NFL

Dak Prescott’s deal with the Cowboys, NFL power rankings and more

The Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott have until July 15 to sign a long-term deal. Odds say it happens, but the waiting is becoming uncomfortable.

Dak Prescott likely signs a deal with the Dallas Cowboys. Yet the chatter is unsettling.

We’re less than two months away from the July 15 deadline facing Prescott and the Cowboys to come up with a long-term extension. If the sides can’t agree, Prescott plays under the franchise tag for $31 million in 2020 before hitting the open market in 2021.

Common sense says Dallas has no choice but to lock up its star quarterback. Yet nothing about the Cowboys’ business model has made sense over the past year, so perhaps we’re in for a circus.

Last week, executive vice president Stephen Jones told David Moore of the Dallas Morning News the following:

“Jerry [Jones] has always told me, as a mentor of mine, as the money gets bigger, the deals get harder,” Stephen Jones said. “Obviously, when we’re talking about Dak, it’s as big as it gets in the NFL. So, it’s got to be right for Dak, and it’s got to be right for us.

“It’s a zero-sum game for Jerry and I. We’re just dividing up cap space. Whatever we do here is just a matter of how much we want to allocate to one player.”

Jones talking about the deal being “right for us” is an alarm bell. Good quarterbacks are always going to cost a fortune. If the Cowboys aren’t winning to accept that, their dealings with Prescott could turn ugly.

Of course, this has been going on for some time. Last August, Prescott was clearly pining for a new deal. The former third-round pick from Mississippi State had drastically outplayed his rookie pact and was coming off his second division title in three seasons.

Instead of paying Prescott, the Cowboys decided to give a six-year, $90 million extension to running back Ezekiel Elliott. This, despite Elliott playing a position of far lesser importance, and having two years before he hit free agency.

Fast forward nine months, and Prescott is still waiting. Now, though, he’d be well-advised to wait some more.

Between the expected rise of the salary cap in 2021 (reported first by FanSided to as much as $240 million) along with expected extensions of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, Prescott can slow-play his situation.

While the 26-year-old certainly wants a new deal before next season, seeing the contracts for Mahomes and Watson could help his position. There’s a league wide expectation Mahomes will come in around $40 million per season, while Watson likely slots in below Mahomes but above Jared Goff ($33.5M) and Carson Wentz ($32M).

Those contracts will essentially set the negotiating window for Prescott. He won’t get Mahomes’ money, but coming in above Watson’s number is reasonable, especially factoring in his leverage . Watson has two years left on his contract, while Prescott is currently without one.

If Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones came to the table offering less in annual and/or total value on a deal compared to Watson, Prescott and his representation should walk away.

If you’re dubious to Jones mangling his roster, take a glance at this offseason.

Under the former Collective Bargaining Agreement, this winter was supposed to provide a transition and franchise tag for each club. Then a new CBA was ratified in the days leading up to free agency, only giving the Cowboys one tag to apply. That designation went to Prescott, while cornerback Byron Jones was allowed to sign the richest deal in the position’s history with the Miami Dolphins in free agency.

As for Cooper, Dallas won a bidding war against the Washington Redskins, signing him to a five-year, $100 million deal with $60 million guaranteed.

All this ties back to today. Dallas has taken care of Elliott and Cooper. Prescott, while he’d never admit it publicly, has to be seething. He’s more important to the Cowboys’ success than either player, and certainly a better quarterback than Cooper is a receiver.

Prescott has waited his turn and then some, all while the Jones’ continue to talk in the media about hi perceived worth.

Smart money says Prescott and the Cowboys eventually strike an agreement. Yet with each passing day, it only stands to be more complicated.

Power rankings

Worst 10 Super Bowl participants of all time

1. 1994 San Diego Chargers
2. 2008 Arizona Cardinals
3. 2011 New York Giants
4. 1985 New England Patriots
5. 1979 Los Angeles Rams
6. 2003 Carolina Panthers
7. 2006 Chicago Bears
8. 2000 New York Giants
9. 1982 Miami Dolphins
10. 1970 Baltimore Colts

Quotable

“I am very certain nothing like this ever happened. “I have no idea why James would make a comment like this but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this.”

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II on James Harrison’s comment of being handed an envelope by head coach Mike Tomlin following his illegal hit of former Cleveland Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi

Tomlin, the Steelers and the NFL must have cringed after hearing these comments from Harrison on Barstool Sports’ Going Deep podcast. Of course, the league were through Bountygate a decade ago with the New Orleans Saints, leaving head coach Sean Payton suspended for a year.

While it’ll likely be done quietly, the league has to investigate the claim. Perhaps it proves baseless, but commissioner Roger Goodell can’t allow such an accusation to go unchecked.

Podcast

Random stat

John Elway and the Denver Broncos went to the Super Bowl three times in the 1980s.

They lost to the Giants, Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers by a combined score of 136-40.

Info learned this week

1. Giants, Judge could make example out of Baker

Joe Judge may turn DeAndre Baker into a cautionary tale.

