It has been two years since Dak Prescott first became eligible for a contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys. A lot has happened in that time. Consider that when the door for negotiations were first opened between the two parties people still thought Game of Thrones would have a good ending. Here we sit in 2021. Dak is coming off of a season-ending ankle injury, and for the third time in a row he and his football team are still staring at one another, refusing to blink.
When you are a franchise quarterback in the NFL, you are a seller in a seller’s market. The landscape of the position has certainly changed a lot since then back when negotiations first started. At that time most teams either had a franchise quarterback, or had a plan for one, but in our current moment there are legitimate or conceivable vacancies in almost 50% of the league’s buildings.
The Dak Prescott situation continues to be one for the Dallas Cowboys
Quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Philip Rivers have hit retirement (or likely will this offseason), and others like Ben Roethlisberger are very near the end. This has caused all other quarterbacks behind them to rise. The point here is that more quarterbacks are leaving which means that more opportunities are available which means that more is the operative word when it comes to market rate.
What’s more (see what I did there?) is that some options haven’t panned out for teams over the past two years. Consider that the league’s top insider set the over/under for quarterback movement this year to be at 18 starters (or starting-caliber), and took the over.
There are roughly 10 QBs locked into starting jobs for Opening Day of the 2021 NFL season. This is expected to be an unprecedented offseason of QB movement.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 25, 2021
My Over/Under of teams changing QBs this off-season is 18. I’ll go with the over. pic.twitter.com/hOKVRaE3Pj
Some of these signal-callers have the peak of their careers well in the rearview mirror, but at the very least they present options. Others are still ascending. One of the quarterbacks to watch in the coming months will be Deshaun Watson. He very notably does not want to play for the Houston Texans which means that he could be playing somewhere else. Consider that in an ESPN ranking of options for him that they deemed the Cowboys as the 13th-most likely group.
13. Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys send: 10th overall pick in 2021, 2023 first-round pick, QB Dak Prescott
Texans send: 2023 fourth-round pick, QB Deshaun Watson
In the same way that the Texans don’t want to trade Watson within the division, moving their star quarterback to the other team in Texas might be a non-starter. If it isn’t, though, there’s a logical deal to be made here. The Cowboys haven’t been able to come to terms on a long-term extension with Prescott, whose numbers since the start of 2019 aren’t far off from Watson’s. The Texans probably would be relieved to give Prescott the deal he wants, which would likely be a three-year extension on top of a $37.7 million franchise tag for 2021. Prescott would need to be tagged by the Cowboys, sign the tag and agree to terms on an extension with the Texans to get this deal done.
The Cowboys would get Watson at a cheaper price than the amount it would take to lock up Prescott, and because Prescott might be a like-for-like replacement, they would need to give up only two first-round picks to get the deal done. Watson is also under contract for five more seasons, and the Cowboys would be able to use his $35 million base salary in 2022 to help restructure the deal and defray the cap concerns related to the deal. I don’t think Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would mind trying to get a leg up on his in-state rivals, and Watson would step into one of the league’s best offenses.
To be frank, this is absurd. It is certainly possible to argue that Deshaun Watson is superior to Dak Prescott, but even if you subscribe to that idea the difference isn’t worth the price here. We’re talking about two first-round picks (one of which is 10th overall this year) AND Dak Prescott (which would obviously involve Dak agreeing to the cause which seems unlikely). Again, this is absurd.
As ridiculous as this idea is, the reality is that all of these are fair game for national media to play with because the Cowboys have yet to pay their quarterback. Until they do a perception that they don’t want will exist which generates conversation, but also creates potential barriers for an amicable deal.
The time has come to pay Dak Prescott, it cannot be made more simple
If you thought that Deshaun Watson was the only carrot being dangled, think again. Highland Park legend Matthew Stafford is also on the trade block and there are now people connecting him to his hometown team.
Conservatively, the Cowboys would have a difference of about $30 million in cap space over the next two years from Stafford to Prescott if the latter signs a long-term deal. What could the Cowboys do with that extra money? Add a safety, linebacker, cornerback or defensive tackle?
Cap space might be the biggest carrot to ever be dangled in front of a fan base, but it’s not like we have seen the Cowboys be big players in free agency before. They are notorious for being tight with their budget. If only they had ever had a starting quarterback for pennies on the dollar in recent memory. That sure would have been nice.
Dallas has procrastinated the inevitable for far too long and the day of reckoning is coming. They are either going to finally have to blink or accept that they are fully headed in a Prescott-less direction which didn’t exactly look promising in 2020. The great Bob Sturm said it best this week.
The Cowboys are in a corner and have about 45 days to sort out their mess. Every option might now be on the table behind closed doors, and I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised if they actually let Dak get to free agency. Maybe their QB will do them a favor and take Russell Wilson’s deal from two years ago to get this done, but odds are he is annoyed enough that he wants to show them that this time, it is going to go the other way.
This all could have been avoided, and every fan of this franchise has every right to be upset. They should just hope the team avoids the worst-case scenario.
This all could have been avoided. All of it.