Early this week at the owners meeting in Phoenix, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones touched on a lot of key topics surrounding the team. The most telling bit of information was the lack thereof regarding the contract status of Dak Prescott. Despite being mum on the quarterback’s contract situation and the possibility of Prescott getting extended, it’s very important the Cowboys get ahead of the ahead market and secure Prescott to a new deal before the market cost on quarterbacks inflates once again.
The Cowboys and their fanbase have been here before. A lot of headlines and a lot of media intrigue regarding the monies owed to Prescott and if the owners will offer Prescott what the market says he deserves. The last time Prescott was up for a contract, ownership and Prescott’s representatives were arm-wrestling in front of an armored truck, and contract negotiations played out publicly through the media. That can’t happen again. The Cowboys need to swiftly and quietly secure Prescott to a new contract right away.
The first reason why Dallas has to sign Prescott as soon as possible is the market cost for quarterbacks exponentially climbs as we have seen with other signal-callers. When Prescott first signed his last contract, many were staggered by the average salary of $40M per year; however, since then that has become the norm for new quarterback contracts. Josh Allen ($43M), Deshaun Watson ($46M), and Kyler Murray ($46M) have all surpassed that number.
If you’re a skeptic that Prescott is on the level of those quarterbacks, which I’d argue he is, hopefully, we’d agree that Derek Carr and Daniel Jones are not. Daniel Jones was a much-maligned first-round pick that didn’t show very much consistency until last season and after his fifth-year option was declined by the New York Giants. Still, he was able to secure a $40M contract from the team earlier this month.
Regarding Derek Carr, he had a miserable season with the Las Vegas Raiders after they went to get him some help in the form of all-pro receiver Davante Adams. Yet Carr played so poorly and underwhelmed to the point he was benched for Jarrett Stidham and subsequently released. Despite that, he was able to get a brand new contract with the New Orleans Saints for $37.5M annually. The desperation to attain even a suitable quarterback is costly and teams will pay a premium to have one. The Saints and Giants have shown that firsthand. The cost will get higher if teams do not move quickly.
Other deals that need to happen
Another reason why Dallas needs to act fast on Dak Prescott’s contract is that they need to get other deals done soon with many of the players in their young nucleus. All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs is in the final year of his rookie contract and is likely to come close to restting the cornerback market with a new deal. As it stands the highest-paid cornerback, Jaire Alexander, is making $21M per season. Diggs will most certainly be looking to surpass that number once his agent and the Jones’ open contract talks.
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Of course there is also CeeDee Lamb who had his best season as a pro in 2022 with 107 receptions for 1,359 yards and 9 touchdowns. He has made the Pro Bowl for two consecutive seasons and is starting to cement himself as one of the league’s best receivers. Dallas has Lamb’s fifth-year option that they can exercise this offseason (which they very likely will) if they choose to wait to sign Lamb; however, as previously mentioned it’s wise to address these contracts earlier than later to get the best price possible.
Alternatives/New Contract Framework
Finally, despite what pundits think, Dak Prescott is a good quarterback and you’d be hard-pressed to find one that encapsulates what Prescott provides on the field under center and in the locker room as a leader. Throughout Prescott’s last contract negotiation, social media was ablaze with hypothetical trade scenarios for other quarterbacks, even arguing well-known lesser talents were just as good. How about everyone who said Andy Dalton would take Prescott’s job? Hopefully the masses have learned from those times.
As far as getting another veteran on the market that has past experience playing in the “big game”... it is not feasible nor necessarily wise. This past season Russell Wilson was almost unrecognizable in how poorly he played in Denver with arguably one of the best rosters in the NFL. Matt Ryan looked like a shell of his former self. Prescott may not be Patrick Mahomes, but then again who is? Dak is a very good quarterback that over his career has shown the mistakes and turnovers that plagued him last year are the outlier and not norm.
Lastly, when the team inks Prescott to a new contract it will need to look like Deshaun Watson’s agreement with the Cleveland Browns. A similar structure will lower Prescott’s cap charge for the first two seasons and allow them to sign their key players to new contracts and then it’s on them to creatively work the salary cap as they have shown so far this offseason. If Prescott’s contract spikes in cap charge by the third season, they would be equipped to handle it.