Leveraged: Prescott’s Cowboys deal includes clauses that take complete control

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K.D. Drummond
·3 min read
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One of the more interesting parts of the now-resolved contract dance between Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys over the last calendar year had to do with the idea of control and leverage. Immediately following the 2020 regular season, team owner Jerry Jones admitted that he didn’t have the upper hand in negotiations on a long-term agreement with the Cowboys’ franchise QB.

After Prescott went down with a compound leg fracture in Week 5, the team’s offense went astray, dropping from 32.6 points per contest to 21.1 a game. That was after a late-season flurry saw an uptick, too. Prescott’s value was never more clear than when he was gone and now it appears that leverage was flexed in negotiations.

The Cowboys had to negotiate under the backdrop of a $37.7 million second franchise tag and more so, the idea that a third tag next season would result in a 144% increase on that number, a whopping $54.2 million. If Prescott played his cards in a certain way, not signing a long-term deal until after the tag was applied Tuesday, he could have virtually guaranteed that the Cowboys couldn’t franchise tag him again at the end of the current agreement.

A third tag is at the 144% number of the prior year salary whether it was consecutive to the first two tags or not. Word has come that Prescott’s agent Todd France, in brokering the four-year, $160 million deal, was able to get a contractual guarantee that Prescott would not be tagged at the end of this current four-year deal. He also negotiated a no-trade clause.

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So here’s the skinny.

In walking away from Dallas’ offer last season of five-years, $172.5 million deal averaging $34.5 million a year with $110 million guaranteed, Prescott ended up playing in just five games in 2020 and over the length of the deal will earn at least $191.4 million instead (and up to $195 million) with $157.4 million guaranteed over the first four years. He also used up the Cowboys’ second franchise tag on him in the process and guaranteed they’d be unable to use a third, while also taking away their right to trade him to an undesirable spot if for some reason he doesn’t live up to their expectations.

Jones was right. Prescott had all the leverage and he exerted it.

Reminder, the Cowboys could have signed Prescott to a lengthy agreement following the 2018 and 2019 seasons. In July 2019, the highest-paid quarterback was Matt Stafford of the Detroit Lions, averaging $29.5 million a season. In 2020, Seattle’s Russell Wilson was the highest-paid player entering the season at $35 million. Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes jumped over a $5 million a year increase with a $45 million average on a 10-year deal.

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