FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have placed the exclusive franchise tag on Dak Prescott, the team announced Monday, although the ultimate goal remains to have the quarterback signed to a long-term contract.
With the move, the Cowboys have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract. If no deal is reached, Prescott will have to play the 2020 season on the tag, and the sides can do the same dance next offseason.
With the exclusive tag, Prescott is not permitted to talk to other teams. He is the sixth quarterback ever to receive the exclusive tag, and Kirk Cousins with the Washington Redskins in 2017 is the only quarterback who did not reach a long-term deal and played the full season under the tag.
The exclusive franchise tag is expected to be worth between $30 million and $33 million, which will chew into the team’s roughly $79 million in salary-cap space entering free agency.
This is the fourth time the Cowboys have used the franchise designation since 2014, but it’s the first time they have used it on a quarterback.
In 2015, the Cowboys used the tag on wide receiver Dez Bryant, but they were ultimately able to sign him to a five-year, $70 million deal before the July 15 deadline. They placed the tag on defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence in 2018 and 2019 before signing the Pro Bowler to a five-year, $105 million deal in April 2019.
Dallas had hoped to sign Prescott to an extension last offseason that would have guaranteed him nine figures, but the quarterback bet on himself, willing to play for $2 million in 2019.
The Cowboys thought they were closing in on a deal in September, but talks paused as Prescott’s sterling play led the team to a 3-0 start. Discussions did not pick up again in earnest until this offseason.
In 2019, Prescott threw for a career-high 4,902 yards — the second-best total in the NFL — and 30 touchdown passes. In his first three seasons, he had not thrown for more than 3,885 yards or 23 touchdown passes.
With the tag comes the question of whether Prescott will participate in the offseason program, as he has in his first three offseasons as the starter. Until he signs the franchise tag tender, Prescott does not have to show up for anything, including the mandatory minicamp in June and the start of training camp.
McCarthy will keep most of the offense the same, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will continue to be the playcaller.
Last year, the Cowboys went through a protracted negotiation with running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was under contract for two more seasons. Elliott took part in the offseason program but skipped training camp before reaching a six-year extension worth $90 million that included $50 million guaranteed.
Last season, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, who also were selected in the 2016 draft, signed long-term deals with the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively, that were worth $33.5 million and $32 million per year. Goff was guaranteed $110 million; Wentz was guaranteed $107.9 million.
Russell Wilson is the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback at $35 million per season, but he has won a Super Bowl and came within a yard of winning a second with the Seattle Seahawks. Prescott has one win in three postseason appearances.
This is the 11th time a team has used the franchise tag on a quarterback since the system has been in place. Only Cousins (2016, 2017, Redskins) and Drew Brees (2005, Chargers) played the entire season under the tag.