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Now that Dak Prescott has signed a long-term contract, the expectations will surely change

Big contracts change things, and Dak Prescott will find that out soon.

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Big-money contracts create big expectations. Just ask Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith. As the dollar value of your contract increases, the expectations of what you should be doing on the field also increases. That’s just how it works in sports. Dak Prescott is now in that world.

Prescott just signed a four-year, $160 million deal. He is among the highest paid players ever in the NFL. He will now be dealing with all that brings.

His previous year under the franchise tag didn’t quite carry the same expectations, since it’s only a one-year contract and the dollar amount is mandated by league rules. It’s kind of a placeholder. So the fact that Prescott played last season on the tag hasn’t brought the same scrutiny that the long-term deal will bring. Sure, being the Cowboys quarterback comes with it’s own special level of scrutiny, but now that Prescott finally signed a long-term deal, the expectations will go through the roof.

Already, the label of overrated is being readied now that Prescott has his long-term deal. The good people at PFF have made their call, and this was written right before the mega-deal was agreed upon.

Overrated: Dak Prescott | 2020 team: Cowboys | Age entering 2021 season: 28

The landscape isn’t flush with overrated quarterbacks this offseason, and Prescott might not even hit the open market as the Cowboys could franchise-tag him. Still, the fact that it’s still a question is because the Cowboys have a firm cap on what they believe his value is.

Prescott wants market-leading money, but Dallas has correctly valued him at a step lower than that. As good as he has been, he has never earned an overall PFF grade higher than the 85.2 he managed in 2020 before getting hurt and missing the final 11 games.

The best quarterbacks in the league regularly top a grade of 90.0 and have done so with far less help from their supporting cast. He’s a very good player, but he’ll be considered overrated if the market values him as one of the best-paid quarterbacks in the game.

There can be two contradictory opinions happening at the same time. You could decide that paying Prescott near the Patrick Mahomes’ level is an overpay, but that still doesn’t mean the Cowboys shouldn’t have done it. That’s just market economics in the NFL. Quarterbacks get paid and if you want to keep yours as the franchise QB, then you have to pay. Stats play a role, but supply and demand plays a bigger role. If you have a quarterback who you think can lead your team to a Super Bowl, you have to keep them, even if they haven’t gotten you there yet.

My colleague DannyPhantom has persuasively argued that the general success of both Prescott and Tony Romo over the last 15 years ranks near the top of the league. That’s based on passer rating and regular-season success. Prescott has excelled in both of those categories, but all anybody really cares about is the playoffs. He needs to get his team there, and then win in the post-season to truly live up to the contract he signed.

So calling him overrated now that he signed a big-money contract is fine, it had no real impact on whether the Cowboys should have actually done the deal. They should have. Prescott has shown he can play among the elites. But until he wins big in the post-season, he won’t be living up to expectations with his new monster contract.