The first-year head coach of the New York Giants couldn’t have been pleased Thursday, when an arrest warrant went out on his former first-round cornerback. Baker was charged with four counts of armed robbery and four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.

In connection to the same alleged crimes, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar as also charged with four counts of armed robbery.

It remains unclear how Baker’s situation will play out in the legal realm, but Judge might consider sending a message to his team. After playing horribly as a rookie, perhaps the Giants decide to cut bait and recoup some of his guarantee money, all while enforcing a new era in the Meadowlands.

Even if New York retains Baker — assuming he is eligible to play — Judge could bury him in the depth chart, especially after the team told Baker to start away from virtual OTAs.

Every coach wants to put his stamp on a franchise. This could be Judge’s move.

2. Team facilities open, but not for players and coaches

The NFL is opening its buildings this week, but the men you’re familiar with are still barred.

In a memo last week, Goodell made clear that while doors were being opened on May 19, not all were yet welcome due to competitive balance concerns (each state is handling the coronavirus and the resulting restrictions differently).

Ultimately, teams can have up to 75 employees working on-site, but if any COVID-19 issues arise, they must immediately be reported through proper channels. The hope is for players and coaches to be back at work soon in some capacity, although no date has been publicly set for those goals.

OTAs are being held virtually for all 32 teams in the meantime. It’s unclear if minicamps will go the same route.

3. Snead has lofty expectations for Jackson, Brown

The Baltimore Ravens should be confident, but maybe Willie Snead went a bit far.

Snead believes the combination of quarterback Lamar Jackson and second-year receiver Hollywood Brown will be on the level of 49ers greats Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. In their six years together, Rice caught 446 passes for 7,866 yards and 79 touchdowns. Rice was a five-time First-Team All-Pro, led the NFL in yards three times and touchdown receptions four times, and won two Super Bowls.

Last year as a rookie, Brown caught 46 passes for 584 yards and seven scores. With due respect to Brown, Snead might have been a tad aggressive in his statement.

4. Look for tight end salaries to explode in short order

Austin Hooper reset the tight end market, making $10.5 million per year and $23 million on total guarantees. Don’t expect his figures to last atop the list for long.

There are rumblings around the league we could soon have a shakeup.

Zach Ertz is signed through 2021 with the Eagles and should command top-dollar either in an extension, or when he hits free agency after the 2021 season. It’s no sure thing he’ll re-up in Philadelphia, as the team loves Dallas Goedert’s upside.

Meanwhile, Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce is on the same timeline. Extending him makes sense for the defending champs, who could lower his $11.2 million cap hit this season, giving them additional flexibility with the looming Mahomes deal. At 30 years old, Kelce has one mega-deal left in him.

Finally, George Kittle. Kittle is arguably the best all-around tight end going and is 26 years old. Slated to make $2.2 million this year before hitting free agency in 2021, the 49ers would likely be thrilled to lock him up long-term this offseason.

For Kelce and Ertz, it makes sense to wait for Kittle’s figures to come down before signing, as they’ll blow up the current market.

5. The Last Dance should provide ample ideas for NFL Films

On Sunday, the final two episodes of the 10-part documentary, The Last Dance, aired on ESPN. The piece encapsulated the NBA’s 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, while simultaneously capturing the career of Michael Jordan.

The doc was smart, controversial and gripping throughout. After other sports leagues saw the ratings, they must have wondered what they can do in a somewhat similar fashion. While the pandemic is certainly contributing to the TV numbers, there’s a reminder here: tell a good story, captivate an audience.

On the NFL side, there are certainly some teams to delve into. The1990s Cowboys immediately leap the mind. Three titles in four years, and characters galore. Another option is the picking out a specific figure. NFL Films has done this is one-hour docs such as A Football Life, but what football fan wouldn’t want more on Vince Lombardi, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor or Roger Staubach?

For decades, NFL Films has been the standard-bearer in this space. Don’t be surprised if The Last Dance proves incredible inspiration.

History lesson

From 1968-81, the NFC Central was a one-team show come the postseason.

Outside of a Tampa Bay Buccaneers win in the 1979 NFC Divisional over the Philadelphia Eagles, only the Minnesota Vikings won a playoff game. The Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions combined for a 0-4 mark.

Parting shot

Cam Newton is still looking for a home. The Buffalo Bills make too much sense.

Newton, 30, has friends in Buffalo. Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott each came from the Carolina Panthers, where Newton spent the first nine years of his career. The Bills are also without a quality backup quarterback for Josh Allen, with Matt Barkley as his understudy.

For the Bills, Newton would be an incredible insurance policy for Allen. The third-year pro is unquestionably Buffalo’s starter, but he plays an aggressive style. In the NFL, you’re always one hit away. In a year where the Bills are expected to win the AFC East for the first time since the Clinton Administration, it’s time to fortify all areas.

For Newton, Buffalo must be enticing. Allen is talented, but he has flaws. If the Bills — rife with expectations — falter early, perhaps there’s a chorus in the upper deck of New Era Field signing Newton’s name. There’s a real possibility Newton gets a shot to play for another winner.

It’s a perfect match on so many levels, but for now, it’s only one potential deal of many.

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