On the heels of NFL players ranking Dak as the 46th best player in the league, The Athletic recently published a ranking of NFL quarterbacks based on interviews with NFL coaches and executives. https://***BLOCKED***/1945894/2020/...coaches-and-evaluators-rank-the-nfl-starters/ According to the men whose job it is to coach and evaluate NFL players, Dak is the 12th-best QB in the league and in the second tier of quarterbacks. This ranking appears to be fairly consistent with the players' ranking of Dak. If the NFL players, coaches, and executives rank Dak somewhere in the second-tier (e.g., no. 12 quarterback in the league), why do Dak and his agent, Todd France, continue to demand elite, top-of-the-market money? Leverage. Contracts are all about leverage. Unlike most other quarterbacks, Dak was willing to play out his full rookie deal before accepting a fair Cowboys' offer. This gave him leverage over the team, and he and France tried to maximize that leverage during contract negotiations. Fortunately, the Cowboys didn't flinch. However, that's not to say the Cowboys handled this perfectly. Here are four things the Cowboys could've done differently: 1. Don't set a bad precedent by signing Dak's bro, Zeke, to a record contract with two years left on his rookie deal. This signaled to Dak and France that Stephen Jones' tough talk about not setting the market was a bluff. I think Dak and France tried - and failed - to call this bluff right up until the July 15 deadline. If the Cowboys had played hard ball with Zeke, then Dak and France's approach might've been different. 2. Sign Dak after year 3 as soon as he became eligible for a new contract. This one is a little bit murky, as we don't know for sure how much the Cowboys offered last offseason. If the offer was fair (i.e., Carson Wentz money), then shame on Dak. If not, shame on the Cowboys. It takes two to tango. What we do know is that Dak pressed his leverage after finishing year 4, and the Cowboys should've tried to avoid that outcome, within reason. 3. Apply the non-exclusive franchise tag. The Cowboys could've saved several millions dollars in cap space by applying the non-exclusive franchise tag to Dak instead of the exclusive franchise tag. Additionally, allowing Dak and France to negotiate with other teams would've showed them Dak's true market value instead of his leverage-maximizing value that applies only to the Cowboys. Even if Dak had signed a market-setting tender with another team (a longshot proposition), then the Cowboys could've entered the season with Andy Dalton under center and four first-round picks over the next two drafts. Not a bad deal. 4. Rescind the exclusive franchise tag after free agency/the draft. We know that the Cowboys screwed up by applying the exclusive franchise tag, but they then compounded that mistake by not rescinding it at the right time. What's the right time, you ask? It's after most teams have blown their cap space in free agency and filled their quarterback roster spots through the draft. I've analyzed this before, and if the Cowboys had timed this right, the only team who had both the cap space and the need for a quarterback post-free agency/draft was the Jacksonville Jaguars. Do you really think Dak would've left America's team and signed a deal with the lowly Jaguars for a couple extra million dollars? Being the face of the Cowboys is worth more than enough in endorsement money alone to recoup any lost contract dollars to a team like the Jaguars. This was the Cowboys best opportunity to claw back some of the leverage they'd given to Dak. So, there you have it. Dak and France's approach to Dak's contract was about leverage, not about Dak's ability relative to his peers. The Cowboys gave Dak that leverage by repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot along the way. Here's hoping they don't continue to do so.