$45 million isn’t the real problem for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys

It’s time, not money.

Multiple sources are refuting a report from NBC Sports’ Chris Simms released on Thursday as “definitely not true” that the Cowboys quarterback turned down a five-year, $175 million deal — $35 million annually — because he wanted “north of $45 million” in the final year.

“To clarify any recent speculation on Dak Prescott’s contract negotiations: there have been no discussions on other scenarios other than the Cowboys wanting a longer deal and Prescott wanting a shorter deal, per source,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter wrote.

“According to the team side and Dak Prescott’s agent, the report (👇🏽) from @CSimmsQB is definitely not true,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport quote-tweeted. “The two sides have never discussed such scenarios or anything like it. Dak wants a shorter deal, the #Cowboys want a longer one.”

“Nothing’s changed on his side,” USA Today’s Jori Epstein wrote. “Dak wants a four-year deal from Cowboys. He’s not entertaining offers of more than four years. Guarantees, structure of contract are important beyond potential max value 🤷”

The inflammatory information could have originated from some source within the Cowboys organization in an effort to sour public opinion against Prescott and force his hand. The franchise-tagged two-time Pro Bowler has been a divisive topic all offseason, and the optics of turning down a deal of that magnitude could have reflected poorly on him.

Negotiations for a long-term contract have dragged on since last offseason, during which time the Cowboys completed deals with Demarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and Andy Dalton. Earlier in May, Stephen Jones, vice president and son of owner Jerry Jones, expressed concern about overburdening the team with such a significant cap liability for one player.

“There’s all sorts of analytics out there that show if your QB takes up too big a percentage of your salary cap that it decreases your chances to win,” the younger Jones told Pro Football Talk.

“For somebody to say you can only take so much because of the salary cap or you can only do this or that, I don’t know how fair that is to say,” Prescott told USA TODAY Sports last summer when negotiations first began.

The 2020 NFL salary cap is $198.2 million, a $10 million increase year-over-year.

“With gambling, with everything going into this league, everything is going to continue to keep going up,” Prescott said. “At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, a year or two later, you’re not going to be the highest-paid. That’s just the way the game goes.”

Prescott has thrown for 15,778 yards, 97 touchdowns and 36 interceptions with a 65.8 completion percentage since entering the league as a 2016 fourth-round pick. He has earned an average of just $1 million per year over four seasons and will earn $31.5 million under the exclusive franchise tender.

The Cowboys and Prescott have until the July 15 deadline to agree to terms, or risk extending this rigamarole for another year which retired Eagles signal-caller Donovan McNabb thinks would be a short-sighted move on the team’s behalf.

“Pay the man because I’m going to tell you one thing — you franchise him, say he has half Jameis Winston’s season and y’all make it to the NFC Championship Game or second round of the playoffs. … You know how much money he’s going to ask for?” McNabb told on “The Last Stand” podcast. “You think it’s a problem now. It’s going to be a major problem if Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes sign their contracts.”

The team would also have the expensive option to franchise tag the QB once again should they allow the July 15 mark to pass.

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