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The Cowboys are now free to sign Dak Prescott to a long-term deal, if they can

The Cowboys can return to the business of contract negotiations with Dak Prescott.

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

If the 2020 season taught us anything about the Dallas Cowboys, it’s that they are a much better offense with Dak Prescott running the show. When Prescott was in for the first five games, the Cowboys offense was a juggernaut and the team should have had a better record but a shoddy defense held them back. Once Prescott was lost for the year in Week 5, the Cowboys offense went into hibernation and only briefly reappeared with a run by Andy Dalton against some inferior competition.

Now that the 2020 season is over, the Cowboys are once again free to negotiate a long-term deal with Prescott. Of course, that’s easier said than done as last offseason proved. The Cowboys were unable to get that deal done and Prescott played 2020 under a franchise tag. That looks like a mistake for Dallas as their need for Prescott was proven on the field and now they will have to pay.

The Cowboys number priority has to be getting a deal done with Prescott. Stephen Jones knows that.

“Certainly at the top. Certainly right there at the top in terms of contracts, obviously,” Jones said Monday on 105.3 The Fan. “One of the things we’re going to have to see is where we are [with the salary cap] and that will affect everybody. It will affect all 32. It will affect our team. It’s just the consequence the virus has had on our cap situation going forward and where is that salary cap going to be? What kind of cap are we going to manage into? So, all of those things will play a role in terms of players that we keep that are under contract, what potentially we can sign. Obviously, Dak being at the top of that list, and then going from there.”

There is that salary cap issue. With a COVID 2020 season severely curtailing revenues, the salary cap is expected to decrease. In 2020, an agreement was reached for a floor of $175 million on the salary cap. Over The Cap estimates the number will be $176 million. Based on that, they estimate the Cowboys will have an effective salary cap cushion of $21 million. Obviously a contract with Prescott, if reached, would eat that up, unless they structure it so that 2021 is a very low base salary year and then it balloons later.

That is most likely what they will need to do if they want to keep him, because if they have to franchise him a second time it will cost them around $37 million in 2021. You can do the math and see how that will wreck the Cowboys cap in 2021. Other teams are facing similar issues around the league with the reduced cap, so the Cowboys aren’t along in negotiating this tricky offseason. You should take a look at the Eagles’ salary cap situation.

The Cowboys believe that Prescott is their guy, so it is incumbent on them to get a deal done and avoid a major salary cap issue, or face the prospect of starting over. As scarce as good quarterbacks are, starting over is a very dicey proposition.

“You see where these numbers are for quarterbacks,” Jones said. “The good ones that win year and year out, they do it consistently, and certainly we think we have one in Dak that could be the same thing, and that’s why we’re working, will continue to work hard to get him signed long-term, get him back at the wheel in terms of being his team and moving forward. And we think we can get that kind of consistency from Dak and coach [Mike] McCarthy and this football team.”

The Cowboys also went ahead and re-signed Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator to add more consistency to the offensive side of the ball. Prescott has to be a fan of Moore given how his stats have exploded in Moore’s offense.

Dallas has everything lined up for a Prescott return, now they just have to pay the man.