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Mick Shots: Playing After Midnight Waiting Game


FRISCO, Texas – Maybe the NFL should employ a little Eric Clapton at 12 a.m. Sunday when this unintentional activity pause will be lifted.

As in: After midnight we're going to let it all hang out . . . we're going to find out what it's all about.


That is when the NFLPA polls close in the Eastern time zone. 10:59 p.m. here at home. That is when we will find out, assuming all precincts are counted, without recent primary delays, if the NFLPA membership has ratified the new Collective Bargaining Agreement or if the players reject the 436-page proposal, almost assuredly creating labor unrest heading into the 2021 season.

That is when the business of the NFL can resume.

Like, haven't you wondered why no franchise or transition tags have been issued since the right-of-first-refusal season opened Feb. 25?

Like, haven't you wondered why no serious player contracts of note have been consummated so far?

Not the teams nor the player agents want to make a move until they know the rules: Are they operating under the newly-proposed CBA or are they playing by the current CBA that is scheduled to expire after the 2020 season, thus activating varying rule changes for this final year.

And look, this is not all about the ability to use a franchise tag _and_ a transition tag in the final year of the CBA, as opposed to the CBA being voted upon as we speak, which would limit teams to either a franchise tag or transition tag under the final year of the current CBA.

This holdup exacerbated by the recent extended voting deadline so the players would have more time to compare the old and potentially new CBA, and in turn pushing back the tag deadline to Monday, at 11:59 a.m., one-minute before the start of legal tampering to negotiate contracts with unrestricted free agents. This pause especially applies to Dallas trying to sign quarterback Dak Prescott to a long-term deal, the Cowboys needing to know exactly how to structure the contract if the current 30-percent rule in the final year of the CBA is in place, thus limiting base salaries from increasing more than 30 percent each year or if those base salaries can increase or decrease by whatever percentage you want.

And my guess is, until the Cowboys know, until Dak's people know, nothing will be accomplished until after 11:59 p.m. EDT Saturday. This specifically affects that first year of a contract, and not just Dak's, but the potential offers to Amari Cooper, Robert Quinn, Byron Jones, Randall Cobb and Maliek Collins, among others.

And in turn, this gives teams just until 11:59 a.m. EDT on Monday to make those decisions on tags. Plus, what's currently been taking place is contract structure contingencies, one way if operating under the proposed CBA and another if operating under the old CBA in regards to the 30-percent rule.

And we won't know for sure until the clock strikes 12 Sunday morning, er, after midnight, then we'll know what it's all about.

Maybe actually producing some more shots in the, uh, dark.

· Vote Aye: There has been a lot of noise out there from the veteran, well-paid established players insisting they will vote nay on the proposed CBA. But listen to recent reasoning for an aye vote from retired former Cowboys receiver Keyshawn Johnson, explaining why: "It's about the guys in the middle and at the bottom" of the pay scale. The Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilsons, the J.J. Watts, they're set. They're cool. They don't have to do anything but retire." And when challenged with, why can't the CBA be even better for the players, Keyshawn wisely pointed out players just can't take the chance of the owners digging in, causing a work stoppage. Well said.

· Retirement Security: One of the proposed points in the new CBA helping retired players is a bump in pension pay, and it goes like this: With a modest increase in league revenue that is tied to the increase of the salary cap, the pension could increase to $600 for every year of credited service per month. Ran into former Cowboys defensive lineman Tony Casillas the other day, and when pointing that out, he goes, "So, since I got in 12 years . . ." That's right Tony, if our math is right, that's a $7,200 monthly bump, or an extra $86,400 a year. That was us, we'd be hitting the campaign trail.

· Shout Out: If you happened to hear excessive cheering coming out of The Star Tuesday, certainly came from the coaching wing when learning the Cowboys were going to play in the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio, against Pittsburgh. While Cowboys owner Jerry Jones points out he asked the league for the game since former Cowboys two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Jimmy Johnson is being inducted that weekend, the underlying reason for the request was to get a week head start to training camp on the other 30 teams, along with a fifth preseason game, certainly helping out the transition to a new head coach, 14 of 18 new coaching staff members and most likely significant roster turnover.

· Another Cap Casualty: Yet another free agency cautionary tale: The New York Jets informing veteran cornerback Trumaine Johnson he will be released prior to March 20 when his $11 million base salary comes fully guaranteed for 2020, no matter the move will stuff $12 million of dead money into their salary cap. That's how badly the Jets want out of what's turned out to be a bad free-agent deal, the Jets getting all of 17 games out of Johnson over two seasons, missing nine games last year with a sprained ankle. And in 2018, he was actually benched for two games and a healthy scratch in the season finale. Beware the devil you don't know, I insist.

· Lights Out: Cowboys rookie wide receiver Ventell Bryant was pulled over in the wee hours Wednesday morning in Tampa, Fla., for driving without his lights on, and then failed field sobriety and blood alcohol level tests. He was charged with a DUI. Bryant was mainly a special teamer, playing 57 percent of those snaps over 12 games.

· Playful In Seattle: Now this is exactly what a free agent should say when asked if he wants to play for a certain team, and defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who spent nine games with the Cowboys this past season, didn't miss a beat when asked on NBC Northwest Talking Seahawks podcast if he would like to return to Seattle where he spent five seasons and won a Super Bowl, saying, "I'd love to end my career in Seattle." Wonder what he'd have said on Talkin' Cowboys?

· Now We're Talkin': The Ravens and Chargers have mutually submitted a rule proposal to the NFL Competition Committee to add a booth umpire as an eighth official to aid video reviews and a senior technology referee to assist the crew. The eight-man Competition Committee, which includes Cowboys COO Stephen Jones, met during the NFL Scouting Combine and will convene again prior to the late March owners meetings.

· Option Moves: The Cowboys have club options on fullback Jamaze Olawale and backup offensive tackle Cameron Fleming. They already have picked up Olawale's option for a $1 million base, plus a $100,000 roster bonus. As for Fleming, the Cowboys have until March 18 to decide if they will pick up his option, worth a $4 million base and $437,500 roster bonus. If not, the dead money would hit the cap for $750,000.

· Final Shots: NFLPA board of player representatives elected Browns center JC Tretter president, a guy who has promoted a neutral opinion on this CBA, trying to give his members both sides of the story. Gosh, novel stance from an elected official … Cowboys' fifth-round compensatory pick comes from a combination of losing Cole Beasley in free agency to Buffalo, but also the signing replacement Randall Cobb in free agency … A sports betting measure approved by the Maryland senate would allow bets to be placed in casinos, horse racing tracks and stadiums the Redskins might play in, which would bring an interesting twist to that Cowboys-Redskins rivalry … Am told NFL teams can't sign any XFL players until the season is completed … The NFL new CBA contract proposal states veteran players not under their rookie contract holding out of training camp will not be allowed by teams to waive their daily fines upon return and won't earn an accrued season.

Last word goes to Dak. Reports stating the Cowboys offering him $33 million a year, with $105 million guaranteed, does not clarify the length of the deal or how many years the guarantees cover. That's most important.

If we look at the deal signed by Carson Wentz, his five-year extension includes $107.9 million guaranteed over four years or $27 million a year. As for the one Jared Goff signed, his $110 million guarantee is spread over four years, too, or a $27.5 average.

So if the Cowboys' offer to Dak is over four years, his will average out to $26.5 million, or right in the market ballpark. Their five-year extensions signed in 2019 with a year remaining on their original rookie deals includes outs in 2023 when the base salary guarantees expire.

And ya'll wonder why these things take so long.