Dallas Cowboys: Is Dak Prescott really a $40 million quarterback?

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The standoff between the Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott continues as the two sides have yet to come to an agreement for his next contract.

If the Dallas Cowboys are to sign quarterback Dak Prescott to a long term deal, it sure sounds like he expects to become the highest paid quarterback in the National Football League. In the latest chapter of the contract negotiation saga, Prescott was asked point blank by Yahoo Sports NFL expert Kimberley Martin if he thought he was a $40-million quarterback.

Prescott’s answer was: ‘”You tell me“. The 26-year-old went on to elaborate that he has trust in both his agent and the Dallas Cowboys that a deal will get done and while he refused to put an exact number on it in the interview, it sure sounds like he’s got one in mind.

Prescott reportedly turned down a $30 million-per-year offer from the Dallas Cowboys last August. The deal would have made him one of the top-five highest-paid quarterbacks in the league. It sounds like he wants to be the highest though, and I think he’s going to get it.

Dak Prescott is coming off a career year in Dallas in which he threw for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns, which ranked second- and fourth-most in the league. Statistically, he’s a top-five quarterback on paper.

But the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs and there’s still an air of uncertainty clouding Prescott’s ability to win big, meaningful games. In his four seasons in the NFL, he’s helped guide the Cowboys to the postseason twice. He’s never made it past the Divisional Round.

$40 million per year would put Prescott ahead of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger. Wilson signed a four-year, $140 million extension with the Seattle Seahawks prior to last season, giving him an average annual salary of $35 million.

I don’t think anyone honestly believes Dak Prescott is a better quarterback than Russell Wilson. But I also don’t think it’s unrealistic for Prescott to be paid more than him, given the market value of the quarterback position. Simply put, there’s not a whole lot of options out there right now better than what Dak Prescott offers in terms of age and talent, so he’s got some leverage.

And if there’s any case to be made that the quarterback market value supersedes on-the-field accomplishments, it’s the recent extension signed by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Last year, Wentz signed a four-year, $128 million extension worth an average annual salary of $32 million. That’s two million more than Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan makes per season, and he’s been to the Super Bowl (and almost won it).

The quarterback position is only becoming more and more valuable in the league and deservedly so; it’s the most important position on the roster. Regardless of whether or not Dak Prescott is statistically worthy of becoming the highest paid quarterback in the league, the market value for the position is consistently increasing.  If the Cowboys don’t pay him what he thinks he’s worth, someone else definitely will.

Jerry Jones and the Cowboys don’t want to be market setters when it comes to paying players. But while Prescott’s $40 million per year may sound like a lot now, just wait until negotiations for start for Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.  By the time those contract talks roll around, $40 million per season will be the norm for upper echelon quarterbacks.

Prescott has every right to seek $40 million per year because he knows the position is always gaining in value. If he were to sign a contract that paid him an average annual salary between $32 million and $35 million, which is probably a salary more reflective of his accomplishments, then it would only be a year or two before the market has outpaced him.

Beyond stats and comparative salaries, Prescott has one other advantage in his corner — a lack of options for the Cowboys. If the Cowboys simply choose to allow Prescott to walk — which they most certainly will not — then what are the options? Philip Rivers?

Tom Brady has been linked to the Cowboys via speculation, but I don’t think anyone believes that would actually happen. Plus, I don’t think Brad, at 42-years-old, is a better fit than Prescott in Dallas.

The Cowboys could stick the franchise tag on Prescott, but he could threaten to sit out training camp. With a new coaching staff coming in, I can’t imagine that would sit well with head coach Mike McCarthy while trying to instill a new system.

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Whether or not Dak Prescott or the Dallas Cowboys or anyone else actually believes he’s a $40 million per year quarterback doesn’t really matter, the market dictates that he will be. It’s time to pay the man not what he may necessarily have earned, but what he’s worth.