Prescott: 'I’m a Cowboy and couldn’t be happier'
By Jori Epstein
For the most part, the NFL franchise-tag deadline passed quietly in Dallas on Wednesday.
No last-minute deal materialized between the Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott, who is now scheduled to play 2020 on a franchise tag worth $31.4 million.
"I’m a Cowboy and couldn’t be happier," Prescott told USA TODAY Sports Wednesday night. "I look forward to working along Coach McCarthy, the staff, and my teammates to be the best team we can be in pursuit to our goal of a Super Bowl."
Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones discussed negotiations with Dak Prescott and his representation by phone Wednesday before the deadline. But the Cowboys tendered no new written offer Wednesday — nor have they since March, two people with knowledge of the conversation told USA Today Sports. The people were granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of negotiations.
The Cowboys’ latest deal offered Prescott a contract spanning five years with guarantees no more than $110 million, the two people confirmed. The Rams guaranteed quarterback Jared Goff, also drafted in Prescott's 2016 class, $110 million as part of a 4-year extension last summer.
Wednesday's impasse continued a trend during negotiations that commenced more than a year prior.
Momentum stalled months ago, with Prescott seeking a deal no longer than four years while the Cowboys yearned for at least five. On March 16, Dallas placed its exclusive franchise tag on the man it drafted in Round 4 four years ago. On June 22, Prescott signed the tender worth $31.4 million.
He’ll report to Cowboys headquarters whenever the NFL and NFLPA deem it safe to stage training camp. NFL rules prohibit negotiations with franchise-tagged players during the season.
So for the second straight year, Prescott will bet on himself and his teammates.
In 2019, that bet came along with a career-best statistical season. But the Cowboys finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Dallas hired head coach Mike McCarthy to succeed Jason Garrett, whose contract the team didn't renew.
“Obviously, I want to win,” Prescott told USA TODAY Sports in January. “I’m somebody that I’ve gambled on myself my whole life. That’s kind of what it is. I’ve been doubted and told people they’re wrong.
“When you’re playing out a situation, when you’re playing out a contract, there’s no different mindset than that.”
Come 2021, tagging Prescott a second time will cost the Cowboys $37.7 million — even if COVID-19 stints NFL clubs’ revenue. Negotiations then also may accompany better clarity on what the pandemic windfall means for the salary cap.
Neither Prescott nor the Cowboys have publicly wavered from their stance that Prescott is the Cowboys’ franchise quarterback for years to come. He's started all 64 games since Dallas drafted him 135th overall in the 2016 draft. In three playoff attempts, he's won one.
But since 1993 — the year Prescott was born — eight quarterbacks have been designated a franchise player. Only two have played under the tag.
Neither Drew Brees (tagged by the San Diego Chargers in 2005) nor Cousins (Washington in both 2016 and '17) signed a long-term contract with his team after playing out a tag.
Prescott might have a chance to buck that trend.
First, he’ll turn his focus to excelling in new head coach Mike McCarthy’s first year with the franchise. The aim? Elevate a talent-laden offensive roster built to win now with weapons including wideout Amari Cooper, running back Ezekiel Elliott and rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb.
“Obviously you want to get closure and obviously you want to get it done,” Prescott told USA TODAY Sports 12 month ago about his mindset in negotiations. “But the Cowboys probably feel the same way I do: Nobody wants to take anything that’s not fair to the other.”
He expanded on that train of thought in January when talk of his next deal resurfaced. Prescott’s message: Long-term deal or not, his teammates know where their leader’s focus is.
“(The money) is the nature of our game and nature of our business,” Prescott said. “But they know that’s not my motives, that’s not what gets me going.
“It will be a blessing when it comes.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.