2020 Cowboys free agency: Dak Prescott contract talks reignited, but NFL coronavirus policy might allow delay

Dak Prescott had a plan and still does, but the Dallas Cowboys aren’t exactly feeling pressured by it at the moment, because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has the world literally on pause. and continue to work out details on what will ultimately be the biggest contract in franchise history, Prescott was hit with an exclusive franchise tag on March 16 that gives the team until July 15 to get a long-term deal done. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback has not signed his tender, sources tell CBS Sports, and he made it clear early in the offseason he likely wouldn’t be in Dallas for offseason workouts if he was tagged

His willingness to potentially hold out was to first be tested on April 6. The Cowboys are permitted to begin their offseason program two weeks sooner than usual due to the hiring of a new head coach in Mike McCarthy, or rather they were permitted, because the NFL has banned players from being present in team facilities for any reason — taking the added step recently of advising all 32 clubs to completely close their doors. That order is in place for at least two weeks, and even if it’s lifted in early April, the fact all offseason programs have been indefinitely postponed still looms large when discussing any possible holdout situation.

Simply stated, if the Cowboys can’t begin offseason conditioning, Prescott can’t hold out of offseason conditioning.

What this does is remove the clock hovering above the collective head of the Cowboys front office, because they now have time to be patient and make sure the deal they inevitably get done with their franchise quarterback is one both sides are pleased with. With the re-signing of Amari Cooper on a five-year, $100 million deal, the acquisition of Gerald McCoy and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix along with the agreeing of terms with Dontari Poe, they’ve made plenty of Grade A free agency moves and still have roughly $20 million in cap space (per Over The Cap) despite the tag on Prescott; evidence that supports them not having to rush for a deal on Prescott simply to afford themselves financial room to get new talent in the building.

The good news for both is there has been obvious compromise already achieved, with the Cowboys — who were seeking the longest possible contract with Prescott — scaling back their initial ask of five to seven years to only five, a separate source tells CBS Sports. 

That is much more palatable for Prescott, who initially countered their exceedingly long offer with a not-so-playfully abbreviated one of his own, lobbing back one that ran as short as three years with a maximum ceiling of four; as CBS Sports reported on Feb. 11. The negotiation has come to a point wherein Prescott has presumably ditched his “soft” three-year ask that would give him maximum flexibility to quickly renegotiate under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, and is standing at four years while the Cowboys sit at five, hinting at a growing compromise that will result in the shaking of han-… er… um… bumping of elbows soon.

It’s an agreement that can land at any moment, given how fluid the situation is and what details are being worked through — which includes the guaranteed money but not so much average annual salary anymore, sources continue to confirm to CBS Sports — but negotiations could now breeze right past April 6 due to the NFL’s coronavirus policies and no one would notice. Eyeing that date to see if the team would call Prescott’s bluff is now a moot point, because until an official offseason schedule is put in place, Prescott can’t use a holdout to push the issue.

Not when the entire NFL is in one itself.