For more than a year, this was a game of tag neither the Cowboys nor Dak Prescott really wanted to play. All along, both sides figured it would never lead to this.
However, on Monday morning, the Cowboys officially placed the franchise tag on their starting quarterback, not only securing his rights but preventing another team getting to negotiate with him.
While the NFL's new league year officially opens on Wednesday at 3 p.m. (CDT), the window for teams to openly discuss new deals with potential free agents opens Monday morning at 11 am.
Prescott received the exclusive franchise tag worth around $33 million. The Cowboys chose that route over the non-exclusive tag of $28 million. By giving Dak the exclusive tag, which is the average of the top five quarterback salaries in the NFL, the Cowboys will be the only team that can negotiate a long-term deal with him.
Had the Cowboys given Prescott the non-exclusive tag, other teams could still sign him to an offer sheet. If the Cowboys chose not to match, they could be awarded two first-round picks.
But the Cowboys avoided that scenario all together, making Prescott the first quarterback since Kirk Cousins in 2017 to receive the exclusive franchise tag. Of course, Cousins only played one more year with the Redskins before signing a long-term deal with the Vikings.
Obviously, the Cowboys are hoping that development doesn't occur for Prescott, who can still negotiate with the team on a long-term deal.
According to reports, the Cowboys and Prescott's camp have been at odds over both the guaranteed money and the yearly average of the deal. Currently, Russell Wilson is the NFL's highest-paid quarterback annually at $35 million per season. Ben Roethlisberger makes $34 million per season with Jared Goff and Aaron Rodgers both at $33.5 million.
However, one contract likely to reset the entire quarterback market will be whatever the Chiefs end up paying Patrick Mahomes, who could reach or even surpass the $40 million per season mark.
Needless to say, the Cowboys would like to get Prescott's deal resolved for many reasons, especially with the start of free agency to begin Wednesday.