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Evaluating four possible reasons the Cowboys front office didn’t extend Dak Prescott

It’s hard to make sense of this, but we’re going to try.

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

It didn’t happen.

The deadline came and went, and the Dallas Cowboys young quarterback remains without a long-term deal. Dak Prescott will play under the franchise tag price of $31.4 million for the 2020 season, and we’ll start this whole charade over again once the season is ends. And there’s even a chance we’re going have to do this July 15th deadline thing again next offseason should Prescott get tagged again. That’s right, this ordeal may drag on for another three hundred and sixty-some odd days before an agreement is reached.

It’s frustrating that they weren’t able to get a deal done. The front office is certainly getting a lot of heat from Cowboys Nation because some fans can’t seem to make heads or tails of it. Of course, we have no idea what was going on behind the scenes. The scuttlebutt revolved around a disagreement between a four-year vs. five-year deal. Team Prescott wanted to be able to jump back into the free agent market when the revenues start flying after the 17-game schedule is implemented combined with the expected new TV deals that will come into play after the 2022 season. The front office wanted a longer deal in what would’ve been a money saving move; however, now he’s on a one-year deal. And from what I was taught in school, one is less than four.

To be honest, we don’t know what Team Dak’s demands were. Maybe they were unreasonable. As our own Cole Patterson pointed out, Prescott wasn’t the only one of his agent’s (Todd France) clients who were tagged that wasn’t able to get a long term deal done. Both safety Justin Simmons (Broncos) and edge rusher Bud Dupree (Steelers) are the only other of France’s clients who had been tagged, and they join Prescott as players entering the new season without a long-term deal.

Truth is, we don’t know the reason, and it may be a while before we do. Of course, we can’t wait that long, so we’re going to do our best to try get inside the mind of the Cowboys organization and figure out exactly - what was the reasoning behind not being able to get a deal worked out. Here are some theories we’ve conjured up...

The Cowboys front office has a Dak-up plan

Dallas has made some tough roster decisions in the past. Sometimes they were ready (secondary remodel of 2017). Other times they weren’t (wide receiver debacle in early 2018). And while the team did a great job landing a viable backup in Andy Dalton, the veteran quarterback is on a one-year deal and is no way the future of this franchise.

When you look at the other two quarterbacks in NFL history who have played under the tag (Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins), it’s discouraging to learn that they eventually parted ways with their team, but one thing about those scenarios is that their old team had made other arrangements. San Diego had a recently drafted Philip Rivers (fourth overall in 2004) in their back pocket, so Brees went on to strike a long-term deal with the New Orleans Saints. And two months before Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings, the Washington Redskins made a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs to acquire Alex Smith.

For the Cowboys, they don’t have a young early first-round draft pick in their back pocket. And unless they’re planning on pulling off some big blockbuster trade, this team doesn’t have a contingency plan.

Brees’ Saints went on to win the Super Bowl, whereas Rivers’ Chargers did not. In fact, the Chargers have missed the playoffs in eight of the last ten seasons, and will now begin a Rivers-less era as they just drafted Oregon’s Justin Herbert (sixth overall) back in April. As for the Redskins without Cousins? Well, it’s been a little challenging.

So, is the Cowboys having some type of backup plan a possible reason for them to not get Prescott re-signed? Let’s check the Truth-O-Meter...

The front office is not sold on Dak Prescott

We won’t spend a lot of time here because it seems pretty clear this isn’t the reason either, but in the spirit of being thorough, we have to graze on it a bit.

The Cowboys love Prescott. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t have been a five-year deal on the table. The team has been high on him from the onset as the organization loved him so much that they chose to move on from the beloved Tony Romo during the offseason of 2017.

There are many reasons to be happy with Prescott as the team’s quarterback. In fact, we recently gave you 20 of them, but the list goes on and on. He’s certainly not playing on the tag because the team “hasn’t quite seen enough” or has something left to prove. This organization has already gone all-in with Dak, and any uncertainty about his playing ability is not the reason this thing is being held up.

However, it is worth mentioning that the inability to get a deal done and having him play on the tag could present a deleterious fallout down the road. We know what happened to Brees and Cousins, and we’re all hoping that Prescott makes history by being the first quarterback ever to play under the tag and still re-sign with his old team. But we have to consider that there are no guarantees this will happen.

Also, we can’t throw aside all the reports about how both sides weren’t talking to each other all that much. That is certainly not encouraging. We thought maybe that was just fluff, but when no deal came to fruition, it got real. And with a lot of new variables entering the equation this upcoming season, a lot can happen in a year.

The front office is well aware of this risk, so it isn’t so unreasonable now to have a small inkling of doubt and that maybe, just maybe, the Jones’ aren’t fully committed to ride or die with Dak. Even having said all that, this reason still leans toward phony baloney.

The front office is trying to save money

Well, isn’t it always about the money? Of course it is, which is why it is perplexing that the Cowboys haven’t locked this thing down yet. Prescott’s asking price continues to rise with every new pass he throws and it’s likely to skyrocket even more if things go as planned.

The offense has added the best wide receiver in the draft in CeeDee Lamb to go with two 1,100+ yard receivers last season in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Despite what some in the media will try to tell you, they have one of the best running backs in the league in Ezekiel Elliott. Even pass catching tight end Blake Jarwin is free to wonder about and gather up reps as if they were Pokémon GO. It should be fun!

When you lay it all on the table, why on earth would the front office want to push this off any longer when the price is ultimately going to go up? They have to know this. This isn’t Stephen Jones’ first rodeo, and he is fully aware that a hamburger on Tuesday is not going to cost what it does today. I’m not sure how much of this premise we’re buying, but something definitely doesn’t add up.

The Cowboys are preparing for the financial fallout of 2021

We are all privy to the possible salary cap consequences of the current COVID-19 situation. Revenue lost from not having fans in the stands is going to be significant and it will ultimately impact the salary cap in some form or another. Maybe it won’t result in a huge cap reduction like what has been brought up before, but even if the loss is spread out a bit, it’s going to create some financial problems. Look at the top 10 cap hits for next season (courtesy of spotrac)

This is going to be an issue for several teams. In fact, there are three teams in a world of hurt as they are already considerably over the cap next season, and they all have a high-priced quarterback on the books.

Eight of those top ten cap hits are on teams in the bottom half of cap space next season. The Cowboys would join them had Prescott’s first-year cap savings taken effect this year. However, should the Cowboys be able to get Dak signed next offseason, the team’s first-year cap break comes at a very opportune time.

Granted, money can always be freed up with restructures, and there’s carryover, so this is all a bookkeeping technicality, but is it possible the Cowboys front office has the foresight to set them up for success later?

Some teams are inevitably going to have to scramble. And it could be a huge road block for teams to go out and get the players they need to be competitive (I’m looking at you, Philadelphia Eagles). The Cowboys may be able to sidestep some of these huge financial sacrifices if they can position their money correctly. For Dallas, it’s just about making good investments, and it doesn’t necessary reside on buying stock at the precise moment before it rises. There is still plenty of room for that Dak stock to climb.

Eventually, we’ll learn the real reasoning for the Cowboys hesitation to get a deal done, but for now, we’re going to put a pin in this theory as maybe there’s something to it.

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