3 reasons why the Dallas Cowboys can’t move on from Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys
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The Dallas Cowboys’ playoff woes continued following Sunday’s brutal Wild Card loss to the Green Bay Packers. As fans left AT&T Stadium, many were calling for the Cowboys to move on from quarterback Dak Prescott and head coach Mike McCarthy.

It’s very likely that McCarthy will never return to Dallas. The pool of head-coaching candidates is deeper than it’s been in years, with win-now head coaches who fit exactly what the Cowboys need. However, moving on from Prescott is something entirely different.

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Here are the 3 reasons why the Cowboys can’t move on from Prescott.

Dak Prescott contract erases Cowboys’ leverage

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
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Prescott’s contract has always been a storyline for Dallas. After completing his rookie contract, the former fourth-round pick was hit with the franchise tag for the first time in 2020, providing him with a fully guaranteed salary of $31.4 million. After suffering a season-ending ankle fracture, Prescott was hit with the exclusive franchise tag for the second consecutive season. The Cowboys’ front office put Prescott in a position with all the leverage and he took advantage.

  • Dak Prescott contract: $59.455 million cap hit in 2024, $25.455 million in void money for 2025

The four-year deal he signed was restructured in 2022 and 2023. As a result, Prescott will have the second-highest cap hit in 2024. Dallas can’t afford to keep him at that near $60 million figure, not with its impending free agents and limited cap space.

The Cowboys also can’t trade Prescott without his approval because of his no-trade clause. Prescott knows the organization is backed into a corner, they need to spread out his cap hit and a contract extension is the only way for that to happen. He can’t be traded and cutting him would leave a $61.9 million dead cap charge. An extension is the only realistic option.

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Dallas Cowboys don’t have the assets to trade up for a top QB prospect

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One option frequently suggested by fans when they’ve become fed up with their team’s quarterback play is to trade up for one of the top draft-eligible quarterbacks. The 2024 NFL Draft does have three no-doubt talents at the position, but Dallas can’t realistically afford to move up for one of them.

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Putting aside the fact that the top three teams in the draft order all need quarterbacks, the cost of moving up to get one isn’t in the Cowboys’ price range. Dallas would still be stuck with Prescott’s 2024 cap hit and it would need to surrender unprecedented draft capital to make a deal happen.

Using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger draft trade value chart, the Cowboys would need to sacrifice first-round picks in 2024, 2025 and 2026 along with second-round picks in 2024-’26 as a starting point to move from 24th overall to No. 3 for Jayden Daniels. With all of the holes on the Cowboys’ defense and offense, that’s just not something this franchise can afford to do.

Quarterback purgatory looms over the Dallas Cowboys

NFL: Preseason-Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers
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There’s a reason “Playoff Dak” was trending. Prescott has thrown an interception every year the Cowboys have made the playoffs. Turnovers are the best way to ruin a shot at the Super Bowl and going nearly 30 years without an NFC Championship Game appearance has understandably frustrated fans and team owner Jerry Jones.

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  • Dak Prescott playoff stats: 2-5 record, 91.8 QB rating, 14-7 TD-NT, 64.5% completion rate

With that said, reality must still be accounted for. Prescott’s success in the regular season is one of the biggest reasons why the Cowboys keep racking up 12-win seasons. This is the same quarterback who ranks fourth in EPA per play (0.179), tied with Tom Brady and ahead of Lamar Jackson (0.130), Jalen Hurts (0.142) and Joe Burrow (0.138) since the 2020 season, all while posting the third-highest Success rate (51.9 percent) and the eighth-best completion rate over expectation (+2.1).

There are a handful of better quarterbacks in the NFL than Prescott. Of course, the likes of Josh Allen, C.J. Stroud, Patrick Mahomes and Burrow aren’t available. As for the other franchise quarterbacks, Trevor Lawrence is just as much of a risk, Brock Purdy is staying in San Francisco and Justin Herbert has only gotten the Los Angeles Chargers to the playoffs once.

Fans who want the Cowboys to move on from Prescott in 2024 must realize they are inviting quarterback purgatory to Dallas for an indefinite stay. While it’s possible Dallas could get lucky and find someone better, it’s far more realistic that the Cowboys would spend just as many years in quarterback purgatory as the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Las Vegas Raiders, Washington Commanders and Chicago Bears. Losing in the playoffs every year hurts, but entering every NFL season knowing your team won’t even make it is worse.

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