When you’re the owner and general manager of a franchise, the buck stops with you. That’s the exact situation Jerry Jones finds himself in with the Dallas Cowboys. While that means Jones receives the credit when things go right, he’s also on the hook when things go wrong. Letting Dak Prescott play on the franchise tag falls into the latter category.
Although Jerry Jones avoided the ultimate crisis—Dak signed his franchise tender, keeping him in Dallas for 2020—he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory. In reality, he landed himself in a lose-lose situation.
Jerry Jones and Dak Prescott couldn’t come to an agreement
Other than Tom Brady leaving New England, Dak Prescott’s impending free agency was the dominant storyline of the 2020 NFL offseason. Ultimately, things ended in disappointment and neither side got what they wanted.
Everything started in March when Jerry Jones placed a franchise tag on the quarterback. While the likes of Troy Aikman warned that the move could cause long-term problems, the Cowboys insisted that there was nothing to fear. If nothing else, the franchise tag would allow Jones and Prescott to remain at the bargaining table until July 15, giving them some extra time to work out a proper extension.
July 15, of course, has come and gone, and no contract materialized. As far as we know, the sticking point was overall length; the Cowboys preferred a five-year deal, and Prescott wouldn’t move beyond four years.
With that deadline passed, Prescott will play the 2020 season on his one-year franchise tender. That’s just a short-term bandaid over a bad situation, though.
Dak Prescott is in a high-risk, high-reward situation
Dak Prescott wasn’t able to leave the negotiating table with a long-term contract. While that mean’s the quarterback’s current situation is pretty risky, it could still pay off.
The biggest drawback of Prescott’s franchise tender is obvious: it’s only one year long. Given the reality of professional football, that’s an incredibly dangerous position. Although NFL contracts aren’t fully guaranteed, they do offer some protection against long-term injury. If Dak gets hurt during 2020, his earning power will plummet.
By the same token, though, a one-year contract could also help the quarterback an even bigger profit. If Prescott posts career numbers this season, he’ll be able to command more money, whether it’s from the Cowboys or another team in free agency. Even if Jerry Jones decided to use another franchise tag, that tender’s value will increase season over season.
The franchise tag puts Jerry Jones in a lose-lose situation
While there could be some benefit to playing on a franchise tag for Dak Prescott, that’s not true for Jerry Jones. The Dallas Cowboys owner has painted himself into a corner; no matter what happens, there’s no ideal solution.
If Prescott plays well, Jones will simply find himself in the same situation, albeit with a higher price tag. If the quarterback wasn’t willing to accept a five-year contract this offseason, he’s not going to accept one coming off an even stronger campaign. As mentioned above, there’s always the option of another franchise tag, but, at that price point, there’s no reason not to bite the bullet and sign Dak to a proper deal.
While it’s true that Prescott could accept a lesser contract if he struggles this season, that still wouldn’t be a dream scenario for Dallas. If the quarterback plays poorly enough to tank his market value, the Cowboys will have had a pretty awful season. Even the most miserly executive would have to question if that’s a worthwhile trade.
Ever since he parted ways with Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Jones has tried to show he’s the smartest guy in the room. Based on his handling of Dak Prescott and his franchise tag, though, that title seems to be as elusive as another Lombardi Trophy.