Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have been locked in a contract stalemate for months. While both sides want the same thing — Prescott to remain in Dallas for years to come — they just can’t seem to close the gap on a long-term contract extension.
The holdup preventing both parties from reaching an agreement is rather simple. Prescott is determined to sign a four-year deal, while the Cowboys are sticking to their guns and pushing for a five-year pact. Dallas clearly isn’t willing to bend and with the organization using leaked offers to sway over the fans, it’s time for Prescott to stick to his guns.
Missed opportunity: The Cowboys put themselves in this position. Prescott entered the 2019 offseason ready to negotiate a long-term extension and negotiations started early. However, a re-examination of the team’s actions demonstrates how Jerry Jones already bungled this situation.
- In July 2019, Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones emphatically pushed back against the idea of the team giving out a market-setting contract.
- Facing a choice between extending Prescott and Elliott in the summer, Dallas prioritized the player who left the team in August to train in Mexico.
- A few weeks later, the Cowboys signed Elliott to a record-setting six-year, $90 million contract. The organization ignored the history of highly-paid running backs disappointing, and rewarded Elliott for leaving the team.
- At the time, Prescott wanted to top Jared Goff’s new contract and set Russell Wilson’s deal as the bar to reach.
The Cowboys decided to let Prescott, who was already underpaid on his rookie contract, play out the rest of his deal. Prescott bet on himself, putting contract talks aside. He then set career-highs in passing yards (4,902), touchdowns (30) and quarterback rating (99.7).
The offseason: After Prescott proved he could take his game to the next level, the Cowboys acknowledged he was their guy. Prescott’s agent already held the leverage as a free agent and Dallas gave him even more words to use against the organization.
- Stephen Jones came out after the season and said the team is “all in on Dak” and wouldn’t even give a moment of consideration to Tom Brady.
- The organization made it clear Prescott was the No. 1 priority and Jerry Jones compared him to his son.
- Prescott held firm to his $35 million asking price and the Cowboys kept steadily increasing their offer, working toward the four-year, $140 million figure.
- Dallas kept him from hitting free agency by using the exclusive franchise tag. Finally, after more negotiations, Jones met Prescott’s annual asking price, but he reportedly is set on Prescott signing a five-year deal.
The newest offer: Prescott has reportedly insisted from the beginning that he wants a four-year contract. It would allow him to enter free agency while still in the middle of his prime. The Cowboys want control, as evident by their history of five-year extensions, so Prescott pushed back with this reported compromise:
- He offered to sign a five-year deal that would pay him $35 million annually in each of his first four seasons.
- In exchange for giving up an additional year, when the salary cap will be significantly higher, Prescott asked for $45 million in the fifth year of the deal.
The Cowboys leaked the counter-offer almost immediately, leading to a wave of public scrutiny from fans and former players.
The economics: Prescott has quickly become the greedy villain in this saga, seeking $10 million more than the highest-paid NFL player. While the number might sound ridiculous, it could be a bargain for the Cowboys.
- If the Cowboys don’t agree to the deal, Prescott can play the next two seasons under the franchise tag and make nearly $70 million guaranteed, per Will Brinson.
- The salary cap jumped from $188.2 million last year to $198.2 million this year and could skyrocket past $210 million in 2021.
- As part of the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement, players will receive a higher share of the league’s revenue moving forward.
Even if the NFL takes an economic hit during the COVID-19 pandemic this season, billions of dollars will be made in the future. While Prescott’s deal might be staggering, the money coming the NFL’s direction is even more incredible.
- Broadcasting rights for NFL games end for CBS, NBC, FOX and ESPN 2022, per CNBC. The league is already discussing new record-setting contracts.
- The bidding war for Monday Night Football could reach $3 billion per year and the rights for afternoon games could hit $2 billion, per CNBC. In total, executives have projected the NFL could get $8-10 billion annually under new broadcasting deals.
- The NFL already sold the rights for its two expanded playoff games this year and renewed its deal with Amazon to stream Thursday Night Football.
- As part of the new CBA, the NFL could expand to a 17-game season by 2021. That will create 16 additional games for the NFL to generate revenue from.
Prescott isn’t on Patrick Mahomes’ level and he knows it. He’s not seeking $45 million per year when the salary cap is $200 million. Instead, he is looking at the NFL’s lucrative future and seeking $45 million in 2025, when the salary cap could be closer to $275 million.
The Bottom line: Prescott and his agent will continue to be portrayed as greedy, setting absurd figures on a record-breaking contract that many feel he isn’t worth. Instead, Prescott must just focus on sticking to his guns and taking advantage of the value he brings.
The Dallas Cowboys don’t have the leverage. They’ve made it known they are committed to keeping Prescott beyond the 2020 season, even if that means using the franchise tag multiple times. Jerry Jones knows this is the only option because the risk of losing an outstanding quarterback and being in purgatory for the next decade is far more crushing then overpaying a top passer.
Quarterbacks are the most coveted asset in the NFL. This is why teams reach for unproven passers in the NFL Draft, just hoping to land a franchise-caliber quarterback. It’s also why even above-average talents rarely hit free agency.
Dallas should take the offer Prescott made and run with it. He’ll prove to exceed the $185 million price tag and gives this team its best chance to win the Super Bowl. If they don’t, the Cowboys are destined for quarterback purgatory and that is something this organization can’t afford to experience.