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Cowboys might not be able to use franchise tag on Dak Prescott in 2021

The Cowboys did not come to terms on a long-term deal with Dak Prescott. We break down what it means and what might be next.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and owner Jerry Jones before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The deadline passed on Wednesday for the Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott to come to terms on a contract extension. They could not finalize a deal and so Prescott will play the 2020 season on the exclusive franchise tag, worth $31.4 million.

There has been extensive reporting around the contract negotiations, and on Wednesday, Jane Slater reported the Cowboys offer included a $50 million signing bonus and $70 million over the first two years of the deal. Under the rules of the franchise tag, Prescott was due nearly $69 million over the next two years ($31.4 million this year and 120% of that in 2021, which is $37.69 million). Injuries are always a concern, but it makes sense to require more over the next two years to get something done.

However, the Cowboys might not have that option. The sizable increase in what would be Prescott’s 2021 guaranteed salary under the franchise tag puts them in a tough position. Cowboys writer K.D. Drummond broke it down, with the key factor being the potential for next year’s salary cap to remain the same as this year or even potentially drop due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Drummond goes into the nitty gritty of the numbers, but long story short, the Cowboys face a lot of questions. They could find room to fit that $37.69 million figure, but it would require cutting some key players and restructuring deals for other players. The latter saves some key players in 2021, but eventually the Cowboys would have to pay the piper.

All of this is to say, there’s a realistic chance that Prescott hits the open market next year. The two sides can no longer work out a contract extension now that July 15th is behind us. Prescott has to play under the franchise tag and cannot sign a new contract even with the Cowboys until the new league year starts next March. The Cowboys could still tag him, but there’s a very good chance they’ll be competing for his services next March.