The Dallas Cowboys have very few unanswered questions heading into the 2020 season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in the dark days of the offseason. The free agency period has quieted down and the draft excitement has subsided.
There have been no OTAs to speculate how the Cowboys look in helmets and shorts. So what is left to talk about until the Cowboys arrive for training camp – whenever that may be.
So let me apologize in advance for those that are tired of the Dallas Cowboys soap opera otherwise known as when will quarterback Dak Prescott sign his next contract. I have been reading the comments that indicate that this subject is old – yet let me weigh in one more time.
I have been drawn to the comments that are rooted in fear. My favorite is can you guarantee the Cowboys will find someone good to replace Prescott?
The answer to that question is no. There are no guarantees in the NFL other than not exceeding the salary cap and the salary cap will go up year after year. But can you even count on that?
The NFL and the NFLPA will soon discuss how best to handle the scenario where fans are not permitted in the stands this season. Some states like Texas have already declared 25 percent capacity is permitted but would the NFL force all stadiums to be empty if one state mandated no fans in the stands?
Projections show that NFL games without fans will cost each NFL team $100 million dollars which then has a 48 percent impact on future salary caps. This could translate into flat caps for two if not three years regardless of “new” revenue streams that may come online.
This unknown is factoring into the contract negotiation. According to spotrac, the Cowboys have $175 million dedicated to their top 51 players for the 2021 season and that includes only one quarterback, 2020 seventh round draft pick Ben DiNucci, on the roster.
A flat cap of $198 million would only leave Dallas $23 million to find a QB1, sign a draft class and fill the inevitable roster holes that will be created. A $35 million cap hit for Dak Prescott will necessitate a roster purge or massive contract restructures that will push this problem into 2022.
The 2022 cap situation doesn’t look much better with $160 million in commitments plus $35 million for Prescott and any contract juggling that occurs. So you can understand why the Cowboys might not be in a hurry to sign Dak long term despite his price tag potentially increasing next year.
But let’s get back to the question about who will replace Dak. For the 2020 season, the answer is Andy Dalton assuming Dak does not sign his franchise tender. The likelihood of Dak foregoing $31 million dollars is not happening just like Zeke was not going to miss a game check last season.
The real question would be who would replace Dak in 2021 if the Cowboys can’t get a long term deal done by July 15? And that answer is a big unknown which has some Cowboys fans irrationally asking for guarantees that whoever replaces Dak will be the solution.
The problem with this logic is that they are assuming Dak Prescott is already the answer. Through the first four years of his career, he has shown enough to suggest he could be the answer and just about enough to show that he may have reached his ceiling already.
Can the Dallas Cowboys find the right value with their quarterback
The real question the Cowboys need to consider is Dak Prescott more likely to win a Super Bowl with a $35 million cap hit or an unknown to be determined quarterback on a less than $15 million cap hit with extra draft picks acquired for trading Prescott and at least $20 million in cap space to sign other really good football players have a better shot to win the Lombardi trophy.
Both of those situations are unknown and not guaranteed. Although, we have some indication that Dak Prescott with a $2 million cap hit was unable to lead his team to the playoffs. There is high hopes that a new coaching staff will unlock the team’s potential.
While it is not the Cowboys way to sign premier free agents, here is what $25 million could buy: Earl Thomas and Austin Hooper. Their combined 2021 cap hit is $25.3 million and would address two positions that Cowboys fans have perpetually complained about for the last three years.
If the Dallas Cowboys use the non-exclusive franchise tag on Prescott in 2021, he would be free to find his long term deal at market bearing prices. The Cowboys would also get draft capital in return.
So, would it be more likely for Dak Prescott to lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl in 2021 or a quarterback like Andy Dalton or Case Keenum with an Earl Thomas and Austin Hooper talent infusion along with two premier draft picks.
For me, the answer is simple. Dak Prescott is not an elite quarterback. The drop-off from him to anyone else would not be as big as the increase the extra cap space and draft picks would bring to the team.
In the salary cap world, it is not as simple to just look at performance. You need to factor in the performance per cap hit to measure the value.