2020 Cowboys free agency: Dak Prescott likely to abstain from virtual offseason program, but talks progressing

This isn’t news to the Dallas Cowboys, nor should it be to anyone else. Dak Prescott made it clear earlier this offseason that, absent a contract, he likely wouldn’t report to the Cowboys offseason program that was slated to begin on April 6, but that squeeze bunt designed to help expedite talks from third base to home plate got shelved with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to a shutdown of all NFL facilities. No reporting on April 6 meant no holdout on April 6, but with teams set to fire up their virtual offseason programs, Prescott finds himself able to regain a bit of the leverage lost by the calendar change. 

As he planned initially, it’s “highly unlikely” Prescott will crack open his laptop and join in on the Cowboys virtual offseason start come April 20, sources tell CBS Sports. It makes sense that he wouldn’t, because he’s literally not an employee of the team right now and won’t be until his deal is signed and in the books, or at least until he signs his franchise tag — something he’s yet and unlikely to do. Also, the virtual offseason program is voluntary at the moment, so there’s no penalty that could be levied by the club anyway.

So where do things stand currently?

The Cowboys took advantage of no longer having the invisible clock of April 6 looming above them, and used the added time to truly push hard at getting a deal done with Prescott. Talks have been progressing since the two sides sat down formally at the 2020 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, leading to the team reigniting the stalled conversation in a big way when they sent over a revised offer in late March. That offer saw them peel back years on the length of the contract — currently the biggest sticking point, as CBS Sports reported in early February — and Prescott making strides toward compromise by buoying his willingness to nearly meet them in the middle.

To put it plainly, the Cowboys are angling for a longer-termed deal that initially saw them beat the drum for upwards of six or even seven years (as a first offer), but currently sit firmly at five. Contrarily, Prescott’s first counteroffer purposefully saw him stand on a three-year deal, knowing Dallas wouldn’t go for it any more than he’d go for signing a deal that locked him in for 70 percent of the next decade, and is now planting his flag at four years. 

The average annual salary is no longer an issue, I’m told, and hasn’t been for a very long time now. 

What remains the issue is length of the new deal, and guaranteed money is the key that could unlock the final compromise. A separate source affirmed to CBS Sports in March that the Cowboys could be willing to go upwards of $110 million in guaranteed money if Prescott is willing to add a fifth year, and a little less if they’re forced to settle on four. The good news for both sides is the talks have long been jumpstarted, money is almost completely no longer an issue, and both trains are barreling full speed toward a compromise that should see the deal done long before the NFL deadline of July 15. 

Until it is, however, Prescott isn’t employed by the Cowboys, so he’s not likely to do any work for them — virtual or otherwise. The team already knew that though, so none of this comes as a surprise to Jerry Jones and rest of the front office. Mike McCarthy has preached “patience” when it comes to Prescott’s talks, a quarterback he’s all-in on and believes is already a championship-caliber talent.

“I’ve gone through this as a head coach with a number of my players in the past and I think, like anything, it’s just time to be patient and let the business people work out the business matter,” the newly-joined head coach said in February of the negotiations.

All sides have been just that and will continue to be until the deal gets done, which appears to be on track to land much sooner than later.

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