Dak Prescott’s complicated contract negotiation with the Cowboys isn’t going to get any easier after a broken ankle.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones offered the first clues Tuesday on how the second round of talks with his star quarterback will go now that leverage has shifted to include Prescott coming off of season-ending surgery.
“We do not go into a contract negotiation with the idea that it stands alone,” Jones said during his weekly radio interview with 105.3 The Fan. “It has to be a part of the tools that you have, which is your salary cap, to put a team on the field and try to figure out the best way to win. And really, that’s the underlying issue here.”
Jones reiterated the stance of his son Stephen – the Cowboys CEO – that Prescott’s injury does not alter his future with the Cowboys. The NFL salary cap is not expected to make its usual jump this offseason because of lost revenues due to COVID-19 and actually could fall from $198.2 million per team in 2020 to $175 million in 2021.
“I think that we’ve got to be reminded that to have a team we’ve got to really manage how we dole out our resources,” Jones said. “Dak is deserving of anything you want to put on a piece of paper, relatively speaking. If you evaluate what he can do to help us win championships, you can see that it’s there and plus he’s a leader at the premier leader spot. We’ve got to make it work.”
Jones said he has no concern about Prescott’s ability to make a full physical recovery because prognosis after Sunday night’s surgery is positive. Expectation is he could be ready to go for the latter part of spring workouts.
By then, however, Prescott will have reached free agency after playing this season on the franchise tag – a one-year, $31.1 million contract. For him to be part of the Cowboys in the spring, he either will have been tagged again or reached an agreement on a long-term extension.
The two sides could not strike a deal this past offseason, making Prescott only the third quarterback in NFL history to play on the tag.
The Cowboys are no strangers to losing star quarterbacks to injuries. It happened during the careers of Troy Aikman and Tony Romo — and a Romo injury actually opened the door for Prescott to unexpectedly start as a rookie.
“We’ve known for a long time that you can have a great player at this spot but then not have him at periods of time throughout his career,” Jones said. “We had it with Aikman, we had it with Romo. You don’t always have him, so you’ve got to rely on other parts of your team.”
Prescott was injured while running and trying to break free from a tackle by Giants safety Logan Ryan. It was a reminder about the perils of relying on dual-threat quarterbacks — a trend becoming more and more popular around the league because of the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, Cardinals’ Kyler Murray and others.
“With Dak and all the many things he means to our team,” Jones said, “we’ve got to be very judicious when we expose him in the future.”
The Cowboys are moving forward with Andy Dalton – a three-time Pro Bowler with 133 career starts for the Bengals – as their starter and do not plan to trade for a quarterback, according to their always aggressive owner.
Because all teams in the NFC East have losing records and it represents a soft ticket to the playoffs, Jones isn’t completely giving up on Super Bowl aspirations. Believe it or not, the Cowboys (2-3) are in first place.
“Obviously this does impact expectations and could impact the reality of what we do. On the other hand, this is a different year,” Jones said. “If you ever had one you can approach in an unorthodox way, this is it. … We’ve got to basically adjust. Andy Dalton is a player that can get the job done in the NFL. He is a starting quarterback.”
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