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Why Dak Prescott will eventually become the highest paid player in NFL history

Another big payday is looming for the Cowboys signal caller, and it might be historical.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Dak Prescott led the league in interceptions, so what do you say the Dallas Cowboys just make him the highest-paid player the NFL has ever seen? Does that sound like a good idea?

When you frame it that way it sounds a little absurd, but when you construct all the pieces of information into a clear picture, then that’s the outcome you’re likely to get. You see, Dak is a good quarterback and good quarterbacks make bank. They just do. It’s how the business of the NFL works. Teams fall into two categories when it comes to quarterbacks, and those categories are the “haves” and the “have nots.” Luckily for the Cowboys, they have been drinking their water from the “haves” bucket for over 15 years thanks to Tony Romo and now Prescott.

If you’re one of the teams that have a good quarterback, then it’s pretty evident that it's going to cost you a good chunk of change, unless they are still playing on their rookie deal. Second contracts = Bookoo Bucks.

Prescott is midway through his second contract, a contract that pays him an average annual salary of $40 million over a four-year stretch. Soon, he’ll be on contract number three and the Cowboys front office has less than 15 months to get it done. This deal will likely be completed prior to the start of the 2024 season. The reason we are suggesting this time period is three-fold. First, they absolutely must reduce his almost $60 million cap hit for the 2024 season as that would be an incredible strain on the team’s ability to stay under the cap and still keep pieces around him. The best way to handle that would be a new deal that would see a much lower first-year cap hit that comes with a low base salary and a much more manageable pro-rated portion of their signing bonus.

The second reason why it’s likely to get done next August/September is that the team cannot allow him to hit free agency in 2025. If competing teams were allowed to be in on the Prescott free-agent sweepstakes, then his annual cost would be even higher. The Cowboys cannot allow that to happen.

And finally, reason number three is that the Cowboys cannot franchise tag him again. As part of his contract agreement in 2021, the team agreed to place a phantom franchise tag on him for a second time on the day he signed his new deal. This, in essence, means that if the Cowboys attempted to use the franchise tag on him again, it would cost them 44% more than his cap hit the year before, which we already mentioned would be almost $60 million. The notion that the Cowboys would ever tag him for a single-year cost of $85 million essentially places an unwritten no-tag clause in his contract.

So, with all that in mind, the Cowboys have three options. They are...

  • Option A: Extend him this offseason
  • Option B: Extend him next offseason
  • Option C: Let him walk after the 2024 season

Option C isn’t realistic. Good quarterbacks are hard to find and without one, teams typically struggle, so the Cowboys won’t be parting ways with Prescott anytime soon. This means it’s between options A and B. The front office believes in Dak, and we know they’re going to re-up in him. They would love to get him locked up for a lower price, so sooner is better than later, but “Team Prescott” isn’t likely to agree with that line of thinking. The longer they wait, the higher his asking price is going to be.

The going rate for a franchise quarterback is roughly 22.5% of the salary cap. The 2023 cap is $224.8 million and the most recent quarterback extensions include Lamar Jacksons annual salary of $52 million (23.1%) and Jalen Hurts at $51 million (22.6%). When Kyler Murray signed his extension last year the cap was at $208.2 million and his annual salary is $46 million (22.1%).

Additionally, the salary cap has seen an average annual increase of 6.3% over the last decade which means next year’s cap is estimated to be around $239 million. And if the going rate for a franchise quarterback is about 22.5% of the yearly cap hit, that puts next year’s top deal-signer with an annual average salary of roughly $54 million.

Prescott enters a season where he’ll have CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and a healthier Michael Gallup as his pass catchers. The team is also hoping that the play-calling improves and opens things up for the offense. And if Dak could return to one of his healthy seasons (didn’t miss a game his first four years) after missing time in each of the last three years, then all these factors collectively open the door for Prescott to have a big season.

We’ve seen him play extremely well at times, and when he’s cooking, this offense is really hard to stop. If Prescott even flirts with any type of MVP-buzz season where he’s putting up impressive numbers, look for him to once again command a record-breaking deal next summer. If you think it’s impossible for Dak to be the highest-paid player in NFL history, just remember, it’s not. He’s already achieved that mark once before when he signed his deal back in 2021. If he puts up a strong year, there is no reason to believe it won’t happen again.

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