It’s deja vu all over again. This time last year, the Dallas Cowboys were trying to work out an extension with Dak Prescott. That effort failed after eight months or so, and he played out the remainder of his rookie deal. Now the team is trying to sort out a new contract to keep him as their franchise quarterback. And recent reports indicate that the situation is going to drag out to the point that the team will have to use the franchise tag on him. Prescott is not exactly thrilled about that prospect.
Almost a year ago, the case was made for why the team needs to put more effort into meeting his demands. Now, the pressure is even greater, and there are even more reasons for the team to open up the checkbook.
The team is even more all in on him as the franchise QB
Everything about the hiring of Mike McCarthy as the new head coach supports this. McCarthy is an offensive coach, with a record of getting a lot out of quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers (middle name Freaking) with the Green Bay Packers. That relationship soured with Rodgers in the end, but there is reason to believe that was on the quarterback more than his head coach. McCarthy’s record in this aspect is one of the reasons he was brought to Dallas.
He revamped almost the entire coaching staff, with only three holdovers. Two of those are directly related to Prescott. Kellen Moore was kept because McCarthy really liked what he saw from the rookie offensive coordinator. Doug Nussmeier was reassigned to quarterbacks coach to provide continuity after Jon Kitna was not retained. That shows the importance of keeping a structure to support Prescott. The quarterback is the logical focus of an NFL offense. If, as he has hinted, Prescott does not report under the tag, it hinders the process severely, something McCarthy is certainly not wanting.
There are arguments that he is not really worth the expected cost, almost certainly in the $35 million per year or higher range, with substantial guarantees. The failure of the Cowboys to make the playoffs last season is perhaps the main point raised. Moving on from Jason Garrett and most of the old staff shows that the blame was assigned there, not with Prescott. The future will tell if that was correct.
That comes down to the only really important consideration. The management and staff believe Prescott is the quarterback they need. They are putting the structure in place for him. Any arguments against it are spurious, because the Cowboys have left no doubt what they want to do.
The market has been set
There were three starting quarterbacks that emerged from the 2016 draft class. Prescott was famously a fourth-round compensatory pick. The first two selections that year are the other two, Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams and Carson Wentz with the Philadelphia Eagles. The latter two have already been extended, and those deals should be the starting point for determining how much Dallas will have to pay.
Wentz signed first, getting a four-year extension worth $32 million per year. About $66.5 million is guaranteed, and just over $47 million is already locked in. Goff came a few months later, signing just before the start of the season for $33.5 million annually, also for four years. His guarantees were a bit lower at $57 million. Goff has already made a Super Bowl appearance, but Wentz has only played in one playoff game and left it early due to injury, an ongoing issue for him.
It is reasonable to assume that Prescott’s agent is pointing to those contracts, and the increase from one to another makes the $35 million figure a starting point logical. Quarterback salaries just don’t regress in the league.
Now the NFL and NFLPA are trying to hammer out a new CBA with the current one expiring at the end of the coming season. A big part of the negotiations center around adding another game to the regular season. While the players union doesn’t like the idea, the driving factor is that the networks and other media outlets are demanding more product before negotiating new deals of their own. They also don’t want an additional bye week.
If the broadcasters and webcasters can get what they want, the money is expected to skyrocket. That is what should drive the NFLPA to concede to an additional game. If the pie grows substantially, so will the money available to pay the players. That’s a powerful argument.
It is also increased impetus to get something done with Prescott sooner rather than later. If the salary cap jumps as it is expected to, his agent would just have more ammunition to demand even more.
A further consideration is that three of the current top quarterbacks are set to enter free agency if their teams do not sign them back. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots is already reportedly drawing interest from the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders. That could lead to a hefty price even for a short deal. Drew Brees and Philip Rivers are also set to enter the market, although the latter may also elect to retire. But if any of this trio get a new deal, it could just be another reset.
The Cowboys risk too much by delaying.
Here is the money on their first contract for the three QBs from the class of 2016.
- Goff: $28 million
- Wentz: $26.6 million
- Prescott: $4 million (originally $2.7 million, with the additional in $1.3 million in performance pay)
That draft position cost Prescott a ton of money. His next contract is where he wants to make it up. His agent is surely arguing for just that.
The Cowboys caved on Zeke
As you may vaguely remember, Ezekiel Elliott held out of the offseason and preseason last year to get a better deal. The Cowboys, under pressure of the approaching season, gave in. Big. Elliott wound up with a record-setting six-year, $90 million dollar extension including $50 million in guarantees.
It is hard for the team to argue with a straight face that Prescott should have any restraint in his demands after that. No matter where you stand on running backs mattering, it is a fact that the quarterback is the single most important player on an NFL roster.
Reports are consistent that the Cowboys want to couch the negotiations in terms of top-five money for Prescott. History shows us that players and agents just want to talk about being number one. That can be in terms of total money or guarantees, and could include both. Don’t forget that Kirk Cousins got a fully guaranteed $84 million on his current deal. You can be sure Prescott’s agent hasn’t.
The CBA puts most of the advantages in the hands of the team, including the franchise tag. But Prescott has the factors cited here working for him. This may turn out to be a long negotiation. The longer it goes, however, the more it is likely to cost in the end.