Just over a week left.
Either the Cowboys and Dak Prescott reach a long-term extension by 3 p.m. Central next Wednesday, July 15, or both sides must table contract talks until 2021 and the Pro Bowl quarterback will play the upcoming season on the one-year, $31.4 million franchise tag he signed in late June.
Here's what we know, and don't know, with eight days left on the negotiating calendar:
What are the sticking points?
First, let's be clear: publicly, Prescott and the Cowboys have never commented about the details of these negotiations since they began over a year ago. All information to this point has been reports-based. According to multiple reports, the Cowboys have made offers that would place Prescott in the top tier of quarterback average-per-year salaries, but Prescott would prefer a shorter deal (perhaps four years) that would allow him to reach free agent status again sooner when, presumably, the market value for quarterbacks will be even greater than it is now. Until Monday, Seattle's Russell Wilson was the league's highest-paid starter at an average of $35 million per season, followed by Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger ($34 million), LA's Jared Goff ($33.5 million) and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers ($33.5 million). But the Chiefs' Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes just set a U.S. sports record with a 10-year extension that could top out at just over $500 million. It remains to be seen how Mahomes' deal impacts future quarterback contracts across the league. It's really in its own stratosphere in terms of salary and length.
What if there's a deal by July 15?
If Prescott and the Cowboys strike a multi-year deal that would place him among the quarterbacks mentioned above, he would become the highest-paid player in team history. Currently, that title belongs to defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who signed a five-year, $105 million extension in April 2019 that includes $65 million in guaranteed money. A long-term deal for Prescott would mean lucrative long-term security, obviously. For the Cowboys, they would have a clearer picture of their salary cap situation for the next few years and be able to frame future contracts around Prescott – an important point when considering how much of the pie this deal is likely to take up. Depending on how the deal is structured, they also might be able to create some extra salary cap space this year.
What if there's no deal by July 15?
As mentioned before, Prescott would play this season on the tag and we'd start this process all over again next year. Both sides could resume discussing a long-term extension then, and the Cowboys also would have the option to franchise Prescott a second time, if needed, to ensure he stayed in Dallas for 2021. However, projections say the quarterback franchise tag would inch closer to $40 million next year.
Does the franchise tag usually lead to a long-term deal?
In the Cowboys' case, yes. The club has given out the tag seven times to five other players: Lawrence (2019, 2018), Dez Bryant, (2015), Anthony Spencer (2012, 2013), Ken Hamlin (2009) and Flozell Adams (2002). Everyone but Spencer eventually got an extension, and Bryant and Hamlin got their deals done the same year as the first tag.
How likely is an agreement by July 15?
As Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones has said in the past, sometimes a deal – even one of this magnitude – can get done in a few hours if both sides gain some mutual momentum. That hasn't happened in the last few weeks, if not months, but there's still a little time. Cowboys have beaten negotiating deadlines in the recent past. Last year, Lawrence and running back Ezekiel Elliott got their lucrative extensions ahead of more artificial deadlines – Lawrence needing shoulder surgery at the time and Elliott needing to end his training camp holdout before the start of the 2019 season. How likely is a new deal for Prescott by next Wednesday? We'll see. Stay tuned.