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Offseason | 2021

Mick Shots: Now All This Seems Too Familiar


FRISCO, Texas – A return to normalcy.

Yep, today, it's 72 degrees warmer than it was a week ago Tuesday when the temp dipped to minus-2. Here. In Texas, mind you.

The sun is out. No more snow.

There is electricity and water.

Actually seeing some folks here at The Star for the first time since COVID hit high gear at the end of March. That's right, March of 2020.

And, of course, talk of Dak Prescott's contract is back in the air, on the air and in print.


The hot topic that just keeps on giving, especially since the NFL's two-week window to tag unrestricted free agents with either the franchise or transition designations to protect their rights while continuing to negotiate potential long-term contracts has opened.

Fasten your seatbelts for Round 3, debating the merits a third year of the Cowboys and Dak agreeing to a new deal or each side willing to play another season on the franchise tag that will cost $37.7 million this season on a one-year, guaranteed contract against the salary cap that comes with no security for 2022 – for either side.

The two sides have until March 9 by 3 p.m. to work out that long-term deal, or the Cowboys will issue Dak the exclusive franchise tag, meaning his folks will not have the rights to negotiate an offer sheet from them other folks. Meaning, the rights to continue negotiating a contract will extend to July 15. If no deal is consummated by then, if Dak wants to play in 2021, he must sign the tag or he can choose to turn his back on a guaranteed $37.7 million and not play at all.

Here is my question, actually, have two of them:

First, how much is Dak's people asking for? We've never heard. $40 million a year? $45 million? $50 million?

Second, if reports were accurate last July 15 when the negotiating period expired that a last-minute effort to knock out a long-term deal could not be completed in time, if the two sides were presumably that close, what's changed? Why would Round 3 take so long?

Just take the shot. Get 'er done, both sides ensuring future security.

  • Good News: Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us. Neither is good health, especially in this game of football when you have the ball and 320 pound guys are chasing after you as if their jobs depend on crushing you down. Uh, oh yeah, their jobs do depend on that. Quite unfortunately, Dak found out in Game 5 of last season that he's not bulletproof. Sure would think agreeing to a signing bonus and guaranteed money now would take greater precedence. Good news is, Dak's rehab appears to be progressing well, and he continues to do so under the Cowboys' guidance. So no hard feelings.
  • Scatter Shooting: And wondering if Dak's rep, Todd France, changing agencies last summer affected negotiations. France, who took over Dak's business affairs from Louisiana homeboy Jeff Guerriero of Monroe, La., in 2018, left Creative Artists Agency (CAA) on Aug. 7, 2020, according to Sports Business Journal. A month later, SBJ reported France signed with Sports First agency on Sept. 23. France had two other noted NFL players tagged last year, Denver safety Justin Simmons and Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree. They, too, could not be signed to long-term deals and played the 2020 season on the franchise tag. And guess what? Both Dak and Dupree suffered season-ending injuries, Dupree tearing an ACL in December, which is no way to head into free agency like three months later if Pittsburgh balks at tagging him again. And five months after Dak's gruesome injury, everyone seems to assume his market value has increased without testing out his ankle.
  • How Time Flies: Hard to believe 2021 will be Leighton Vander Esch's fourth season with the Cowboys. And you know what that means: The Cowboys must decide if they are going to pick up their 2018 first-round draft choice's fifth-year option by the May 3 deadline. Any consternation here? Remember, LVE was selected to the Pro Bowl and named second team All-Pro his rookie season. And we realize his immense talent, but will injuries over the past two seasons give the Cowboys pause for guaranteeing him another year in 2022? OverTheCap is projecting Vander Esch, with a $2.09 million base salary for this coming season, with a $9.7 million fifth-year option. But remember, LVE played in just nine games in 2019, needing season-ending surgery to repair a bulging disk in his neck. And then his 2020 season was cut short to just 10 games after first fracturing his collarbone and then missing the final two and a half games with a high ankle sprain. That means over the past two seasons LVE has played just 45 percent of the 32-game snaps. But when he's played, he's been awfully well. Oh, these cap-affected decisions aren't easy.
  • Dez, Dez: No matter Dez Bryant has only played in six games over the past three seasons, the Cowboys releasing him after the 2017 season and then rupturing an Achilles in his second practice after the Saints picked him up on Nov. 7 of 2018, causing him to miss all of 2019, the Cowboys 2010 first-round pick says he still wants to play "two more years." Bryant was active for just six games in 2020 with the Ravens, catching six passes for 47 yards and two touchdowns on 129 snaps. He had signed a one-year deal with the Ravens ($1.05 million), earning $370,588 for the six games he was on the active roster. So an upcoming free agent, Dez Tweeted the other night, "I realized quick Baltimore wasn't the place for me…no bad blood that's their way of doing things so you gotta respect it." Remember, Dez missed the Ravens game against the Cowboys that Tuesday night, Dec. 8, after a positive test for COVID-19 showed up 30 minutes before kickoff and was pulled off the field.

And I'll take this week's last word, just wanting to emphasize my point on dead money against the salary cap. First, the Cowboys currently have like $9 million in dead money eating up the 2021 salary cap, an expected total to be no lower than $180 million. The cost of Travis Frederick's retirement spread over two seasons ($6.06 million this year) and releasing Gerald McCoy after he suffered the season-ending injury during the first padded practice of training camp ($2 million) accounts for the majority of that total. But how would you like to be the Eagles, the trade of Carson Wentz to the Colts stuffing $33.8 million in dead money into their 2021 cap? Ouch, and why once again these long-term quarterback contracts with huge signing bonuses and guaranteed money are not be treated cavalierly. So don't want to hear this just sign Dak any more. The costs are huge, with 'em or without 'em.

That don't change one bit.

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