The contract impasse between the Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott appears headed toward an inevitable and seemingly uncomfortable entanglement over the next year that could open the door to a potential doomsday scenario in terms of the quarterback's future with the franchise.
The two sides had no scheduled talks as of Tuesday afternoon.
Pending significant developments before Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline for a long-term deal, Prescott will play the 2020 season on the franchise tag, worth a guaranteed $31.4 million, as the Cowboys and the quarterback who has started every game over the last four years can't resume negotiations until after the season.
Eight NFL quarterbacks have been hit with the franchise tag since 1993. Only two were forced to play under the tag after not getting long-term deals from their respective teams -- Drew Brees, then of the San Diego Chargers and Kirk Cousins, then of Washington's NFL franchise.
Both ended up signing free agent deals with other teams. Brees, who eventually signed with the New Orleans Saints, moved on after the one season under the tag largely because the Chargers drafted Phillip Rivers.
Cousins was tagged twice by Washington before signing with the Minnesota Vikings for three years and $84 million fully guaranteed before the 2018 season. He has since signed a two-year $66 million extension giving him a deal worth $96 million over the next three years.
After the 2020 season, Cousins will have earned more money than any player in the NFL since his first year under the cap in 2016.
The Cousins route appears to be ripe for Prescott no matter how much he and the Cowboys have stated over the past two years they want to strike a long-term commitment.
The two sides have not talked since March when Prescott turned down a five-year offer worth more than $34 million annually, and a then-record of $110 million in guaranteed money.
Prescott wants to do a four-year deal, and neither side has wavered.
If nothing changes before 3 p.m. Wednesday, Prescott's $31.4 million will be the richest one-year deal ever in Cowboys' history.
Looking toward the next offseason, Prescott could conceivably be tagged again should the two sides be unable to reach an agreement. A second tag would cost the Cowboys $37.7 million. According to Overthecap.com, the team has roughly $36 million in space for 2021 when the cap will be lower due to the financial losses due to COVID-19.
The Cowboys could make that second tag work under next year's cap, but it would create a doomsday scenario in 2022 when the tag would rise to $54 million. That hefty sum is one the Cowboys likely won't be able to pay, and could lead to Prescott entering the free agent market.
The problem for the Cowboys is that all the leverage seemingly resides with Prescott.
Two tags would net him roughly $69 million over the next two years. And so either the Cowboys sign him to a long-term deal with $37.7 million annually as the floor or he gets big (or bigger) money as a free agent elsewhere.
Prescott has severely outplayed his contract since coming to the Cowboys as a fourth-round pick in 2016, earning two Pro Bowl selections and leading the team to two division titles, a playoff win and a 40-24 record as starter.
After making a little over a combined $4 million for his four years in the league, Prescott is focused on maximizing his earning potential.
He would like to do it in Dallas and finish his career with the Cowboys. And the Cowboys have consistently said the same thing.
But not being able to come to terms on a contract by Wednesday afternoon's deadline and having to play the season on the franchise tag puts all of that in question.
(c)2020 Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Visit the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at www.star-telegram.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.