Report: Deadline may move for Cowboys, Prescott in franchise tag dance

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Todd Brock
·4 min read
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That March 9 deadline that all of Cowboys Nation has been breathlessly waiting on? The one that says the Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott must have a deal in place by… or else use the franchise tag for the second year in a row? The one that, if it passes, is a clear signal to some- and at the very least a frightening step toward the ever-more-likely possibility- that the team won’t have Prescott’s services after the 2021 season?

That hard and fast deadline of Tuesday afternoon? Yeah, turns out it might not be the deadline after all.

NFL Network insider Ian Rapaport is reporting that the franchise tag deadline could now be pushed due to uncertainty about the league’s official salary cap number. He adds that several general managers around the league are already “bracing” for that possibility.

Jerry Jones would certainly be one of them.

The cap won’t be any lower than $180 million; that much is known. But how close the actual cap is to that number is still in flux. That difference matters greatly to teams in determining their financial flexibility down to the penny this coming season.

“If the official salary cap number doesn’t come today [Monday] and soon,” Rapoport tweeted, “NFL will have to move back the deadline.”

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A retooled deadline for franchise tagging players would not change the start of the league year, which begins March 17. It would still have to happen before that date.

Prescott and the Cowboys front office would still have to choose one of the following courses of action: hammer out an agreement by the new deadline, use the franchise tag to lock in a 2021 salary for Prescott of $37.7 million (and perhaps buy themselves a little more time to negotiate), or- the completely unthinkable nuclear option- do neither and simply let him leave right now as a free agent.

Pushing Tuesday’s deadline wouldn’t change that menu of three options; it would only prolong having to decide which it will be.

“The deadline was also delayed last year,” as noted by Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith, “as teams were given an extra four days to decide after the NFL Players Association pushed back its deadline for players to vote on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.”

Some are pointing to Jerry and Stephen Jones’s long-standing mantra that “Deadlines make deals.” Both the Joneses and Prescott have said publicly that they want No. 4 to remain the team’s quarterback. That’s cause for optimism, despite this dance having already gone on for two calendar years.

Some, though, including ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky, think the die has been cast… and he’s predicting massive aftershocks around the NFL.

“I do believe they’re going to tag him,” the former quarterback said on the network’s Get Up. “When they tag him, two things. They’re going to stink this year, because their salary cap- like everyone has pointed out- is going to be so chewed up by that [$37.7 million] number. And two, this will be Dak’s last year in Dallas. He will no longer be the Cowboys’ quarterback moving forward after this season. And then the last thing that would stand out to me is that next offseason would be pandemonium. We’ve seen teams in the NFL kind of tank, or front offices tank, to acquire draft picks. I think we would see teams and front offices try and tank, so to speak, to create cap space, almost like sometimes we see in the NBA- just unload contracts- for the bidding war of Dak Prescott next year.”

Just to be clear, the Cowboys would not be in any way the beneficiary of that particular leaguewide pandemonium. It would be teams lining up to court Prescott, and the Cowboys playing the role of the chumps who let him walk.

For now, though, the eyes of everyone around the league remain locked squarely on The Star, just the way the Joneses like it. And if Rapoport is right, they’re about to get a few extra days of it.

Cowboys fans can only hope they use it wisely.

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