Spagnola: Lots Of Money Being Left On The Table


FROM HOME, Texas – Well, that's Dak.

Guess there is no absolute to this notion of deadlines making deals.

Certainly not in this case between the Cowboys and franchised quarterback Dak Prescott. The deadline to secure a long-term deal came and went at 3 p.m. Wednesday, and with high anticipation and anxiety circling, no deal. And from the sound of things, not even close. Neither side seemed willing to budge, or at least neither was willing to budge enough to appease the other. Not on term. And for sure, and isn't this always the case, not on amount.

And to me, neither side wins in what had turned out to be this arduous tug-of-war that's been going on for some 16 months since the Cowboys began trying to sign Dak to a long-term extension in the final year of his rookie contract. Not the Cowboys. And not Dak, though it's not as if he lost, since he'll be on the books for the franchise-tagged amount of $31.4 million guaranteed in 2020

But here is the big IF: If this season goes off as planned. All 16 games. Not 12 or 14. Heck, for that matter, have mercy, what if not any.

Hey, who knows?

Look, the Cowboys can't be happy. A long-term deal, complete with a signing bonus, likely would have cut Dak's 2020 salary cap hit in half, freeing up some much needed space the Cowboys are quickly running out of, since remember, they have yet to sign any of their draft choices, and that rookie pool is $7.3 million. And it's not just about this year, either. Just because a five-year deal likely was going to average right at $35 million a year, that doesn't mean that's the cap charge every year.

And to me, Dak's got to be kicking himself. Sure would have been nice to have a $50 million signing bonus transferred into your account today. TODAY! To have the security of at least $100 million guaranteed.

But now, assuming the season starts on time and lasts all 17 weeks without interruption, Dak will get paid $1.85 million per week … for one season. NO guarantees after Jan. 3, 2021, the presumptive final game of the 2020 season. Plus do the math on the possibility of missing four games. That's like $7.3 million down the drain if the NFL and the NFLPA don't come to some sort of compensation agreement if COVID-19 causes a delay or interruption.

Injuries are a part of this game, too. Go ask Anthony Spencer. The Cowboys defensive end played on consecutive franchise tags in 2012 and 2013. But in 2013, what was first thought to be a simple bone bruise during training camp turned into microfracture knee surgery. He played one game that season and became a free agent in 2014. No surprise, no team came calling.

Spencer ended up signing a one-year, $2 million prove-it deal with the Cowboys, only $250,000 guaranteed. Played in 13 games, no starts. Just half-a-sack. Took that into free agency in 2015.

Next year, signs a minimum $980,000, one-year deal with Saints, just $230,000 guaranteed. Was injured during training camp. Placed on injured reserve at the final roster cut. Then released off IR in October. Never played another game. Nor made another dollar in the NFL.

Now, folks will say Dak is betting on himself. Has another great season and the price goes up on a long-term deal next year, or he is tagged again, this time in the vicinity of $37.7 million if the two sides can't come to an agreement on a long-term deal, but now at 28 years of age. So nearly $69.1 million over two years. That averages out to $34.55 million a year – exactly what the Cowboys were offering over five years. But doesn't come with the $100 million the Cowboys would have guaranteed. Nor a signing bonus. Today.

So now Prescott becomes just the third NFL quarterback to play on the franchise tag. Drew Brees did so in 2005 in San Diego and Kurt Cousins did so twice with Washington, 2016-17.

Brees started all 16 games for the Chargers in 2005. But of all things, in the final game of the season, while trying to recover a fumble, he was hit hard on the ground, tearing the labrum in his right, throwing shoulder. Welcome to free agency, big guy. Now we know the rest of that story.

With all, including the Chargers, scared of that shoulder – the Dolphins wanted to sign Brees but failed him on his physical much to the chagrin of then head coach Nick Saban. And the Chargers were offering five years but with a heavily incentive-laced contract and just a $2 million base in 2006 – he continued searching for a team.

The Saints came marching in, with first-year head coach Sean Payton, trying to revive a franchise after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans. Brees would sign a six-year, $60 million deal. But here was the catch: He received $10 million in 2006 and there was a safety net $12 million option bonus for 2007 to qualify the rest. The Saints were couching their bet on his shoulder. Drew won – and so did the Saints.

As for Cousins, he turned his two franchise tags with Washington into a three-year, fully-guaranteed $84 million deal with the Vikings in 2018. That turned out well, the Vikings extending him for two more years now worth $66 million.

So easy for Cousins to tell Dak this past season not to be afraid to play under the franchise tag since he cleared $44 million those two franchise seasons. Worked for him. Brees was fortunate the Saints were desperate enough to take a calculated chance on him. And his repaired shoulder held up.

As for Anthony Spencer, well, he did pocket $19.5 million those two franchise seasons. But only $2 million after that. His injury basically prematurely ended his career after eight seasons. Thus, the absolute downside of playing under the tag: A huge "what if" hangs overhead.

Well, as I said, that's that for Dak this year. No more contract talk. Other than his first, for sure, virtual interview when asked about the decision.

Dak's folks stuck to their guns. The Cowboys stuck to their salary-cap managing guns.

So let's go play. We hope.