Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With all the talk surrounding Tom Brady‘s impending free agency, it’s almost like you could forget about Dak Prescott‘s scheduled trip to the open market. Almost.

At the start of the season, it seemed like Prescott was right on the cusp of a brand new multi-year deal with the Cowboys. Back in September, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said a new deal was “imminent.” Then, Jones & Co. spent the rest of the year deflecting questions about a potential extension. Now, the pressure is on for the Cowboys to hammer out a mega-deal that will keep Prescott under center for the foreseeable future.

Both sides have ample reason to get something done, but the Cowboys, understandably, have reservations about tying up a ludicrously high percentage of their available dollars in a handful of players. Back in September, the Cowboys offered up a contract that would have paid Prescott an average of $33M/year. However, Prescott held off during his insanely hot start, and he was probably eyeing Russell Wilson‘s league-leading $35M/year average.

The Cowboys’ second-half dip cost them a playoff berth and hurt Prescott’s leverage. Through the first seven games of the year, Prescott completed more than 70% of his passes with 12 TDs and seven INTs. On the back nine, Prescott completed just 61.5% of his throws with 18 touchdowns against four interceptions.

Still, there was plenty of blame to go around for the Cowboys’ drop, and much of it fell on Jason Garrett. Prescott, who won’t turn 27 until July, figures to cash in, one way or another. If the Cowboys can’t come to an agreement with Prescott on a long-term deal, they can keep him from free agency via the franchise tag, which is projected to come in at roughly $26.9M for quarterbacks. The former fourth-round pick would surely prefer the security of a four-year contract, but that’s still a substantial pay bump from the $2.025M base salary he earned in the final year of his rookie deal.

What will it take for the Cowboys to get a deal done with Prescott? After he finished second in passing yards (4,902) and fourth in passing touchdowns (30, a new career-high), it won’t be cheap. By betting on himself, Prescott has all but assured that he can top Jared Goff‘s four-year, $134M deal, which averages out to $33.5M/year. Meanwhile, his camp surely has Goff’s $110M in guarantees – an NFL record – in the crosshairs.

The stats and comps are only part of the equation as the prospect of multiple franchise tags looms large. Sure, the Cowboys can cuff Prescott for 2020 at ~$27M, but what about 2021, when the cost would rise another 20% to more than $39M? (Assuming the franchise tag rules remain in tact after the new CBA.) After that, a third tag would be downright absurd – a 44% jump would cost upwards of $55M for the 2022 season.

We’ve been fooled before, but all signs still point to a long-term accord between the QB and JJ. If the Cowboys are unwilling to top Wilson’s AAV, it’s possible that the two sides can meet in the middle on a three-year deal, which would allow Prescott to cash in at untold levels when he’s 30 years of age and the league’s revenue climbs even higher. Or, maybe they’ll cave and give Prescott just enough to edge Wilson on a four-year deal and claim victory. In any case, the Cowboys do not want to wait for Patrick Mahomes to land his next deal, which could top $40M per annum. And, failing all of that, a tag is surely coming.

Prescott, technically speaking, is due for free agency in March, but we’d be shocked if he gets there.

This article first appeared on Pro Football Rumors and was syndicated with permission.


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Can you name every NFL Hall of Famer to have played with the Dallas Cowboys?
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TIME:
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CB 1970–1972
Herb Adderley
QB 1989–2000
Troy Aikman
G, OT 1994–2005
Larry Allen
WR 1971–1972
Lance Alworth
Executive 1960-1988
Gil Brandt
TE 1969–1972
Mike Ditka
RB 1977–1987
Tony Dorsett
OT 1971
Forrest Gregg
DE 1992–1996
Charles Haley
WR 1965–1974
Bob Hayes
WR 1988–1999
Michael Irvin
Executive 1989-
Jerry Jones
Coach 1960–1988
Tom Landry
DT 1961–1974
Bob Lilly
WR 1964
Tommy McDonald
WR 2006-2008
Terrell Owens
Coach 2003–2006
Bill Parcells
S, CB 1964–1977
Mel Renfro
CB, KR 1995–1999
Deion Sanders
Executive 1960–1989
Tex Schramm
RB 1990–2002
Emmitt Smith
TE 1978
Jackie Smith
QB 1969–1979
Roger Staubach
DT 1975–1988
Randy White
OT 1967–1979
Rayfield Wright

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