It has been one month since Super Bowl LV, and we are now just eight days away from the start of the new league year. The final phase of the 2020 season is set to end this afternoon, with the placement of franchise tag tenders.This process could stretch into next week, however, as the NFL Network reported Monday that the deadline could be extended until the salary cap is set next week. Up to this point, teams have been able to operate with the knowledge that the cap will be at least $180 million.
As the financial side continues to be talked about for teams and players, the costs of the players combined with the lost earnings of last season are starting to trickle down to the fans. With all of these things going on, there’s a lot to sort through, but here are three things that I learned from the last week in the NFL.
1) Reminder: Contracts Are Value to Team, Not General Value
The biggest update of the offseason since the release of J.J. Watt and his journey through free agency to the Arizona Cardinals, yesterday afternoon it was announced that Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have reached a contract agreement.
Two weeks ago in this column, I had made the point that with all of the talk around Houston’s Deshaun Watson, we were talking about the wrong Texas quarterback with Dak and the Cowboys not getting any run. Now with the news of the deal, Prescott is sure to get his run of media attention from the talking heads and everyone else. Unfortunately, the topic of discussion is going to be whether or not he is worth the value of his new contract of four years for $160 million, with $126 million guaranteed. This is where perspective is key.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 8, 2021
Many will be quick to say that Dak isn’t a more valuable player than Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers. While that may be true, with none of those players available to the Cowboys, Prescott is to them. Contracts are about availability and access, and that demand is what sets their price.
With Dak, Dallas is a playoff team and one of the most potent offenses, and without him, they are far from it. They learned that this last season, and with making the playoffs a requirement to win a Super Bowl, Jerry has paid the price to return to the postseason.
2) Franchise Tags Still Need to Go
This is a subject every offseason, with players being held captive by the teams they play for via the franchise tag. Though Dak was fortunate to get a new deal after playing the last two seasons under the tether, he was close to receiving it again. When teams are bad, the franchise tag is a great tool to keep a star player from bolting, and the cost can be worth it to the team and the player.
Situations like Prescott had where he suffered a gruesome injury while playing under the tag are rough, though, as are situations where players are kept in a dysfunctional franchise.
Justin Simmons of the Denver Broncos and Marcus Maye of the New York Jets are two top defenders in the league that were tagged by their respective franchises. With value on the market and the opportunities they would have had to leave their teams that have been down for multiple seasons, it sucks for them. Sure, earning the money of the average of the top five players at the position is great and all, but this is a sport about winning, which those guys no doubt want to do.
I would like to see the NFLPA and NFL explore extra compensatory picks, like restricted free agency, for players like this in the future. For a player to be forced back into a situation that they may want out of, even after playing through the terms of their original contract, is ridiculous.
3) Lasting Effects Will Cost Fans in 2021
Just because the new league year will be starting soon doesn’t mean the impact of 2020 won’t still be felt.
The NFL was able to have fans in attendance at a number of venues throughout last season, including at Super Bowl LV. To my knowledge, there weren’t any significant spikes in COVID-19 outbreaks that were traced back to these games. Due to this, the NFL will likely pressure governments to allow for an increase in attendance. Just getting the financial faucet turned back on won’t be enough for franchises, however, as they’ll likely try to recoup their losses from last season as well through higher prices this year.
There are multiple factors that go into ticket pricing for teams, and along with the economic climate in general, one of those factors is also the success of the team. As much as it is disappointing to a number of fans, it makes sense; Better teams cost more to see play, because more people like to see a winner.
If the stadium can be full for the home opener, those willing to sell will make OODLES of money. Three decades plus a pandemic year in the making.
Same for a potential early season Sunday or Monday night game vs. BAL. The secondary market would be wildly high. https://t.co/iF9D3GKVVP
— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) March 8, 2021
There was a tweet of Zac Jackson in the Cleveland media that stood out to me the other day that, as a Browns fan, hurts to see. A clashing of hard times and a good team for the first time in forever may make it difficult for many fans, who have endured some of the longest droughts of success, to be able to see their team play. Another market feeling the impact of these two phenomena is the Buffalo Bills fan base, who will see prices increase.
Whether on the primary market or the secondary market, the value of these tickets are sure to price many fans out of attendance, as they too are recovering from last year. After moments of togetherness, unity and community that shone through 2020, this feels like teams and season ticket holders are holding all of the toilet paper and hand sanitizer all over again.
How do you feel about the Dak signing and franchise tags? Did something else stand out to you this week around the league that didn’t make the cut? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter, @JarkConas. Be sure to tag @110Sports as well.
Photo by: All-Pro Reels / Flickr