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Tom Brady’s contract complicates the Cowboys’ negotiation with Dak Prescott

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One number and one word: 100% guaranteed.

Dallas Cowboys v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

There is a chance you are aware that the Dallas Cowboys are still trying to work out a new contract with franchise quarterback Dak Prescott. The team has used the exclusive franchise tag to buy time. The exact cost of that tag is still to be determined, since it is calculated based on other contracts in the league, but it is expected to be in the $30-33 million range. (Over the Cap has it as $30.144 million.) The big hangup at this time is reportedly the length, with Prescott’s side holding out for a four year deal to let him have the opportunity to get an even more lucrative next deal quicker, while the team wants to have five years of knowing they have him locked up. One way or another, Dallas needs to get this done, even though that looks like it is going to be a very expensive proposition.

We still don’t know the exact figures the two sides are proposing, just rumors that probably are negotiations through the media. With nothing signed, either side can change their offer at will. For Prescott, that would probably mean an increase due to what is happening elsewhere in the league. This was always a risk for the team in letting this drag on so long. Other deals could push the market higher.

Now, there is indeed a new contract that could influence what happens with Prescott.

The key thing to take away from this: It is a full guaranteed deal. The yearly payout is of course less than Prescott’s tag or any of the figures being bandied about for a new deal at “just” $25 million. But this still is potential ammo for his agent to use to get him more.

Tom Brady is a veritable legend and should be a shoo-in first ballot Hall of Fame selection. But he is approximately 82 years old (give or take 40) and is definitely one of the old-school, stand in the pocket passers. Mobility is not a trait associated with him. All of his stats have been steadily declining for the past four years or so. Some of that is attributed to the corresponding decline in his supporting cast, but part of it has to be laid at his plodding feet. Brady never possessed impressive arm strength, and is likely to be more dependent than ever on quick reads, releases, and short throws, which may create a bit of a problem for Bruce Arians and his “no risk it, no biscuit” philosophy. He now joins Kirk Cousins in getting the full guarantee that is something of the holy grail for NFL players. And don’t overlook that this is for a two-year rental for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It’s also worth noting that Philip Rivers also has signed with the Indianapolis Colts. His deal is just for one year, but it has a couple of similarities to Brady’s, just as Rivers is at a similar stage of his career and is not fleet of foot, either. It is also for $25 million per (the one) year. And it is fully guaranteed. Same message here. Top level quarterbacks, even ones in the declining years of their careers, get all the money in their deal, no matter what.

Prescott is young, accurate, has plenty of range both with his arm and his legs, and so far, is very durable. All the data verifies it, and so does the “eye test”. The Jones family would like to see him still quarterback for the Cowboys when the next CBA is negotiated in a decade. And with a bit of luck, that is entirely feasible.

First, of course, they have to get this deal with him done. There simply is no alternative outside of accepting failure and starting over with what is about 99% likely to be a lesser option. Prescott and his agent know that if he hits the open market, the sky is the limit on what he could get. Our own Danny Phantom laid out the evidence for how dauntingly hard it is to find a true NFL franchise quarterback. If you haven’t read his excellent piece, make sure you do so.

Now, with Brady cashing in one more time despite his age and declining value, Prescott and his side have that guarantee to use as support for demands. Those demands might just have gone up, too. At a minimum, they should be pushing for at least $25 million in guarantees for each year of the contract, and possibly just saying lock it all in or no deal. Precedents matter in contract negotiations, as much if not more than the player’s own résumé. It is all about economics, not analytics.

This may become the tradeoff if the Cowboys are dead set on a five-year deal. It could be headed for something like $33.5 million a year, all guaranteed, if they won’t back down. That is a staggering $167.5 million, much of which would be in a massive signing bonus.

That’s obviously a worst case (for the team) scenario. It will probably not be nearly that huge, at least in terms of guarantees, because the Cowboys also love having that escape route after two or three years in all their contracts. But you can be sure that Prescott’s demand will be for more than the roughly $66.5 million in guarantees that Carson Wentz got from our beloved rivals the Philadelphia Eagles.

Just to hazard a guess, we may be headed toward something like a $167.5 million total five-year deal to have $33.5 million per year “top dollar” aspect, with half or so ($80 to $85 million) guaranteed. The third-year guarantee would likely be an injury one rather than absolute, and the non-guaranteed last two years backloaded to the tune of something like $38 million or more each to make it more attractive for Prescott to stick around for five years. The new CBA makes that easier to do. It still seems huge, but this is simply how the market has evolved.

That may have been where we were headed anyway, but Brady’s nice little deal with the Bucs just made it more likely.