2020 NFL free agency: Delayed CBA deadline helps Cowboys in contract talks with Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper

Attempting to ratify a new NFL collective bargaining agreement has not been a quick and efficient process, and that’s starting to work in the favor of the Dallas Cowboys in their ongoing talks with Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. As owners await a decision from the entirety of the NFLPA voting body, namely every single player in the league who qualifies for a vote, deadlines are beginning to move to accommodate all parties involved. 

First, the league moved the tag deadline from March 10 to March 12, giving the Cowboys and other teams two extra days of negotiation before they’re forced to decide on which player(s) to tag, and now there’s been another change to the calendar that should make owner Jerry Jones and Co. smile a bit.

The CBA voting deadline was initially set for March 12 to mostly coincide with the tag deadline but has now officially been moved to March 14 at 11:59pm ET. That is significant as it relates to the Cowboys because they currently have access to both the franchise tag and transition tag unless a new CBA is installed. If one is ratified, they’ll be forced to rescind one of the tags, but now the soonest that would have to happen is March 14 — meaning they can tag both Prescott and Cooper on March 12 and still have time to land extensions without immediate risk of either hitting the open market.

Those are the logistics, and now here’s the plan

The team would ideally like to sign both and not need the tag for either, but realize that’s a tall ask. If they ultimately have access to only one tag, they’ll reserve it for Prescott, leaving Cooper free to take calls from other teams — something they don’t want to happen but would be powerless to stop. Contrarily, if Prescott agrees to terms before a new CBA steals away a tag, the existing tag would be applied to Cooper and talks regarding his extension will continue with a deadline to strike a deal sitting in mid-July. 

Of course, All-Pro cornerback Byron Jones is an odd man out in this discussion unless both Prescott and Cooper land deals and leave a tag on the table, but sources tell CBS Sports the likelihood of Jones being tagged is very slim — reason being the franchise tag and transition tag on a cornerback are projected to price out at $16.47 million and $14.57 million, respectively, but the Cowboys are averse to playing Jones anything higher than $13 million annually. 

As such, he’ll hit the open market with a list of teams ready to drive his price sky-high and put him in a position to set the market at cornerback, but not necessarily teams that willing to do so and also give up two first-round picks in the process. If Jones was hit with the non-exclusive tag, that would be the cost to steal him from the Cowboys, but failing in that attempt would leave the Cowboys paying a bill already deemed too high for their liking. Ipso facto, it doesn’t make sense for them to tag Jones, in their opinion.

As for Prescott and Cooper, the Cowboys now have an added 48 hours to accomplish two separate missions or at least a minimum of one of them — thanks to the drama surrounding the collective bargaining agreement. 

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