INDIANAPOLIS — A new coaching staff, stalled collective bargaining agreement talks and two steadfast negotiating camps have complicated the Dallas Cowboys’ pursuit of a long-term deal with quarterback Dak Prescott.
Less than three weeks remain before the March 12 deadline to designate a franchise tag should the two sides not agree on an extension before then.
Designating Prescott with a franchise tag, vice president Stephen Jones acknowledged Monday, is not ideal. Both sides, he speculates, prefer to get a deal done “in quick order.” But if Prescott and the Cowboys do not agree to a long-term deal by March 12, the Cowboys will indeed tag Prescott.
The one option off the table: letting Prescott walk.
“Absolutely not,” Jones told Dallas reporters Monday afternoon at the NFL scouting combine. “Dak’s our quarterback, and he’s our quarterback for the future. … We know he wants to be here and we want him to be here long-term.
“He’s our guy.”
The Cowboys haven’t wavered on their assertion that Prescott is their quarterback of the future. He’s their “No. 1 priority” this offseason, Jones said last month at Senior Bowl practices. He described signing Prescott as “urgent.” But in eight weeks since the Cowboys’ season ended at unceremonious 8-8, negotiations with Prescott have not progressed.
This stems, in part, from complications with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. With the current labor deal set to expire after the 2020 season, the NFL’s management council voted last week to approve a proposal for the next labor deal. TV contracts and salary-cap management have expedited urgency from the league’s side. The players delayed a scheduled Friday vote on ratifying the deal. Team representatives and the NFLPA executive committee are expected to meet with owners Tuesday in Indianapolis.
So the Cowboys have refrained from handing out offers to players, Jones said, as they wait to factor in salary-cap and tag restrictions into their roster arrangement under first-year coach Mike McCarthy.
But the stalemate with Prescott dates back much earlier.
Jones confirmed Monday that the Cowboys and Prescott’s representatives have not negotiated since September. In the interim, Prescott posted his best statistical year while playing out the final year of his rookie deal. He completed 388 of 596 passes for 4,902 yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Prescott’s base salary in 2019: $2 million. The number is sure to rise with zero games left on his deal.
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But the two sides have yet to agree to terms. Average annual salary, contract length and guaranteed money are among factors needing resolution. Jones said the two sides had no firm meeting for this week, but he anticipates meeting with Prescott’s representatives. CAA agent Todd France also represents Cowboys defensive tackle Maliek Collins, who’s hitting free agency.
“They were pretty entrenched with their thoughts and we were pretty entrenched with our thoughts,” Jones characterized the negotiations that fizzled in September. “Certainly we’ve done a lot of thinking about it and looking about it and we’ll see where we’ll end up.”
The Cowboys have communicated more recently with wide receiver Amari Cooper and his agent Chafie Fields. Jones said they met with the Cooper — who at 25 already has four Pro Bowl selections — during Super Bowl week in Miami.
How’d that conversation go?
“It was very upbeat,” Jones said.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
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