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As reported initially by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, PFT has confirmed that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will sign the exclusive franchise tender. He’s guaranteed to make $31.4 million in 2020.
So why sign it now, several weeks before the deadline for doing a long-term deal? Prescott sacrifices the ability to hold out during training camp and the preseason, but that’s not something he was inclined to do. By regarding his situation as a contract year that pays out $31.4 million with the potential to make $37.68 million if they tag him in 2021, Prescott’s bests interests are served by showing up and preparing to perform at the highest level. Unlike former Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, who skipped all of the 2017 training camp and preseason, Prescott needs work and reps and preparation. Tailback is largely a plug-and-play position. Quarterback isn’t, especially with a new head coach.
So even though Prescott had the ability to stay away — and to threaten to do so in advance of the July 15 deadline — he ultimately wasn’t going to do it.
Conversely, Prescott couldn’t know for sure whether the Cowboys would decide to threaten to rescind the tender. Yes, COO Stephen Jones said on #PFTPM several weeks back that the team definitely would not be rescinding the franchise tender. But that was hardly binding. Ten years ago, for example, owner Jerry Jones said he’d definitely not be firing coach Wade Phillips during the season — and then Jones did.
At some level, Prescott and his agents had to be concerned that the Joneses would suggest as the clock approaches 4:00 p.m. ET on July 15 that, if he doesn’t accept their best offer, they’d take that $31.4 million, sign Jadeveon Clowney, trade for Jamal Adams, and then see what they can do with Andy Dalton (or maybe Cam Newton) at quarterback. And if that had happened, what would Dak have gotten on the open market at a time when depth charts are set and budgets are turned upside down?
Now, the issue is framed: Prescott makes $31.4 million this year, not matter what. Next year, he gets $37.68 million, if they tag him again. In 2022, it’s more than $45 million under the transition tag, more than $54 million under the franchise tag, a long-term, deal or free agency. The question continues to be what will the Cowboys offer to Prescott in exchange for the considerable bird perched in his hand?
By signing the tender, that bird cannot fly away. Which ultimately is why Prescott signed it now, as the final stages of negotiations on a long-term deal are looming.