Dak Prescott: Having a love/hate relationship for the Cowboys passer

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 15: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after the Dallas Cowboys score a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 15: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after the Dallas Cowboys score a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Dak Prescott is the most polarizing player on the most followed NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys. Surprisingly to some, you can find a way to still love him.

I don’t know if all Dallas Cowboys fans have a love/hate relationship with Dak Prescott but it sure seems like a lot of us have picked at least one side. And this has not just been about Dak. In my lifetime cheering for America’s Team, I have seen beloved former quarterbacks Danny White, Tony Romo, and even Troy Aikman evoke similar feelings.

Earlier this week, I posted why I don’t think Dak Prescott is a franchise quarterback. The comments to the post encouraged me to share my personal feelings about Prescott to set the record straight – I am not always a hater when it comes to the current Dallas Cowboys quarterback.

It was almost one year ago that I posted that Dak Prescott was the best quarterback in the 2018 season. The basis for this statement was not how many yards Prescott passed or wins Dallas had in the season (I am a firm believer that the quarterback does not win or lose the game by himself). It stemmed from the value Prescott provided the Cowboys in the third year of his rookie contract.

I have taken for granted that Prescott was the best bargain over the last four years at the quarterback position. And now the Cowboys have squandered what is the biggest competitive advantage in the NFL – a competent quarterback on a rookie salary.

Now it is time for Dak to get paid. He certainly deserves a substantial raise based on his performance over the last four years. And this is where my threshold for love and hate for the same quarterback starts to diverge.

I love Dak Prescott at a cap hit of $2 million. I hate him at a cap hit of $33 million. The difference in these two scenarios is the per cap value he delivers.

I have posted several times about Richard Thaler, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. He won his award largely for his idea that humans do not act entirely rationally when trying to understand people’s economic decision-making. Egos tend to get over-whelmed, emotions destroy intelligence.

Thaler has also weighed in on football matters. He was part of the Sloan Sports Conference panel that voted the Raiders Khalil Mack trade as the transaction of the year. Most initially thought the Bears got the better end of the deal but Thaler argued that the Raiders benefit most by acquiring the draft picks and cap space.

Here’s what Thaler told Peter King via King’s Football Morning in America column about the lopsided trade …

"“I believe the only way to win in football is to have players who play better than their salaries … it will be hard for Mack to play better than his salary and four good draft choices.”"

When Dak signs his new deal whether it be the one-year franchise tender or a multi-year deal, it is clear that he will be paid at least market value since Dak has declared he has no interest in signing a team-friendly contract. When someone is paid what they are worth, they offer no value.

Value is achieved, particularly in the NFL salary cap environment, when someone delivers more than what is expected. This is precisely why I hate Dak Prescott as a quarterback with a cap hit greater than 13 percent of the salary cap.

In the history of the salary cap era, only one quarterback has won the Super Bowl with a cap hit greater than 12.5 percent – Steve Young at 13.1 percent in 1994, the first salary cap year. Maybe I am being a pessimist to believe that Dak Prescott’s performance can exceed his salary cap hit and do what no other quarterback has done in 26 years.

Somewhere between one percent and 13 percent is a sweet spot where Prescott’s performance will deliver value to the Cowboys. The number is closer to 13 percent but in my opinion, it is less than 10 percent.

I would suggest Prescott and his representatives propose a novel contract to the Dallas Cowboys front office – a lifetime contract. The kicker would be the first six years would be fully guaranteed and years past the first six years would be guaranteed at the player’s option if the team makes the playoffs the year before.

The value of the contract would be at nine percent of the cap with incentives for making the playoffs and winning playoff games. Assuming the projections for the cap rising as a result of the new CBA are accurate, Prescott would have $140 million guaranteed with the ability to capture non-guaranteed pay with playoff success (which will be facilitated by the competitive advantage of the lower quarterback cap hit).

So why would Prescott give up money when the Cowboys have offered a five-year north of $30 million average per year contract? He might value the higher amount of guaranteed money or he might like to be known as the first player to sign a fully guaranteed contract longer than three years in the NFL.

There is something in this for him just as there is for the Cowboys. Dallas would get their quarterback signed at a team-friendly rate giving them a competitive advantage over the Eagles and the rest of the NFL teams who have signed quarterbacks to deals greater than 12 percent of the salary cap.

I realize it is foolhardy to even suggest this contract since I am not a party in the negotiation. However, as a Dallas Cowboys fan, I am invested in the outcome and I am hoping that the team can compete for Super Bowls with the core signed to long term deals.

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So you can expect me to continue to hope for a value-driven quarterback for the Cowboys. I would be content with Prescott at the helm but only if he is willing to backtrack from his current contract demands.