Beginning of end for Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott if no deal by deadline

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

If the Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott don’t come to an agreement in two weeks, it’s the beginning of the end.

As anyone who has negotiated big money transactions can testify, deadlines make deals. The Dallas Cowboys live and die by that mantra and they’re putting it on full display this offseason by almost refusing to serve up viable offers to Dak Prescott until they absolutely have to.

Any Dallas Cowboys fan expecting a deal before July was probably more optimist than realist. I mean, we all knew this was going to drag out until the end, didn’t we? But now the July 15th deadline is fast approaching and while there’s reason for believe a long-term deal will be struck, it’s also important for us to discuss what’s really at stake. Because if a multi-year contract isn’t signed in the next two weeks, it’s likely to be the beginning of the end for Dak Prescott in Dallas.

Why no deal signals beginning of the end

There’s two major elements working against the Dallas Cowboys here:

  1. the inflating cost of the tag
  2. and the state of the salary cap

The cost of doing business is the first obstacle: Dak just signed the exclusive franchise tender meaning the Dallas Cowboys have to pay him the massive, yet digestible, $31.5 million this year. All indications are Dak Prescott will have a career year in 2020. The offense is loaded like never before, the coaching staff is pass-happy, and the defense is suspect. There’s gonna be some shootouts.

From a sheer numbers perspective, Dak’s likely to be a top-2 NFL passer this season. About the only thing that can get in his way of a career year is an untimely injury. But given his durability thus far in his career, that’s not all that likely.

The cost to franchise tag him again in 2021 will rise 20%, per CBA rules, so now Dak will cost Dallas over $37 million to tag. With his value even higher than it is now, Dak has basically no reason to sign anything less than league max (well over $40M). He’s rolled the dice this long; he might as well do it one more season.  Because in 2021, the young, durable, and accomplished QB, is effectively only one year from an open-market bidding war. That’s because the cost to franchise tag him a third season (in 2022) will approach $50M territory (almost an impossible figure to fit under the cap).

It’s the Kirk Cousins blueprint to a tee.

The second element to consider is the state of the salary cap: Everyone wants to talk about the new TV deal and its ramifications on the salary cap, but before we get to that, we need to recognize the effect COVID-19 is going to have on the league’s financials.

It’s difficult to envision a world where fans are packing stadiums at any point this year. At the very best we can hope to have 25% capacity, but even that sounds a little farfetched given the current climate. Teams see this too. Owners have already voted to up their debt limits because they know they’re going to take a major hit in local revenues.

Since the salary cap is tied to revenue each year, it’s going to be dramatically affected by this. Predictions are the cap could drop as much as 30% next season, effectively making Dak’s $37 million cap hit 30% worse and impossible to absorb.

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Clearly a drop in the cap is against the best interests of both players and teams, so a resolution will likely be found in some regard. If not, teams will have mass roster purges and free agency will resemble a flea market rather than a bidding war. Because of this, the league will most certainly find a way to protect teams from losing players they otherwise want to keep.

Who wouldn’t get protected?

Chances are unsigned players working off annual tenders (i.e. Dak Prescott).

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Once under contract the Dallas Cowboys can feel pretty safe in the uncertain environment ahead. They know the league is going to protect itself and do everything it can to protect rosters. Whether that’s roster exemptions, contract forgiveness, or something of the like, the NFL is not going to force every team to cut its most valuable players and essentially sanction an NFL redraft.

We don’t know what’s ahead for the league in these uncertain times, but if Dak Prescott escapes this summer without a deal, he may as well see this whole thing through and wait for an open market bidding war.

Dallas Cowboys should be hopeful though. The Cowboys and Dak are said to be very close on a deal and the main hang-up is on years rather than money. Chances are he’s going to sign a four-year deal this month.

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But if Dak doesn’t sign a deal before the deadline, it indicates bigger issues are at hand and that means Cowboys Nation should brace for the worst.