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Dak Prescott given franchise tag by Cowboys

Dak Prescott had a career year in 2019 and very much want to sign him to a long-term deal, but the franchise tag will need to do for now.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott moves out to pass in the first quarter against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Dak Prescott has been given the franchise tag, but the team will do their best to get a deal done before July 15th to keep their star quarterback from leaving anytime soon.

We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.

2019 in review

Dak Prescott was under the microscope for all of the 2019 season. He wanted to receive a major extension ahead of the season and become one of the NFL’s highest-paid players, but the Dallas Cowboys decided that squaring away running back Ezekiel Elliott and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was more of a priority. Now Prescott is entering unrestricted free agency after a career year in which he reached career highs in passing yards (4,902) and touchdown passes (30). Now he’s looking to secure a long-term deal.

Prescott has a ton going for him. He’s durable, young, and can make plays with his arms and legs. At 26, he’s been named a Pro Bowl player twice and still has plenty of room to develop. The opportunity to add a franchise building block at this point in his career can be critical to building long-term success.

Possible destinations

Prescott wants to get the money he thinks he deserves, but he also wants to play for a winner. The teams who need quarterbacks most desperately have opportunities to acquire elite prospects via the 2020 draft. Dallas has more talent than teams like the Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Cowboys do let him walk, he could consider a team like the Los Angeles Chargers, who dealt with injuries to several key players and Melvin Gordon’s holdout last season. No situation is more ideal for Prescott than where he is now.

Do the Cowboys want to keep him?

The Cowboys appear to have every intention of keeping Prescott, but they don’t want to pay him the big bucks now. Dallas seems most likely to use a franchise tag to buy another year and see if Prescott can build on 2019. Some of this will depend on how the new CBA and television deals look, but at some point they likely will pay up. Prescott’s big break is probably coming soon, but he might have to wait a little for it alongside wideout Amari Cooper.

UPDATE: At the NFL Combine, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told the media the team has had little to not activity on negotiating Prescott’s new contract. He said they last spoke with Prescott’s agent in September and stopped at that point, but they want him back.

Fantasy implications

Dak Prescott was top five in passing yards and passing touchdowns in 2019, which made him one of the most valuable fantasy players on the market. He had a career low three rushing touchdowns last season, but totaled six scores on the ground in each of his first six seasons. Prescott will continue to improve and should maintain all of his most valuable offensive weapons in 2020. I think he can be a top three fantasy quarterback for a second straight year. He shouldn’t drop lower than the top five or six.

Rumored interest

Teams around the league know Dallas won’t make Prescott readily available, so they’ve turned their attention to more realistic targets. The Cowboys don’t have a suitable backup on their current roster and don’t appear to be exploring options for life after Prescott. Don’t expect too many rumors to pop up regarding Prescott anytime soon.

March 2: The Cowboys have offered Prescott a deal worth $33 million per year, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, but there are no details about length, guaranteed money, or first three years’ pay.

March 8: The Cowboys are prepared to offer Prescott $105 million guaranteed, per Dallas Morning News’ Calvin Watkins.