Dak Prescott’s showdown with Cowboys, Clowney rumors and more

Patrick Mahomes signed a $503 million deal last week. Over the next 72 hours, we’re going to see how much it impacted Dak Prescott.

If you listen quietly, you can hear Jerry Jones screaming.

Last week, Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year extension with the Kansas City Chiefs. All told, his current deal is now 12 years and $503 million, with $477 million guaranteed. It’s an absurd contract, one which was unfathomable until it was announced.

Mahomes’ deal will stand far longer than most as the standard-bearer in the NFL for both average value and guarantees.

It will also completely reshape the negotiations between Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.

Prescott has been trying to get an extension from Jones since last summer. Instead, the Cowboys prioritized Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. If Jones had done the deal then, he likely could have wrangled Prescott for something akin to Carson Wentz’s pact with the Philadelphia Eagles (four years, $128 million, $108 million guaranteed).

Now, Prescott is staring at a contract which will eventually be — whether with Dallas or elsewhere — the second-largest in NFL history.

Jones, of course, has options.

Option A) He can let Prescott play on the tag, which he already signed.

The Cowboys would be paying $31 million this year. If they tagged him again in 2021, they’d be shelling out $38 million. If the cap remains flat (more on that below), Dallas would roughly have $19 million in space with few easy cost-cutting moves. Not fun.

Option B) He can let Prescott play on the tag, and then let him walk.

The Cowboys could get one more year out of Prescott and then allow him to hit free agency as a 27-year-old. He would undoubtedly command more than $40 million per year in a bidding war. Dallas would get a third-round compensatory pick, but would have a glaring hole under center.

Option C) Sign Prescott to a long-term deal before July 15.

With the deadline approaching on Wednesday, Jones and Co. need to make moves. Prescott isn’t going to be cheap. He isn’t going to take a discount. He’s going to want more than Russell Wilson’s $35 million per year and Jared Goff’s $110 million in guaranteed money, which both rank second to Mahomes’ mammoth figures.

It’s reasonable to see Prescott coming in somewhere around $40 million/year with approximately 70-75 percent of his deal guaranteed. If Dallas isn’t willing to pay that, Option C is out.

Ultimately, Jones isn’t the only one screaming. The Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens know the prices for Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson, respectively, went up considerably. In a broader context, the same can potentially be said for Kyler Murray, Drew Lock, Daniel Jones, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and any other quarterback who comes along and plays great on a rookie deal.

Still, Prescott’s situation is the most glaring. Unlike all the other aforementioned names, Prescott could have been taken care of. Frankly, he should have been. The Cowboys should have paid him well before luring Elliott back from Cabo.

Instead, Jones now has to write a gigantic check or lose a star quarterback in his prime. It’s NFL malpractice to the nth degree.

The Cowboys have less than 72 hours to sign Prescott.

If they don’t, Jones’ screams will be drowned out by millions of furious fans.

Power rankings

Top 10 players who could have been stars in any era

1. Sammy Baugh, QB, Washington Redskins
2. Walter Payton, RB, Chicago Bears
3. Jim Brown, RB, Cleveland Browns
4. Ronnie Lott, S, San Francisco 49ers
5. Jim Parker, OL, Baltimore Colts
6. Don Hutson, WR, Green Bay Packers
7. Bruce Smith, DE, Buffalo Bills
8. Bobby Bell, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs
9. Mel Blount, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers
10. Deacon Jones, DE, Los Angeles Rams

Quotable

“The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one. To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me the comfort. Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking. With my first child due in three weeks, I can’t help but think about how will I be able to go to work and take proper precautions around 80+ people everyday to then go home to be with my newborn daughter.”

– Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith on playing through the pandemic

There will be players who opt out of the NFL season. We’ve already seen this happen in the NBA and MLB. If Smith is one of them, and it certainly sounds like he may, this would be a huge blow to Tom Brady and the Bucs.

The big question is how will the league treat players who do so? Will they receive their full salary? Half? This is one of many issues not figured out to this juncture.

Podcast

Random stat

The New York Jets have won two division titles since 1969. The New England Patriots have won 11 consecutive AFC East championships.

Info learned this week

1. Washington to change name on Monday

The nation’s capital is about to have a rebranded football team.

After decades of defending the controversial moniker, owner Daniel Snyder will reportedly announce the retiring of it. Frankly, he had no choice. After FedEx threatened to pull its name off the team stadium, coupled with Nike discontinuing the sale of Washington apparel, Snyder knew it was time to acquiesce.

Want to make a billionaire shake? Threaten his bankroll.

Regardless of what the new name is, the decision to change was both correct and overdue. Washington has been under scrutiny for years from the Native American community, but Snyder never cared because his wallet was fat. Again, bankroll.

Only 23 years ago, D.C. saw the Washington Bullets become the Wizards. Now, another change, even if it took far too long.

2. NFL tagged players will have different road to free agency

The NFL may play on time, and it might get all 256 regular-season games in. Even if that’s the case, the league isn’t escaping the pandemic.

The salary cap is set at $198 million for 2020, and because of COVID-19 ramifications, may stay there in 2021 after originally being projected to climb by as much as $40 million.

