It’s the deal that didn’t get done. For much of the spring and into summer, there was a fixation on the negotiations between the Dallas Cowboys and starting quarterback Dak Prescott. After the team placed the franchise tag on Prescott, it was considered just a matter of time before a long-term deal would get done. The July 15th deadline was surely going to pressure the Cowboys into making concessions and meeting Prescott’s price.
Instead, the deadline passed and Prescott is playing 2020 on a $31.7 million, one-year deal that is dictated by the franchise tag. That means that come the 2021 offseason, the whole cycle will begin anew. Obviously the kind of season that Prescott turns in this year will affect those negotiations. So will other quarterback contracts that are signed in the interim and the new coronavirus salary-cap will play a role.
Bill Barnwell took a look at NFL players with lot on the line in 2020, and Dak Prescott leads the list. He first runs through a few different scenarios. The Cowboys have the option of tagging Prescott for a second year, but that would come with a $37.7 million price tag. When you combine that with the expected drop in the salary cap total ($175 million) from coronavirus-related lost revenue, that tag number is an abnormally high percentage of the overall cap.
Barnwell quickly covers the idea of Prescott playing very poorly or having a big injury that could lead the Cowboys to not pursue a long-term deal. That seems very unlikely. Unless something happens that is catastrophic, Prescott is the Cowboys quarterback and they will continue to pursue a deal. The same goes if Prescott basically repeats his 2019 numbers.
But the interesting scenario is one where Prescott gets better in 2020. Under the tutelage of Mike McCarthy, and what is expected to be a more aggressive offense, it’s not out of the question that Prescott’s numbers will go up. He has a new weapon in CeeDee Lamb, and he has a year in the system of Kellen Moore. There are a lot of indicators pointing to an even more productive 2020 for the Cowboys on offense.
So what happens then? Barnwell has a prediction.
If Prescott excels and has an MVP-caliber campaign, though, the Cowboys will probably have no choice but to do a new extension — and with much less leverage than they had after 2018 or 2019. He isn’t going to get and doesn’t appear to want a Patrick Mahomes-style contract, but he would probably be able to beat Mahomes in the short term. As I wrote about in July, so much of Mahomes’ guaranteed money comes well into the future, starting with a $49.4 million roster bonus paid in 2027. We might even have the Prescott vs. Carson Wentz debate settled by then.
Between 2021 and 2024, Mahomes will take home $130.7 million, for an average of about $32.7 million per season. Prescott should be able to comfortably top that. While Mahomes’ deal averages $45 million per season, my guess is that Prescott will try to become the first quarterback in the league to actually take home $40 million per year if he has a huge 2020 campaign. A four-year, $160 million deal with $100 million guaranteed isn’t out of the question.
There it is. The $40 million number that caused so much issue during the public negotiations among Cowboys fans and NFL media. We don’t know if that figure was ever broached by Prescott’s camp during the negotiations, but it did appear in headlines every once in a while and it caused bitter debate when it did.
Barnwell seems to think if Prescott’s current trajectory stays on course, that number is not far-fetched at all, but a very reasonable conclusion. The 2021 offseaon should be fun.