Dallas Cowboys face a trilemma with Dak Prescott contract

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have their first major decision of the decade. The type of coin Big D hands quarterback Dak Prescott will impact the team for the decade.

To pay or not to pay: That is the question. The Dallas Cowboys boot the decade with a new head coach and nearly an entirely new staff.

Unfortunately, Big D is still carrying over unresolved disputes from the prior season. The matter is still ongoing, which makes matters worse for wide receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones, who are aiming for a new coin as well.

Of course, we are talking about the most amplified position in all of the sports — the quarterback of America’s Team. Quarterback Dak Prescott, who turns 27 in July, won’t magically float to a new city. That much is certain.

Right now, the Cowboys face a trilogy of problems when it comes to securing their quarterback of the future. On one hand, the ‘Boys could pay Prescott big, solving the problem by forking over Carson Wentz or Jared Goff money.

Depending on the type of contract, the organization may offer up a big chunk of their salary cap “pie”, which means the team may have to wave goodbye to other top players and must remain cognizant about their free-agent budget.

In another instance, which is unlikely, the Dallas Cowboys decide not to pay the quarterback. This seems to be a popular choice among fans who vomit at the idea of giving Prescott top dollar. Here is my question. If you let Prescott go (again, this is not happening), who do the Dallas Cowboys turn to? Tony Romo?

A few months ago, I was stopped in the hallway and had a nice water cooler conversation with a Bears fan. He wanted to know if I thought Prescott was on the level of Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes — you know, tier-one fellas. I answered with a simple no. Even though Prescott finished 2019 with nearly 5,000 passing yards, and was the MVP for the ‘Boys, I still feel the same way today.

I followed this statement with the likely fact that it didn’t matter because Prescott is going to get tier one money anyways. For the record, I don’t think Prescott is a top-five quarterback, but he certainly proved he hangs just outside that realm.

So, if the Cowboys don’t pay Prescott, the answer seems to be in the NFL Draft or free agency, which is what my friend thought. Here is where I cannot follow. I mean, to be frank, I am baffled when I scroll through my Twitter feed to find fans calling for backup quarterback Cooper Rush.

Cooper Rush. If the most celebrated position in NFL is the quarterback, then the backup quarterback is a close second place.

Good quarterbacks are hard to find. Just ask the Cowboys, who went to the moon and back with the discovery of Tony Romo. America’s Team won the lottery again by spending a fourth-round pick on Prescott back in 2016, who wasn’t even their first or second choice in that draft.

Not paying Dak Prescott is not an option. Head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t take this gig to reboot. The talented coach knows quarterback talent; he’s coached some of the greats before.

Whether you believe it or not, the 2019 roster had plenty of ammunition, plenty of talent to make a run for the big stage. Quarterback Prescott is absolutely part of the solution, not the problem.

The Dallas Cowboys have one final solution, which is turning out to be a likely scenario. Franchise tag. By slapping Prescott with a franchise tag, the Cowboys basically accomplish the two solutions above, which unfortunately results in other lingering problems.

A franchise tag, a one-year lease, means the Cowboys are paying Prescott, but they’re also not paying him as well. The Dallas Cowboys rent Prescott for another year, but more importantly, the elephant in the room carries over into the 2020 season and potentially beyond that.

Without a long-term deal on the table, the question is whether Prescott will threaten to sit out just like running back Ezekiel Elliott did last season. The contract situation is a distraction, even in the month of February. Imagine what Big D would look like if the Cowboys didn’t have their star quarterback during training camp or worse, in the months of August or September.

As Prescott and the Cowboys continue down the road for resolution, it’s abundantly clear the two camps are stronger with each other than without. If the 2019 Dallas Cowboys were considered Super Bowl favorites, you’d have to imagine that the 2020 squad is propelled back up through the layers on McCarthy’s strength alone. Of course, Prescott is at the forefront of it all.

If there is anything we can take away from last week’s Super Bowl, it’s this: Quarterbacks win and lose Super Bowls. On one hand, the world saw how poor quarterback play at the wrong time doomed Jimmy Garoppolo and his San Francisco 49ers. Quarterbacks win Super Bowls, but they can also lose them too, which makes the position so essential at the biggest moments.

On the flip side, the world saw Patrick Mahomes take over when it mattered most. He opened the Super Bowl with major errors, but he managed to erase it all with Super Bowl confetti. People don’t remember the frowning quarterbacks. They remember the ones headed to Disney World, the ones drenched in champagne.

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Does defense win championships? I won’t dare argue with that. But if the 2019 NFL season taught us anything it’s that spectacular quarterback play can triumph it all. Last Sunday defined the year of the quarterback. Patrick Mahomes is certainly waking up to a smile these days, and I bet Dak Prescott is too.