Dallas Cowboys signing Andy Dalton puts Dak Prescott on notice

The Dallas Cowboys secured their quarterback position agreeing to sign Andy Dalton. But what message does it send to starter Dak Prescott?

The Dallas Cowboys know what they’re doing when it comes to contract negotiations. Even fans who loathe owner and general manager Jerry Jones must admit he possesses a brilliant business mind. The fact Jones has kept the Cowboys so relevant despite not winning a Super Bowl in over 24 years proves that much.

So when the Cowboys reportedly agreed to sign former Cincinnati Bengals longtime starting quarterback Andy Dalton to a one-year deal on Saturday night, the Dallas brass knew exactly the kind of message this move would send to starter Dak Prescott. It puts the fifth-year passer on notice.

For months, Prescott’s representatives and the Cowboys have been gridlocked in negotiating a long-term extension for the former fourth-rounder. Dak’s rookie contract expired at the end of last year leading to Dallas using their exclusive franchise tag to retain his services for another season back in March.

The sticking point of those negotiations according to those familiar with those talks via USA TODAY Sports, has been contract length. The Cowboys allegedly want a longer contract than Prescott and his representatives’ desire. And the two sides have until July 15 to hash it out.

Publicly, the signing of Dalton is being advertised by the Cowboys as simply a way to secure a quality backup with starting experience at a position of need. And it is. The depth chart behind Prescott includes Cooper Rush, Clayton Thorson, and rookie Ben DiNucci. This trio has a combined three passing attempts of regular-season experience between them.

But you can’t convince me the Cowboys didn’t consider the underlining implications such a high-profile signing would incur. Let’s not forget, this is America’s Team after all. The Cowboys were fully aware of the kind of massive media storm they’d be kicking up with such news.

And when it comes to contract negotiations, this savvy business-minded group is certainly not asleep at the wheel. Whether the Cowboys admit to it publicly or not, they knew the message this would send to Prescott and his representatives. It’s business 101.

You’ve got a franchise quarterback in Prescott who’s in the midst of contract negotiations and could potentially opt out of participating in some version of offseason training. You’ve also got a new head coach in Mike McCarthy trying to implement a new coaching staff and philosophies while facing his first season in Dallas with an offseason program (and potentially more) stunted by a worldwide pandemic.

And while Prescott’s status remains unknown, McCarthy now knows he’ll have a three-time Pro Bowler in Dalton under center no matter what. It’s easy to read between the lines here.

A second-round selection out of TCU back in 2011, Dalton has played the last nine seasons in Cincinnati. He’s started in a whopping 133 total NFL games. The 32-year old threw for 3,494 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions in 13 games last season. Dalton was also sacked 37 times.

Next: Dallas Cowboys 15 best free agent acquisitions of all-time

In one word, what does the signing of Andy Dalton offer the Dallas Cowboys in their ongoing negotiations with Dak Prescott? Leverage. Although the Dalton signing certainly provides the Cowboys with insurance at their most vital position as well, the by-product is undoubtedly a clear message delivered right to Prescott’s doorstep.