FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys begin the offseason with many roster questions yet to be answered amid an uncertain NFL financial landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One goal remains the same: reaching a long-term deal with Dak Prescott.
The Cowboys and Prescott could not negotiate during the season because both sides did not come to an agreement before the July 15, 2020 franchise tag deadline. But Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones reiterated Monday that a new deal for the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback is "certainly right there at the top" of the club's offseason priorities.
Prescott missed the final 11 games following surgery to repair a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle, a season-ending injury suffered in Week 5 against the Giants. All indications from the team are that Prescott will make a full recovery and point toward a return to on-field activities during the spring offseason program.
Veteran backup Andy Dalton played well during Prescott's time on Reserve/Injured, but there's no question Prescott will lead the huddle when healthy.
"We have nothing but the greatest respect for Andy and what he did for this football team this year," Jones told 105.3 The Fan. "He certainly stepped into a difficult situation. … Andy stepped in and I thought did a great job.
"But at the end of the day, and Andy knows, this is Dak's football team. We're obviously very committed to getting Dak signed. We'd love to have Andy back, but he also understands what the situation here that it is Dak Prescott's football team."
If a new deal isn't reached by early March -- the tentatively scheduled end of this year's franchise tag window -- the Cowboys might have to franchise Prescott to extend the negotiating period into July, just like last year.
That would merely be a placeholder for the club's long-term goal.
Jones referenced the club's offseason to-do list, and it's complicated by the pandemic. League-wide revenue losses due to lack of stadium attendance are likely to lead to a flat or lower salary cap figure than last year for teams.
"One of the things that we're going to have to really see where we are, and it will affect everybody, all 32 (teams), and it will affect our team, is what the consequences of the virus have had on our cap situation going forward and where is that salary cap going to be and what kind of cap are we going to manage into," Jones said.
"So all those things will play a role into players that we keep that are under contract, where we can sign -- obviously Dak being at the top of that list -- and then going from there."
That makes this year's NFL Draft critical to infusing the roster with new talent on cap-friendly contracts. Before April's draft, the Cowboys will have tough decisions to make in free agency in March.
Lots of questions to answer. But Jones said the Cowboys remain convinced Prescott is the man to lead them to consistent championship contention.
"That's why we'll continue to work hard so hard to get him signed long term and get him back at the wheel in terms of it being his team and moving forward," Jones said.