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July 16, 2020

A peek at the NFC East: Dak Prescott will play on the tag, Washington's mystery scandal TBD

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061320DakPrescott Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Dak Prescott

There's news around the NFC East, so we'll take a break from the Philadelphia Eagles briefly, and catch up with what's going on with the Cowboys, Giants, and the unnamed Washington team.

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Dak Prescott will play the 2020 season on the franchise tag

The July 15 deadline came and went for franchise tagged players to either sign long-term deals with their respective franchises, or play the 2020 season on the tag. Dak Prescott does not have a new deal in place, meaning that he will play the 2020 season on the franchise tag at $31,409,000.

Prescott will become an unrestricted free agent during the 2021 offseason, unless of course the Cowboys tag him again, which will cost them 120 percent of his 2020 cap number, or $37,690,800. If they were to tag him a third time in 2022, his franchise tag number would be 144 percent of $37,690,000, or $54,273,600.

Only two quarterbacks in NFL history have played a season on the franchise tag. They were Drew Brees, in 2005, and Kirk Cousins, who got tagged twice, in 2016 and 2017. Both players eventually became unrestricted free agents, with Brees landing with the Saints, and Cousins signing a fully guaranteed deal with the Vikings.

The reported final offer, via Jane Slater, was somewhere in the range of $33 million to $35 million, with $100 million guaranteed.

The Cowboys have also reportedly been adamant that Prescott signs for five years, so we can probably assume that was part of the offer as well. Prescott has been called selfish by fans around the league, but that offer makes little sense, frankly, if reported accurately. It was a no-brainer for Prescott and his camp to turn it down.

Why? Well, let's say the Cowboys' offer was for $35 million per year on a five-year deal, with $100 million guaranteed. That would be $175 million. How could he turn that down?!?

Well, $100 guaranteed is a low percentage of guaranteed money, relative to other recent quarterback deals. Take Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, for example.

Wentz's four-year extension was worth $128 million ($32 million/year), and $107.9 million guaranteed, or roughly 84 percent guaranteed.

Goff's four-year extension was worth $134 million ($33.5 million/year), and $110 guaranteed, or roughly 82 percent guaranteed.

If the Cowboys offered Prescott $35 million/year on a five-year deal, yes, that's more than what Wentz and Goff got on a "per year" basis, but only 57 percent of Prescott's amount was guaranteed.

Meanwhile, Wentz and Goff got their contracts a year early, which should result in a discount, while Prescott had to prove himself and stay healthy for an extra season while continuing to play on his crappy fourth-round rookie contract. (Again, to be clear, we're only working off of reported numbers, but we're just trying to illustrate the difference in those deals.)

The bottom line is that Prescott is in a better position betting on himself once again in 2020, and if he has even a decent season, he's going to benefit in one of three ways:

  1. He'll get the monster deal from the Cowboys he's been waiting for.
  2. He'll get a big raise on a second tag, and further improve his already robust leverage situation.
  3. He'll become an unrestricted free agent, and some team will put together a huge offer for him.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys are in a bad spot in this situation. To begin, Prescott's salary cap number rose from $2,120,848 in 2019 to $31,409,000 in 2020, and as a result, they were unable to retain players like Byron Jones, their best defensive back, and Robert Quinn, their best pass rusher last season, among others.

Looking ahead, they're now facing another significant raise for Prescott next offseason, but because of the coronavirus pandemic affecting league revenues, that will likely be without the benefit of a rise in the NFL's salary cap. Of course, they could always let Prescott walk in free agency and go with some cheaper veteran or try their luck in the NFL Draft, but that would almost certainly damage any realistic short-term chances of competing for a Super Bowl.

Jerry Jones and the gang had the benefit of having a legitimate starting quarterback on their cap at an extremely low number for four years, and all they have to show for it was one playoff win. That major advantage is officially over.

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WR Kelvin Harmon tore his ACL

Harmon played in all 16 games for Washington last year, starting eight. He had 30 catches on 44 targets for 365 yards and 0 TDs. While certainly not a household name, Harmon was going to compete for a starting job opposite Terry McLaurin in 2020. If you thought the Eagles' wide receiver position was shaky, McLaurin aside, look at this mess. At a minimum, the loss of Harmon further depletes an already very thin group of skill position players.

What's the mystery report?

For a few days now, reporters have been doing that extremely annoying thing where they go, "HOOOOO BOY! WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE THIS NEWS THAT'S ABOUT TO COME OUT!" And they don't actually say what's coming.

Journalism schools, do me a favor and teach young folks coming up not to do that. Like, on Day 1. Thanks.

Anyway, TBD...

RG Brandon Scherff will play out the 2020 season on the tag

Like Prescott above, Scherff, the Washington team's starting RG, was unable to agree to a long-term deal, so he'll play the 2020 season in the tag. 

Unfortunately for the Washington team, 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, at $15,030,000. That's a lot of coin for a guard.

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DE Leonard Williams will play out the 2020 season on the tag

And finally, rounding out the rest of the NFC East's franchise tag news, Williams will play on the tag in 2020 as well. 

We've made fun of Dave Gettleman and his trade for Williams repeatedly here, most recently in our Giants dumpster fire piece. The short-short version is that Gettleman traded a 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 in a season in which they were already 2-6, lol. 

After Williams finished the season with 0.5 sacks, the Giants then continued to pile onto that sunken cost by tagging him. Williams will count for $16,126,000 in 2020, or 8.2 percent of the Giants' cap.


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