Dak Prescott is headed down the Kirk Cousins path

Unless things change dramatically in the next couple days, Dak Prescott is headed down the year-to-year path of Kirk Cousins.

This year’s deadline for franchise tagged NFL player to sign multi-year deals is Wednesday. The Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott have never appeared close to an agreement, and on Saturday ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported league sources don’t expect a deal to get done. Apparently the Cowboys “aren’t worried.”

Prescott has signed his franchise tender, which will pay him a fully guaranteed $31.4 million this year. A second franchise tag in 2021 would bring him $37.68 million. A third tag in 2022, be it the transition ($45.2 million) or franchise tag ($54.25 million) would be unpalatable for the Cowboys. That two or three years of guaranteed cash is obviously substantial, and it’s perhaps a line in the negotiating sand Prescott has drawn.

The Cowboys have paid virtually everyone else, from Ezekiel Elliott to DeMarcus Lawrence to Amari Cooper. But they have drawn their own line at paying Prescott what the market bears, with some haggling over the length of the deal. Prescott apparently prefers a four-year deal, while the team naturally prefers a five-year pact.

Prescott spurned a $33 million per year contract offer last September, then turned in the best season of his career (4,902 passing yards, 30 touchdowns). So he’s got no problem betting on himself, and he deserves a contract that will pay him toward the top of the market.

It’s a different situation, but how the Washington Redskins and Kirk Cousins turned out is informative here. The Redskins were patently unwilling to commit to Cousins, so he willingly played on the franchise tag for two years. Then upon hitting the open market in 2018, he got a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal from the Minnesota Vikings.

This spring, he got a two-year extension from Minnesota with another chunk of guaranteed money. It’s easy to call Cousins a “capitalist quarterback,” and it’s not a negative term.

Prescott has played the leverage game with Jerry Jones perfectly to this point, and he should not stop between now and Wednesday. The worst case scenario is collecting $31.4 million this year, then having a serious injury deplete his value on the open market next March. But Prescott has yet to miss a start in his career, and upside of being willing to go year-to-year this year and possibly next year is huge.

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