The Dallas Cowboys will have Dak Prescott at quarterback in 2020. That's practically a fact even though he hasn't signed any sort of deal at the moment. Whether it's through a long term extension or the franchise tag, he's the future of the team and the front office knows it. The Cowboys have until March 10th to use the tag. Otherwise, Dak would be set to hit free agency on March 18th.
When talking about the team's offseason, it's obvious that Prescott has become the center of attention. More specifically, reports have emerged on the team's plans to tag the young quarterback if it's needed (did we need any sort of report to know that?). Even if he's tagged, though, negotiations for a long-term deal would continue until they strike an agreement or until July 15th, the league's deadline for franchise players to sign a multi-year contract.
But speaking of deadlines, fans and analysts might be underestimating the importance of the one set on March 10th. Sure, the Cowboys can (and likely will) apply the tag to Dak to keep their starting QB from fielding offers in the market, but if they manage to sign him beforehand, the tag would remain an option for two other important free agents.
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and Cornerback Byron Jones are also close to becoming free agents. Both are top candidates for the tag if Dak gets paid prior to the deadline. It'll be hard for the team to pay the three of them without designating a franchise player.
The WR market was reset by Michael Thomas and Julio Jones, who broke the $20M per year barrier last offseason. According to Over The Cap's projections, the franchise tag value for a WR will be $18.5M.
As for the cornerback market, things have been different. Since Josh Norman's extension in 2016, only Miami Dolphins' Xavien Howard has passed him on the highest-paid cornerbacks' list and that was by a thin margin despite signing his extension years later.
The tag for cornerbacks is projected to be at $16.5M.
The Cowboys know they want Dak Prescott in their future. If Cooper or Jones leave, their respective positions become a top need for the team. If the front office believes they have a legit shot at a Super Bowl, keeping the three of them is the call to make, as costly as it seems.
But they might need to place the franchise tag on someone other than Dak Prescott to pull it off. The first step on the list, though? Pay the quarterback.