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Last year it was reported that Dak Prescott was asking for $40 million dollars per year while the Cowboys stood firm at $35 million, a number that was turned down by Dak. Instead of a long term deal, he was forced into a franchise tag paying a measly $30.1 million for a one-year deal, but as this season comes to a close so does that contract. Once more, Dak will be petitioning for his money, but this year he has little to stand on. Will he fall to free agency, be forced into another franchise tag, or be forced into a massive pay cut from his $40 million ask?

This year the decreasing cap will be Dak’s biggest enemy, $22.2 million less for each NFL team is money that can’t go to Dak’s contract after all. In fact, there are only 4 teams currently with enough cap space to accommodate Dak’s asking price: the Jaguars, Jets, Patriots, and Colts. The Jags will draft a QB most likely and the Colts just traded for Carson Wentz, so both of them are out of the hunt. Dak Prescott playing under Bill Belichick is a scary thought although it is unlikely that he would pay Dak’s $40 million asking price, especially with some of the other QBs on the market in free agency, on the trade block, and available in the draft. The Jets are a possibility, but with Crazy Eyes Gase gone, they may actually stop signing players to expensive deals after learning with the Le’veon Bell and CJ Mosley signings.

While there are some other teams that could and most likely will open up the cap room for him (such as the Football Team, Broncos, and Panthers), it is unlikely they would fill their cap up immediately again with such a deal.

Another enemy of Dak’s is the ankle injury he sustained this season in week 5, effectively ending his season. While one injury is never a reason to back off from paying a good player, it is an excuse to get away from offering him the same contract as last year. If Dak had accepted the $35 million he was offered last year, he would be tied as the third highest-paid QB with Russell Wilson. Now it is more likely that he will lose a few million of the Cowboys’ initial offer due to the severity of his ankle injury. Dak had the kind of injury that players don’t come back fully from and while many are hopeful he will, it is hard to wager so much money on a full recovery. Perhaps the Cowboys will offer an incentive-laden contract that has the possibility of meeting their original $35 million per year offer.

However, they could look at this in a different way. Mike McCarthy could put all his chips on Dak, offer him the contract he wants, and justify it by pointing to his team that struggled without Dak. McCarthy had two amazing quarterbacks back-to-back in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers so he may find comfort in having a strong starter (albeit not as strong as his aforementioned quarterbacks) that he can rely upon. However, with such a strong quarterback draft, there could be one move that would blow everything out of the water if McCarthy could effectively do it.

What if Dak Prescott gets franchise tagged again and then promptly traded to a team wanting a QB (Panthers or Falcons for example), to then move up in the draft and pick their new franchise QB. It is highly risky but would most likely give the Cowboys more picks as well as open up cap now that they don’t have to pay a QB top-dollar for 5 years. The benefit of this for whoever would theoretically get Dak is that they have him on an expensive contract but not as expensive as possibly signing him in a bidding war in free agency. While it is very unlikely to occur, crazy trades seemingly happen every year now and it could be a possibility that Dak becomes the Stefon Diggs of last year, a trade that worked out amazingly for both teams involved.

For Dak, it appears he should have cashed out when he had the chance. Waiting a year will likely cost him millions more on top of the $5 million he has already lost by playing under the franchise tag and not taking his money. I think we will see Dak back again with the Cowboys as they attempt to take advantage of a decrepit NFC East, but in a league with reducing cap space, I think he will be the first quarterback to fall victim to a lower contract as teams scramble to fill rosters with 10% fewer funds. With such an influx of quarterbacks seemingly on the market, perhaps a new precedent shall be set for contracts, one that decreases the value of quarterbacks as teams attempt to stay afloat with the decreased cap room.

With Dak Prescott as a top free agent, the entire sports world will be monitoring his situation. NFL Free Agency starts March 15th. 

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada / USA Today Sports