March 10, 2021
The Philadelphia Eagles have been such a mess that we haven't bothered taking a look around at the their divisional rivals in a while. With the "legal tampering" phase of free agency set to begin in five days, let's take a look at the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Football Team, and the New York Giants, and what they're up to. All cap figures via OverTheCap.com.
• They finally got a deal done with QB Dak Prescott
On Monday, the Cowboys caught the football world off guard when they agreed to a new four-year contract with Dak Prescott worth $160 million. $126 million is guaranteed, and Prescott got a $66 million signing bonus. He will reportedly receive $75 million the first year of the deal.
After playing on the franchise tag a year ago, Prescott was having an outstanding season when he suffered a serious leg injury and was lost for the year. The Cowboys' season subsequently went into the toilet. Because Prescott held all the leverage in negotiations, there was reason to believe that he might get more than the $40 million per year he received, so in that sense, this was something of a minor win for the Cowboys to at least keep it at that number.
However, the benefits of this deal to Prescott are in the details. It's only a four-year deal, which means that as the salary cap increases and quarterbacks push the market even higher over the next few years, the Cowboys and Prescott will be right back at the negotiation table three years from now, when Prescott can score yet another top-of-the-market quarterback contract, since this deal reportedly will not allow the Cowboys to franchise tag him again.
Prescott was a good quarterback from Day 1 in the NFL, earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors in 2016. The Cowboys had an extremely cheap player on a four-year rookie contract at the most expensive position, by far, in the sport. They won one playoff game during that span. Now they'll have to find a way to build a roster around Prescott without the luxury of that rookie quarterback contract, for the foreseeable future.
• Key free agents
Awuzie, Woods, Lewis, and Smith were all starters, though certainly not spectacular ones. This is where I'll note that Cris Collinsworth slobbered all over Aldon Smith Week 1, saying that he would finish with 15 sacks. Smith fell 10 sacks short.
• They franchise tagged DE Leonard Williams, again
The Giants' journey with Williams has been a fascinating one to watch from the outside.
After consecutive losses to the Cardinals and Lions in October of 2019, the Giants were 2-6, and their season was basically over. So what did Dave Gettleman do? He traded a third-round pick (which became the 68th overall pick) in 2020 and a fifth-round pick (that could become a fourth-round pick) in 2021 to the Jets for Williams, essentially for eight games. Williams finished the season with 0.5 sacks.
During the 2020 offseason, the Giants couldn't get a long-term deal done with Williams, and since the loss of a pair of draft picks for a team that went 4-12 the year before would have been wholly indefensible, they franchise tagged him.
During the regular season, Williams made Gettleman's decisions along the way more defensible, when he had a very productive season, posting 57 tackles (14 for loss) 11.5 sacks, and 30 QB hits.
In 2021 the Giants tagged him again, at $19,351,200, making him the sixth highest-paid edge rusher in the NFL, per OverTheCap. And that number may even go higher. The Giants tagged him as a DT in 2020, over which Williams filed a grievance on the premise that he should have been tagged as a DE.
A franchise tag subplot...Leonard Williams' grievance remains unresolved w/ NFLPA, per sources. He wants DE label, not DT, and if he wins, 2020 tag jumps from $16.1M to $17.8M -- thus, a second tag from $19.4 to $21.4M. Could factor into talks as Giants want to sign him long term— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 1, 2021
The Giants at one time had Williams listed as a DE on their own website.
It appears that they have since changed it to "DL."
If Williams were to win that grievance, he would be the fourth highest-paid edge rusher in the NFL, despite only having 29 sacks in 6 seasons (95 career games).
• Key free agents
Tomlinson is a legitimately good starting DT. That'll be a significant loss if the Giants cannot retain him. Fackrell is a decent rotational edge rusher.
The Football Team has the best cap health in the NFC East, by far. They already have an excellent defensive line to build around, and some other nice pieces both on offense and defense. But, you know... quarterback.
• They franchise tagged OG Brandon Scherff, again
Like the Giants with Williams, the Football Team tagged Scherff for the second straight season. He'll count for $18,036,000 on the cap in 2021 if the Football Team can't get a long-term deal worked out with him. Next year, Scherff's franchise tag number will be almost $26 million, so he'll hold all the leverage in any long-term talks.
When determining franchise tag numbers, the NFL uses the average of the top five offensive lineman, as opposed to differentiating between tackle, guard, and center. As such, Scherff's franchise tag number is essentially the average of the top five highest paid offensive tackles.
Scherff is the highest-paid guard in the league by a mile. The next closest player under contract is Brandon Brooks, at a hair over $14 million.
Still, the Football Team's tagging of Scherff is defensible, given the importance of the offensive line, and their overall cap health.
• Key free agents
Kerrigan has quietly had a Hall of Fame career, but he's not the same player he once was.
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