The waiting game continues. We know at some point the Cowboys are going to strike a new deal with quarterback Dak Prescott. We also know that deal is going to pay Prescott a lot of money, much more than the bargain-basement contract he’s been working off since he entered the league. There is plenty of debate about Prescott and whether he is worth the kind of dough he’s about to get. It’s a valid debate, and one fans should engage in respectfully, because we won’t really know the answer until we see Prescott play the next four or five years. Anybody who tells you they know for sure before that time-frame plays out is being disingenuous. It’s one thing to offer a respectful opinion, it’s another thing to pretend you can see the future as fact today.
Bill Barnwell has offered up an opinion on what he thinks Prescott will get on an annual basis, and he’s going over the $30 million mark that’s been thrown around recently.
Russell Wilson’s four-year, $140 million extension set a new annual average record at $35 million per season. As I wrote in April, the Cowboys’ predilection for longer deals with their stars means that Prescott is likely to approach a record for total contract value as opposed to topping Wilson’s average. This deal is going to get done unless the Cowboys want to trust the same instincts that led them to pursue Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook before settling for Prescott during the 2016 draft, and they’re not that dumb. Prescott is likely to get a five- or six-year deal in the range of $32 million per season.
Of course, how that deal is structured and how much of it is guaranteed is the really important part. But it’s coming, and Stephen Jones pushing for a team-friendly discount isn’t likely to hold much sway. Prescott has had to earn more from his endorsement deals than his football contract over these first three years, he has every right to cash in now.
This season, under Kellen Moore and with a pretty good roster, should help to be more instructive of Prescott’s future. We’ve seen what he can do under Scott Linehan, and now we’ll get to see if Linehan’s philosophy and play-calling were holding Prescott back. It’s not like Prescott has been performing poorly, the Cowboys have won the NFC East two of the last three years and picked up a playoff victory. There are plenty of stats that back up Prescott’s play, Cole Patterson’s recent article lays out a bunch, especially around the downfield passing myth. There are also reasons to find fault in his play, so each side has a legitimate point of view. But neither side has a lock on the truth, because only Prescott’s play over the next few years will answer that question.
One big piece of that puzzle, though, is the help he will have on the roster. One person the Cowboys are trying to lock up for a while is Amari Cooper. Barnwell has thoughts on that also.
They could franchise Cooper twice and pay the Alabama product about $53 million over the next three seasons. That’s right around what Odell Beckham Jr. ($52.7 million) and Mike Evans ($55 million) got from their extensions as fifth-year stars last August. The Cowboys probably will have to pay Cooper $58 million over the next three years as part of his extension to get this deal done. It’s a lot of money, but once they traded for Cooper and he succeeded, they were basically handing his agent a blank check.
Barnwell goes on to suggest that if the Cowboys don’t think they want to pay that kind of money to Cooper, they should trade him now.
If the Joneses really think Cooper isn’t worth the money he’s asking for -- and to be clear, I don’t think this is what they actually believe -- they should trade Cooper now in lieu of letting him play out this fifth-year option and walking for a third-round compensatory pick. Cooper’s value might never be higher after last season, and there are a handful of teams that should be willing to offer significant draft compensation for a rejuvenated Cooper.
That seems to be a very minority opinion. The Cowboys have raved about Cooper and what he and Prescott accomplished together in the second half of 2018 has them drooling about the offense after the two will have a full offeason together. A good guess is that the Cowboys will strike a deal with Cooper at some point, the odds on that are roughly about 99.9%.
It’s going to cost a lot of money to get those two under contract, but in today’s NFL you can’t win without a quality quarterback, and you need to give him help in the passing game. The Cowboys have been setting up their salary cap just for this occasion. Time to pay the piper.