The window to begin applying the franchise or transition tag to players opens Tuesday. According to ESPN's Todd Archer, the Cowboys "hope to work out a long-term deal with Prescott" before the March 9 deadline to apply the tag.
If push comes to shove, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Dallas will likely place the franchise tag on Prescott for the second year in a row, which would net him $37.7 million for the 2021 season:
Letting the 27-year-old hit the open market would be risky because he'd likely have a big market despite the major ankle injury that limited him to five games. He had thrown for 1,856 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions after finishing second in passing yards (4,902) in 2019.
Pro Football Focus ranked Prescott as the No. 1 overall free agent:
"The prize of the free agent market, Prescott went down with an unfortunate injury after just four-plus games in 2020. With four full seasons under his belt, Prescott has finished in the top 10 of PFF grades twice while ranking closer to 20th in the other two seasons. However, Prescott's 85.2 PFF grade this season would've been a career-best, and his 2019 and 2020 work is the most productive of his career."
The Athletic put him in a tier by himself at his position:
Last May, ESPN's Ed Werder reported Prescott wanted to sign a four-year pact with the Cowboys and that anything else was a "non-starter." Rapoport also refuted a rumor the quarterback had turned down a five-year, $175 million offer, adding that "Dak wants a shorter deal, the Cowboys want a longer one."
Per Archer, the situation largely remains the same. Prescott prefers a four-year extension because he'd return to the market while in his early 30s, but the Cowboys "want at least a five-year commitment as a way to ease their salary-cap burden."
Archer floated the idea of a six-year contract that voids after four years since the player and team could come away happy.
In the absence of a new contract before March 9, the Cowboys and Prescott would have until July 15 before his one-year franchise tender goes into effect.