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Cowboys need to get Dak Prescott signed before franchise-tag deadline

The Cowboys' 2020 season proved how valuable Dak Prescott is to the team. Now, Dallas has to sign its QB to a long-term deal or else 2021 could be his last year with the franchise.

In a normal year, the practical deadline for signing a franchise-tagged player to a long-term deal arrives on July 15. For the Cowboys, this year’s deadline as it relates to quarterback Dak Prescott should move.

Because Prescott earned $31.4 million under the franchise tag in 2020, he’ll be entitled to a 20-percent raise if tagged again in 2021. That equates to $37.68 million. With the cap expected to drop in 2021 -- possibly all the way to $180 million -- that’s a lot to dedicate to the starting quarterback.

Indeed, if the cap lands at $180 million, Prescott will consume nearly 21 percent of it on his own.

It makes far more sense for the Cowboys to get Prescott signed to a long-term contract, with a much lower 2021 cap charge, before the the deadline for applying the franchise tag arrives. Last year, the talks bogged down over the length of the contract; Prescott wanted four years, the Cowboys wanted five. This year, Prescott should hold even more firm on a a four-year deal.

Length will be the easy part. Value becomes more difficult, given that Patrick Mahomes has a new-money average of $45 million and that Deshaun Watson gets $39 million.

There’s another important factor at play here: Contract value at signing. Watson’s contract has an average value at signing of $29.11 million. Mahomes’ deal has an average value at signing of $39.8 million.

Of course, Mahomes’ signed a 12-year deal. Watson signed a four-year extension. Prescott, if he signs a four-year deal, will be back at the table after the 2024 season.

So what will it take? Four-years, $130 million would result in an average of $32.5 million. With, for example, a $60 million signing bonus and a $5 million salary for 2021, Prescott would have a cap number of $20 million. Additional guarantees would be needed, and there would be cash-flow details to negotiate.

Regardless, if the Cowboys still believe Prescott is their guy, this is the kind of deal they need to make, before they have to squeeze the rest of the cap around a salary of $37.68 million.

There’s one more reason to get the deal done before the franchise-tag deadline. If the Cowboys apply the tag to Dak a second time, he’d be entitled to a 44-percent bump over his latest cap number if franchise-tagged at any point in the future.

To best deal with the coming cap crunch and to best manage the relationship when the next contract expires, the Cowboys need to prioritize completing the Dak Prescott contract before he receives what would be a one-year deal worth a whopping $37.68 million.