With the deadline to sign a tagged player to a long-term deal on Wednesday, teams must make significant decisions for now and the future. Sampling a few general managers, the consensus is few extensions have been signed this summer due to the looming cap problems.

In short, players who spend 2020 on the tag could get tagged again next year at 120 percent of their salary this season. Of course, that’ll largely depend on if their team is set up well to handle the flat cap.

If not, and the players hit free agency, it’s a horrible year to do so. Few teams will have enough cap space to spend big, meaning tepid markets and a bevy of one-year deals. All this is not lost on agents, who may take slightly less or structure contracts differently over the next few days to ensure long-term security for their players.

For the last time this year, a list of the 15 players on the tag:

  • Kenyan Drake, RB, Arizona Cardinals (transition)
  • Matthew Judon, EDGE, Baltimore Ravens
  • A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
  • Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
  • Justin Simmons, S, Denver Broncos
  • Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Chris Jones, DT, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers
  • Anthony Harris, S, Minnesota Vikings
  • Joe Thuney, G, New England Patriots
  • Leonard Williams, DT, New York Giants
  • Bud Dupree, EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Shaq Barrett, EDGE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
  • Brandon Scherff, G, Washington Redskins

3. Jadeveon Clowney will soon find a home

The smoke is beginning to build around Jadeveon Clowney. You know what that means.

With two weeks until the opening of training camps, Clowney is without a team. His market, which he initially hoped would be $20+ million per year, never materialized. Now he’s looking to reset his value on a short-term deal.

The teams in the running? For starters, the Las Vegas Raiders have been linked to him, while the Philadelphia Eagles have long been in the shadows. The Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans have also been heavily rumored to be in consideration, while Clowney reportedly turned down good money from the Cleveland Browns.

While some point to Clowney’s minuscule 3.5 sacks in 2019, that’s missing the larger point. The former No. 1 overall pick is a phenomenal edge defender against the run and creates havoc with pressure in the pass game. Although he’s never had a double-digit sack campaign, Clowney ranked 11th last year with 18 QB hurries.

A team will soon land Clowney for a cheap deal, and it’ll be a steal.

4. NFL-NFLPA at odds on multiple topics heading into camp

With less than a month before preseason games are scheduled to start, the NFL and the player’s association are having a few quarrels.

For starters, the NFL would like to keep 35 percent of salaries in escrow this season. The idea is that money will accrue interest for the owners, who can use it to offset lost revenue with fewer fans in the stands. Of course, the NFLPA and agents alike were firmly against the idea.

Then there’s the preseason. The league has already knocked two weeks off the slate. The NFLPA wants all four games cancelled, starting the competitive portion of the campaign with Week 1 of the regular season. It’s tough to argue against based on logic, as it will likely keep the spread of COVID-19 down.

5. 49ers are having rough start to season amid injuries, trades

San Francisco was seven minutes from winning the Super Bowl. Things change quickly.

Since losing to the Chiefs in February, the 49ers have taken a few hits. Emmanuel Sanders left in free agency. To create future cap space, DeForest Buckner was traded. Then, last month, Deebo Samuel suffered a foot injury, requiring surgery. It’s uncertain if he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season.

Then, last week, running back Raheem Mostert requested a trade through his agent, Brett Tessler. In 2019, Mostert led the league with 5.6 yards per carry. Having already traded Matt Breida to the Dolphins, San Francisco will likely hold onto Mostert, creating an uncomfortable situation at camp.

Maybe things work out for the 49ers. San Francisco replaced Sanders and Buckner with first-round rookies Brandon Aiyuk and Javon Kinlaw. Perhaps they rise to the occasion, and Samuel comes back without missing a snap.

It’s possible, but it has not been an easy offseason for the Niners.

History lesson

In 1977, Dallas Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson led the NFL with 870 receiving yards. It’s the only time since 1959 the leading receiver didn’t eclipse 1,000 yards. This includes the strike-shortened ’82 campaign, when Wes Chandler went for 1,032 yards for the San Diego Chargers.

The ’77 season created a wave of offensive-minded changes, including the Mel Blount rule, which stated a defender could no longer make contact more than five yards downfield with a receiver.

Parting shot

Last week, Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson made anti-Semitic comments on his Instagram page, erroneously quoting Adolf Hitler. The team waited a day before releasing a statement, calling Jackson’s choice disappointing. The veteran receiver followed suit with an apology.

Frankly, Jackson is extremely fortunate to still have a job.

Jackson’s beliefs are not only misguided, but horribly hurtful to so many. In this long-awaited age of social justice, the reaction to these types of hateful thoughts needs to be a one-size-fits-all proposition.

Last month, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees got skewered for his ignorance on protests during the anthem, and rightfully so. Brees’ misstep was met with choruses of players stepping up and making him do better.

What Jackson did was far worse, and far more intentional. It was incredibly offensive and yet little was said from players in the public arena. It’s a good first step for Jackson to be meeting with a Philadelphia Rabbi, but that’s what it is. A step.

If we’re going to demand better, we need to do it regardless of the person spewing hate.

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