The most compelling argument against Cowboys re-signing Dak Prescott
By Connor Green
The Dallas Cowboys finished the 2020 season with a disappointing 6-10 record and missed out on the playoffs for the second consecutive year. The team was plagued with injuries and poor play and will head into the offseason with a plethora of needs. However, the biggest question facing America’s Team this offseason is the same one that loomed over the team last year, what should they do with their starting quarterback Dak Prescott?
The Dallas Cowboys failed to reach a long-term deal with their two-time Pro Bowl passer who eventually wound up signing a franchise tag worth roughly $31 million. The move allowed Dallas to keep their starting signal-caller under center for another year at a reasonable price.
The franchise tag is also designed to allow organizations the ability to get a better sense of the worth of good players. However, those plans were significantly hindered when Prescott went down with a gruesome, season-ending ankle injury in a week five matchup against the New York Giants. After four full years in the league, Prescott and the Dallas front office were at an impasse as to what would be a fair deal for the young quarterback and an additional five games did not seem to bridge the gap between the two sides.
It should be noted that I still believe that Dallas should re-sign their starting quarterback to a long-term deal. However, I also believe that it is important to thoughtfully and carefully consider the other side of this debate over the future of America’s Team. Keeping that in mind this article will attempt to explain the most compelling argument against re-signing Prescott.
The money and its effect on the cap
This process should begin with a simple concession that any person coming to this discussion in good faith should make which is that Dak Prescott is a good quarterback. Whether or not he is “elite” or worth upwards of $40 million a year is another question and it is one that I believe reasonable people can disagree on.
Prescott has managed to put together an impressive resume since taking over as the starting signal-caller for America’s Team back in 2016. The team is 42-27 in his starts, compared to 4-7 without him, and he has also managed to get named to two Pro Bowls while helping Dallas get to the playoffs twice. Prescott also currently holds the seventh-best passer rating in league history at 97.3 (tied with Tom Brady).
The latter part of the question posed earlier in this article, whether he is worth over $40 million a year, perfectly encapsulates the most compelling argument against bringing back the Cowboys’ 27-year old passer. If the reports are to be believed and Prescott wants upwards of $40 million a year that would make him the second-highest-paid signal-caller in the NFL with only Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs above him.
The idea that Prescott should be paid almost as much money as Mahomes can admittingly be hard to wrap your head around. Mahomes has helped lead the Chiefs to two Super Bowls and was named as the Super Bowl MVP last year for helping the team win its first Lombardi Trophy since 1970. He also currently possesses the highest career passer rating in NFL history at 108.7, albeit in a very short career thus far (same caveat that should apply to Prescott), and won the regular-season MVP award back in 2018.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys have not even gotten to an NFC Championship game during Prescott’s four (healthy) years under center and although he was awarded the Offensive Rookie of the Year award back in 2016 he has not come anywhere close to achieving the individual accomplishments of Mahomes either.
When you add that to the fact that Dallas is currently projected to have roughly $20 million in cap space heading into 2021 it starts to become understandable why some fans question the wisdom of bringing back Prescott for that kind of money. The team will almost certainly be forced to ”get creative” with the salary cap in order to bring back their starting signal-caller.
What that means in practice is that either the organization will have to structure Prescott’s contract in a way that attempts to salvage their cap situation next year (paying him significantly more down the road) or they will be forced to either restructure contracts or simply cut players like linebacker Jaylon Smith or left tackle Tyron Smith. The deal would also likely prevent Dallas from being significant players in free agency and could inhibit their ability to address their needs for years to come.
The NFL is a salary cap league which means that America’s Team must make sure not to overpay players to the point where they cannot build a roster capable of winning a Super Bowl. Though there are compelling rebuttals to this point (the salary cap is going to keep increasing, franchise quarterbacks do not grow on trees, etc.) even the most stalwart defenders of Prescott should admit that it’s not unreasonable to want to preserve resources in order to build a better defense or bolster the depth of the team’s offensive line.
The Dallas Cowboys should still probably re-sign Dak Prescott, but it should do so fully understanding the potential drawbacks. The fact that Prescott will likely make more than Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and nearly as much as one of the greatest talents at the position, Patrick Mahomes, in league history should give America’s Team pause even if bringing him back is ultimately the right thing to do.