After several years of cheap labor, the time has come for quarterback Dak Prescott to cash in. Will the Dallas Cowboys do the right thing?
In today’s National Football League, you cannot sustain success and reach the top of the mountain without a top-notch quarterback. Apparently, the Dallas Cowboys are trying to find out just how badly they can bungle their own dumb luck.
Before we get into just how badly the higher-ups within the organization are handling contract negotiations with quarterback Dak Prescott, let’s take a refresher course into how we even got here. It is important to keep in mind how insanely fortunate owner Jerry Jones has been despite many attempts to get in his own way.
After future Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman was forced to retire after the 2000 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys went through eight different quarterbacks before Tony Romo took over in 2006. It seems appropriate to mention that Romo went undrafted in 2003.
How lucky is it to find a talent like Romo’s at this position? Last season, of the 32 quarterbacks to lead their teams in attempted passes, only two were undrafted. Both did so, either due to injury or trepidation over starting a rookie. Neither Kyle Allen in Carolina, nor Case Keenum in Washington is likely to duplicate this feat in 2020.
From 2006-2015, Romo was the main man in Big D. During that 2015 season, a 35-year old Romo played in just four games due to injury. The writing was on the wall for the Dallas Cowboys. They needed to find the next man to lead this team sooner rather than later.
That task was at the forefront of the 2016 NFL Draft. For the entire details, I highly recommend you read this fascinating story by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. In short, Prescott would not even be a Dallas Cowboy if Jerry Jones would have had his way.
Beyond all the misses in trades and free agency, Prescott still would not have emerged as an option if not for injuries to both Romo (again) and incumbent backup Kellen Moore (yes, that Kellen Moore). Through divine intervention, Prescott found his way into the starting quarterback role when the 2016 season started.
All Prescott has done since then is start every game for this team. Not only has he been durable, but he’s also been phenomenal. The Dallas Cowboys are 40-24 with Prescott as the starting quarterback. He has completed over 65% of his passes and owns a better than 2.5:1 touchdown to interception ratio. Prescott has even been responsible for another 21 touchdowns on the ground.
All of this has been done while Prescott has played under a contract that has paid him $2.7 million … total in four seasons. Never once did Prescott demand to renegotiate his deal. Never once did Prescott threaten to hold out or miss time looking for more money. Each and every day, Prescott dedicated himself to be better than the day before.
Meanwhile, the Joneses have exploited this cheap labor and still found ways to field teams who fell short of the ultimate goal. Most of this blame lays at the feet of the incredibly incompetent head coach that it took a decade to replace. Some of the blame is due to bad decisions regarding the roster made by the men in charge of leading this organization.
Regardless, Dallas did offer Dak a new deal last year. Rumors have indicated that offer was somewhere in the neighborhood of an annual average of $33 million with just over $100 million guaranteed. Prescott did not accept whatever the real deal was, gambled on himself and won.
In 2019, despite one of the worst coaching jobs in the team’s history, Prescott finished second in passing yards, fourth in passing touchdowns and tenth in passer rating. That price tag just went up.
According to Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, instead of recognizing this fact as anyone else in their right mind would, apparently owner Jerry Jones wants Prescott to come to him. The absurdity in such tactics is beyond belief.
The Dallas Cowboys are mishandling these negotiations so badly that it may cost them more than just money. Whether they like it or not, top-notch quarterbacks cost big money. Last year, 15 of the top 16 biggest cap hits belonged to quarterbacks. This year, six of the top nine are signal-callers.
By failing to get a longterm deal with Prescott done, the Dallas Cowboys are entering into a high-risk situation that could devastate their nucleus. If the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified by the player’s union before March 12, Dallas will have just one franchise tag to use.
Unfortunately, not only is Prescott a free agent but so is receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones also. If push comes to shove, Prescott will be the choice meaning Cooper and Jones could conceivably play elsewhere in 2020.
Such a scenario would almost certainly force the Dallas Cowboys to use a first-round pick on a receiver. Of course, this is something they essentially did last year in order to have Cooper on the roster. Doing so would continue to force this team to neglect other pressing needs such as defensive tackle and secondary help.
Jones told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine this week that Dak is the quarterback for the future. He went on to say that he wants him to be here (Dallas) long-term and that “He’s our guy.”
That’s all well and good but ultimately, money talks while you know what walks. That you know what may be another good player or two if Jones wants to hem and haw over a few million dollars.
What would get both sides to agree on a fair deal? I believe that Dallas should skip the tag and essentially do a Kirk Cousins-esque deal with Prescott. Offer Dak three years and $100 million with all of it fully guaranteed. This allows the team to use the tag on Cooper, lock in Dak for three years and provides Dak another chance at a big payday in 2023.
Hopefully, both sides can come to some sort of agreement prior to March 12. Jones needs to give up on the idea that Prescott owes him some kind of deal just because other players have previously chosen to do so.
The Dallas Cowboys had a chance to come correct last season and decided to go low. Leverage was lost and it is time that ownership accepts this and makes the right deal. The 2020 season hangs in the balance and it is only March.