The Dak Prescott contract situation with the Dallas Cowboys is one of the biggest storylines in the NFL this offseason. While the fourth-year signal-caller has had a great start to his career thus far, he’s yet to lead the team beyond the NFC Divisional Round, which puts the front office in a precarious situation.
On one side, the Cowboys know exactly what they’re getting with Prescott. He’s 40-24 in his four years as the team’s starter. He’s thrown 97 touchdowns compared to 36 interceptions during the same timeframe. He’s guided Dallas to the playoffs twice as well. And, at just 26 years old, it’s assumed that he’ll take a major step forward as he enters the prime of his career. But there’s a huge question when it comes to the Dak Prescott contract negotiations: What is he actually worth?
According to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram, per Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones, Prescott did, in fact, turn down a deal during last NFL season that was top-5 QB money. While Jones didn’t get into specifics, it’s believed that the annual figure was $33 million per year, which would have been quite the boost from his 2019 salary of $2 million. Here’s how Pro Football Talk broke it down.
Prescott’s paltry salary of $2 million for 2019 would have dragged down the total value at signing of any new contract. If, for example, the Cowboys had offered a five-year extension worth $33 million per year, the average value at signing on the six-year deal would have been $27.8 million per year, halfway between to total value at signing of the contracts signed by Jimmy Garoppolo (five years, $27.5 million per year) and Kirk Cousins (three years, $28 million per year).
[The Fort-Worth Star Telegram‘s] Hill reports that Prescott wants a deal that will pay him as much or more than Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. But there’s a big difference between Wilson’s new-money average of $35 million per year and his total value at signing of $31.4 million per year. Since Prescott currently has no contract, Prescott’s total value at signing and new money will be the same.
So will it be $35 million per year or $31.4 million per year or somewhere in between?
For comparisons sake, Russell Wilson earned his recent mega-deal, having played in two Super Bowls; winning one, and losing another in the last minute with a heartbreaking interception on the goal-line. While Prescott has upside, is he really projected to be better than Wilson? It’s hard to tell.
Going back to Stephen Jones’ latest comments, who added that he’s expecting the Dak Prescott contract situation “to heat up,” the VP of America’s Team sounds as if the Cowboys are prepared to pay the quarterback what he wants after he rejected the reported $33 million deal a few months ago.
Per The Fort-Worth Star Telegram:
“I know he wants to get his contract in the rear view mirror and we want it too,” Jones said. “We want him to be treated well, financially and respectfully. We are going to have a real urgency to get this done.”
He said the Cowboys have been trying to get a deal done with Prescott since last off season. The two sides came close to deal in September on a contract that would have paid him roughly $33 million annually, sources said, before talks broke down when Prescott upped his asking price.
“I don’t want to get into the details, but we have offered him significant money,” Jones said. “The money we have offered Dak no matter how you look at it would put him as a top five quarterback in the NFL. That is the way we feel about him. He is one of the best.”
Complicating matters even more is the fact that reigning Super Bowl 54 MVP Patrick Mahomes is in line for a major pay raise this offseason, too, which could drive the market for Prescott’s contract up even more. Is that fair to the Cowboys? When comparing the two, absolutely not, but such is the way the NFL goes these days, where teams are willing to overpay to retain an established franchise signal-caller — which is why the league is reportedly exploring a separate salary cap just for the high profile position.
There are a lot of complexities surrounding the Dak Prescott contract situation, and, depending on the decision from the Cowboys, it could lead to the quarterback earning massive amounts of money over the next few years, as Pro Football Talk details.
Here’s the more important reality regarding the value of Dak’s next deal. Once the Cowboys apply the franchise tag, the market at the position doesn’t matter. What matters is the projected payout under the tag. If the Cowboys risk exposing Prescott to an offer sheet from another team (which if not matched would give the Cowboys a pair of first-round picks), the starting point would be the non-exclusive tag of roughly $27 million for 2020, along with a 20-percent bump in 2021 to $32.4 million. And then comes 2022, where Prescott would be entitled to a 44-percent increase, to $46.65 million. That’s a year-to-year payout of $106 million over three years, an average of $35.35 million.
If the Cowboys apply the exclusive tender, things get much more expensive. It’s $33.4 million for 2020 (for now) then $40.08 million for 2021 then $57.71 million for 2022, a three-year payout of $131.19 million, or $43.73 million per year.
Is Dak Prescott really worth over $43 million per year over the next three years? It’s hard to justify that; even as solid as he’s been in his first four seasons in the league. And, while the free agent and potential trade market for quarterbacks is loaded this offseason with names like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Teddy Bridgewater and others, it sounds as if the Cowboys will offer their incumbent starter a contract like the NFL has never seen before.