The next major milestone in the seemingly never-ending saga between the Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott and his representatives comes in just two days. The deadline for NFL teams to use their lone franchise tag is March 9th.
It’s expected that the Dallas Cowboys front office will exercise their option to tag their franchise quarterback. When that happens two things occur.
First, the franchise tag number for Prescott who also received the franchise tag in 2020 takes up $37.7 million in cap space. That occurs whether signed by Prescott or not. Secondly, once tagged, the Cowboys and Dak Prescott have until July 15th to reach a long-term contract, or the franchise tag locks in for the 2021 season.
While that July 15th date is the hard deadline for the franchise tag, the Dallas Cowboys and other NFL teams have a soft deadline of March 17th that coincides with the start of free agency. Though teams can negotiate with outside free agents and even come to terms starting March 15th, they don’t have to have the allocated cap space until the NFL league year opens on March 17th.
The Cowboys have roughly $20 million in cap space heading into the 2021 offseason, which is decent starting place until you consider what the franchise tag would do to the cap. This is why it’s important for Prescott and his representatives and the Dallas Cowboys to find an agreement that works for both sides. The flexibility afforded in contract structuring is far better for the Cowboys salary cap situation than the franchise tag would be. Because the Cowboys and Prescott could agree on a structure that lowers his year one cap hit while placing larger cap hits in future years when the salary cap is expected to explode, that March 17th soft deadline becomes the most important day of the offseason for the Dallas Cowboys.
Carrying Prescott’s franchise tag number of $37.7 million into free agency will hinder much of their ability to add to the roster through free agency. Even with potential restructures if Amari Cooper, DeMarcus Lawrence, and maybe even Zack Martin, the Cowboys would still be tight against the cap, making it difficult to explore upgrades or even depth signings.
In every negotiation, it takes motivation to get a deal done and takes two to tango. Here’s hoping the encouraging things we’ve been hearing over the last week means the two dance partners are in sync on coming to a resolution by March 17th.