Dak Prescott is about to get paid. After four years of being the biggest bargain in football, all his hard work will finally pay off as he’s set to become the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys. That’s not bad for a guy who was selected 135th overall and the eighth quarterback taken in the 2016 NFL draft. Of all the quarterbacks drafted ahead of Prescott that year, only three of them are starting for their teams - Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Jacoby Brissett. All three of them have received a second contract and are among the top paid quarterbacks in the league. Soon, Dak will join them.
In the four years he’s been in the league, Prescott has started all 64 games; the only quarterback from his draft class to do so. No quarterback from his draft class has thrown for more touchdowns or passing yards than Dak. He has more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than no. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. He also has the more rushing yards and touchdown runs of any quarterback from that draft with 1,221 yards and 21 touchdowns. His statistical résumé is quite impressive.
Even though Prescott has demonstrated he’s a good quarterback in this league, there are still a lot of conflicting opinions about how much he should be paid. There are those who say, “he doesn’t deserve Russell Wilson money” or “he definitely should get at least as much as Carson Wentz” but what those actual figures are can trip some people up. First off, those deals are old news. You can’t compare 2019 apples with 2020 apples because those figures are rotten.
To get a more accurate depiction of his cost, we need to take into account the ongoing increase of the salary cap. Over the past two seasons, the total salary cap has increased by six percent each year, and over the last eight seasons it’s averaged a seven percent annual jump. Assuming the same annual increase, the 2020 salary cap looks to be around $200 million. All that really means is - all things being equal, guy worth $100 million last year is now worth $106 million.
So, we did a little math and re-calculated the top 10 paid paid quarterbacks based on annual salary. For those who signed a new deal last season, their new figure is determined by multiplying their yearly average by 1.06. If their deal was two years ago, multiply it by 1.06 again. And if you’re Matthew Stafford and signed your deal in 2017, then multiply that figure by 1.06 one more time. Doing that yields a 2020 representation of the cost for each quarterback:
Doing this little conversion eliminates all the false narratives that go with the “highest paid” player at his position storylines that always accompany new deals. We get an apples to apples comparison. Just like that, the perspective changes a bit. For example, Prescott can conceivably command more than Russell Wilson does annually, but still not be making Russell Wilson money because contracts are all relative to each year’s cap figure. So anything less than $35 million a year, and Dak’s taking less than what Jared Goff is getting paid. Maybe it’s not so unreasonable for Prescott and company to be setting their price higher than what he seems to be worth on the surface.
Of course, the annual salary means very little, we know that already. These long drawn out contract negotiations are all about the guaranteed money. The Cowboys front office may be perceived as overpaying for guys like DeMarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Elliott, both of which got new deals last year that paid them among the top at their respective positions. However, if you take guaranteed money into account, both of them rank sixth in terms of guaranteed money per year. That’s the way the Cowboys pay their stars while protecting themselves.
Guaranteed money is a big deal. Kirk Cousins may be ranked eighth on average, but he gets 100% of his three-year, $84 million deal. But then, you also have players like Jimmy Garoppolo. When he initially signed his deal, people were a little shocked that a player with limited action would receive so much money; however, only 35% of his contract is guaranteed. Most of the quarterbacks teeter around the 50% range, and I’m sure Stephen Jones and Dak’s representatives will negotiate hard for that figure, but for now - let’s just focus on annual worth. Where do you think Prescott falls among the top 10?
Is he better than Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson? That’s a hard sell, so the Cowboys shouldn’t have to give him $37 annually. Does he deserve more than Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford and Cousins? It’s fair to say that he does, so let’s dismiss any talk lower in the $33 million range.
Where he’s likely to fall is right around the area of his 2016 draft mates. And if he’s given the respect he deserves, it should be slightly higher than the top guy - Goff. Taking that figure into account and factoring in Stephen Jones propensity of squabbling over guaranteed money, Prescott’s new deal should look something like this:
Five year, $182 million ($36.4 M annually), with $116 million guaranteed
The news will report this as Dak being the highest paid quarterback in the league, which will ruffle the feathers of many as sports talk shows will argue about that for weeks. But in actuality, he’ll really be fourth. Furthermore, when you start considering guaranteed money, it will probably fall somewhere further down the list like his fellow teammates.
How much do you think the Cowboys should pay Dak Prescott?
This poll is closed
Between $35-$37 million
Less than $35 million