stay healthy. He quickly cemented himself as the new franchise quarterback in Washington, throwing for 4,166 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while leading them to the playoffs. Washington wasn’t sold on him, though, and slapped him with the tag. He responded with a Pro Bowl season that saw him fall just short of 5,000 passing yards, although the team narrowly missed the postseason.
That was enough for the team to once again tag him, and Cousins left in free agency the following season for a ridiculous contract with the Vikings. Cousins is only two years into his deal there, but has already set career highs in completion percentage, single season touchdowns, passer rating, and QBR.
Next in line, Dak Prescott. The Cowboys foolishly refused to capitulate to Prescott’s camp on shortening the deal to just four years, apparently over some odd aversion to doing four-year deals specifically.
Why is the extra year a sticking point? I’m told they just don’t do 4 year extensions. The #Cowboys consider the offer top money so they want the extra year. If he doesn’t reach a deal Wednesday he plays for 31.4M in 2020 on the franchise tag https://t.co/O7TNdINeFQ— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) July 15, 2020
The choice was simple on Prescott’s end, though. He had no real reason to take less than what he desired because the alternative is a fully guaranteed $31.4 million this year, which is a 1,451% increase from what Prescott was paid last season. And with the Cowboys drafting CeeDee Lamb and shifting towards a more pass happy offense under Mike McCarthy, there’s no reason to think Prescott can’t replicate his numbers from 2019, if not improve on them; either way, it results in Prescott getting paid a ton of money to gain even more leverage for round two.
That’s without taking into account all the other quarterbacks who might sign new deals in the meantime, thus resetting the market. Deshaun Watson is likely to ink a new deal in that time span, and it’s possible that teams could seek to get similar deals done in advance with guys like Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold. Aside from the things Prescott can do for himself to gain leverage, there’s a lot of potential external forces in play as well.
All of this serves to make it harder for the Cowboys to get Prescott signed to a long-term deal a year from now without having to cave to his demands. Since it’s clear from the current situation that Stephen Jones would rather risk losing a player than doing that, this makes the odds of keeping Dak long term a bit less likely.
But on the off chance the Cowboys do manage to work out a long-term extension at the conclusion of the 2020 season, they would be making history. It would be a unique situation where a team failed to do what they should have done but was still smart enough to avoid making the same mistake Washington did with Cousins. Still, it would require history to be made.
A lot can happen in a year, so it’s far too early to rule anything out. But with Prescott now playing the year on the franchise tag, the odds of him being in Dallas for the long haul have dropped considerably.