How much better is Dak Prescott than Teddy Bridgewater?

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - SEPTEMBER 29: Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the New Orleans Saints throws the ball as Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys defends during the first half of a game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on September 29, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - SEPTEMBER 29: Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the New Orleans Saints throws the ball as Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys defends during the first half of a game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on September 29, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Did the Dallas Cowboys miss an opportunity to improve when they franchised tagged Dak Prescott? The answer is yes in this scenario.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was franchise tagged. He has seen several quarterbacks agree in principle to deals during the legal tampering period.

The Indianapolis Colts will sign Philip Rivers for $25 million on a one-year deal. The New Orleans Saints signed their long time quarterback Drew Brees for two years and $50 million dollars.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will sign the GOAT Tom Brady to a two-year $60 million dollar contract. Ryan Tannehill signed a four-year deal with the Tennessee Titans worth $118 million with an average of $29.5 million per year.

But the most interesting news so far is the Carolina Panthers intent to sign Teddy Bridgewater for $63 million over a three-year term. The $21 million average per year should make the Cowboys regret their decision to invest in Dak Prescott.

Prescott enjoyed a great statistical season. He was second in passing yards behind Jameis Winston, formerly of the Buccaneers who interestingly made the decision to let Winston leave in free agency.

Prescott threw for 30 touchdowns in 2019 beating his previous high of 23 from his rookie season. However, his touchdown rate was the same as his rookie season with one touchdown every twenty pass attempts or 5.0 percent indicating his improvement was a by-product of volume.

Dak threw 11 interceptions in 2019. This was the second most interceptions he threw in a season. The 1.8 percent interception rate was the second highest of his career behind his second season.

But maybe the most telling indicator for Prescott was his team won eight games. Cowboys fans don’t need a reminder that the team failed to make the playoffs. Through his first four years, Prescott has made the playoffs twice winning one playoff game.

So why would the Cowboys regret their decision to retain Prescott? At $21 million per year over the next three years, Teddy Bridgewater is likely to outperform Prescott. Here is why.

Assuming Prescott will play 2020 on the franchise tag, he will cost the Cowboys $31 million this year and then a minimum of $37 million in 2021 if he gets tagged again. If he signs a long-term deal, his three-year cap hit will likely be more than $100 million.

So Prescott will cost the Cowboys at least $37 million more than Bridgewater over the next three years. That’s $37 million Dallas could invest in other really good football players.

The Cowboys would also be able to recover draft capital by trading the tagged Prescott. The going rate for franchise tagged players is two first round draft picks. At a minimum, Dallas would recover two second round draft picks, the trade value Kansas City sent to San Francisco for Alex Smith in 2013.

So if Dallas chose Teddy Bridgewater, they would have had $37 million dollars to spend plus at least two second round draft picks compared to Dak Prescott. But hold on, we haven’t compared the performance of the two quarterbacks to understand if Prescott would compensate for the extra cap space and draft capital.

Bridgewater was the backup quarterback for New Orleans last year. He was forced into action in the Week Two loss to the Rams when Brees hurt his throwing hand. Bridgewater would start five games for the Saints including a Week Four home game against the Cowboys. The Saints didn’t lose a single game that Bridgewater started.

While the Saints would still have made the playoffs even if they lost all five games, the fact remains that Bridgewater won five games in five starts with fewer resources than Prescott. According to Spotrac, the Cowboys spent $183 million of the $188.2 million salary cap whereas Bridgewater had $165.3 million in salary cap available to him (the Saints spent $188 million but Brees and his $22.7 million cap hit was unavailable).

For the 2019 season, Bridgewater had a higher completion percentage (67.9 percent to 65.1 percent) and lower interception rate (1.0 percent to 1.8 percent) compared to Prescott. His touchdown percentage was slightly less than Prescott (4.6 percent to 5.0 percent) and his yards per attempt was much lower than Prescott (7.1 to 8.2). Most importantly, the Saints made the playoffs.

Over Bridgewater’s career, his completion percentage, 65.2 percent, and yards per attempt, 7.2, are close to Prescott’s 65.8 percent and 7.6 yards per attempt. Prescott outshines Bridgewater with a higher touchdown percentage and a lower interception rate.

But interestingly, Bridgewater has a higher winning percentage with 22 wins against 12 losses (0.647) compared with 40 wins and 24 losses (0.625) for Prescott. In seasons where Bridgewater started more than one game, his team made the playoffs twice in three tries which is a better success rate than Prescott.

The difference between Bridgewater and Prescott is small. Pro Football Focus graded the Cowboys tagging Prescott and the Panthers signing Bridgewater as above average and the 2019 scores for Bridgewater, 73.0, was not too far behind Prescott, 80.3.

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Comparing the stats and team performance, would the Cowboys win more games with Prescott or with Bridgewater, an extra $37 million in cap space and at least two extra second draft picks? My bet is Bridgewater. Too bad the Cowboys Front Office wasn’t able to think outside the box to improve their roster.