This might be the most important month for the Dallas Cowboys’ negotiations with Dak Prescott. March 9th is the deadline to franchise tag players in the NFL and if they tag Dak, getting a long-term deal will be even more difficult before free agency in 2022.

It’s difficult to know where both parties stand right now. Perhaps the last reported offer we heard about was last year’s five-year deal for $175M. According to multiple reports, the main sticking point last year was the length of the contract as Prescott wanted a four-year deal.

Things have changed since then. Prior to the injury, Dak Prescott was playing lights out for the Cowboys in 2020. But that’s not even the most important change. Rather it was the fact that Patrick Mahomes got paid. Deshaun Watson got paid. And as tends to be the case with the quarterback market in the NFL, the going rate for quarterbacks has gone up.

Before the 2020 season, the Cowboys’ offer to Prescott was near Russell Wilson’s contract averaging $35M per year. Now, NFL Network’s Jane Slater thinks the benchmark is another quarterback you might’ve heard of.

“Now he’s looking to get paid right behind Patrick Mahomes,” said Slater in an appearance in the Dan Patrick Show.

Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year contract extension averaging $45M per year with the Kansas City Chiefs last year. Slater’s comment shouldn’t be a surprise to Cowboys’ fans. The Houston Texans signed Deshaun Watson with an average annual value of $39.5M, which made the 40-million mark an expected floor for Dak’s potential long-term deal.

Slater later noted Dak’s side feels it’s about respect. And when you think about it, it has to be. The Cowboys have gotten five years out of Prescott as a starting quarterback, four of which he played on a fourth-round rookie contract. While he remains unsigned to a long-term contract, the Cowboys has paid DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and even Jaylon Smith.

The first question that comes to mind is “how behind is ‘right behind’ Patrick Mahomes?” Are we talking about $42 million per year or $44 million per year? And truth be told, the annual average value might not even be as important as it seems. Mahomes’ extension is pretty different from the rest of the NFL given it’s a 10-year commitment.

Prescott, on the other hand, will be looking for a short-term deal. Perhaps even a three-year deal, as CBS’ Joel Corry suggested. Heck, speaking of Mahomes, the Cowboys and Prescott might go off-script and get a similar deal done, although that’s unlikely. What about the guaranteed money? Watson got $75M fully guaranteed.

Yet Watson and Mahomes didn’t play under the tag. Their franchises got long-term deals done before the quarterbacks could have all the leverage. If the Dallas Cowboys are going to keep Dak Prescott in the long run, they’re going to have to give in somehow.

The question is how. It might just be ending up right behind Patrick Mahomes’ record-setting deal in order to become the second-highest paid quarterback in the league. One way or another, Dak Prescott will break the bank. What the Cowboys have to avoid though, is him doing it with another team.

Featured Image Via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports