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Mailbag: Explaining The Franchise Tag Window?

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The NFL's franchise tag window runs Feb. 23 through March 9. If the Cowboys and Dak Prescott do not reach a deal by March 9 and the team applies the franchise tag, can another team still sign him to a contract offer if they are willing to give up two first-round picks? Does that option still exist on a second tag? — ROBERT LECLERC / PRINCE GEORGE BC

David: The short answer is yes, but keep in mind that there are technically two types of franchise tag. The non-exclusive tag would allow Dak to talk with other teams. If another team made an offer to Dak, and the Cowboys didn't want to match the offer, he could leave in exchange for two first-round picks. However, the exclusive tag prevents Dak from talking to anyone besides the Cowboys – and that's the tag the team used on him last year. Quarterback is the most valuable position in sports, and the Cowboys didn't want to risk losing him at any cost. For the same reason, I think it's safe to expect the Cowboys to use the exclusive tag once again in 2021.

Nick: Don't forget, it's not exactly two first-round picks. It can be whatever the teams agree on. For instance, it could be more than two first-rounders or maybe something less than that. Obviously, it would depend on where these picks might happen to land in the first round. We all know there's a big difference between a Top 10 pick and something in the low 30's. Then again, there are exceptions to every rule – like the fourth-round compensatory pick the Cowboys drafted in 2016 who turned out to be Dak Prescott. So maybe the Cowboys should just scrap all the trade talk and just get the deal done with him.

I believe that if they can stay healthy, the Cowboys have a better-than-average team. If they could add an impact starter at just one position, which one would you pick? — JIM WHATLEY / HENDERSON, TX

David: For the purposes of this question, I'm just going to assume that Dak is back for 2021, and both Tyron Smith and La'el Collins are available to play tackle. If that's the case, my first choice would be another bonafide stud pass rusher to pair with DeMarcus Lawrence. Two edge rushers capable of notching 10+ sacks would make even a pedestrian secondary look solid. If that's not possible, give me an instinctual centerfielder of a safety who can quarterback the secondary and clean up after everyone else.

Nick: This is a harder question than I thought. I could seriously come up with a realistic answer for defensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker, safety and cornerback. Whatever you've got, bring him on the team and he will help out. I really can't remember the last time the Cowboys had an impact safety. So that would be cool right there. But if I know this guy will make an impact like you said, I'll just say defensive end. Even though D-Law and Gregory seemingly give you the most depth there than any other spot, I'll still take another one.

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