For over a year, Dak Prescott and his ongoing contract extension talks have dominated national sports media. They have also led to countless debates online and on television.
Is he worth $40 million? Most say no.
Russell Wilson is the league’s highest-paid quarterback and makes an average of $35 million per year. That seems about right for Wilson. But is it too much for Dak Prescott?
Meanwhile, Prescott’s 2016 NFL Draft classmate and NFC East rival Carson Wentz makes an average of $32 million per year. That also seems fair. But is Prescott worth that?
While nobody, including Jerry Jones, knows the definitive answer to those questions, it hasn’t stopped everyone and their mother from sharing their opinion on exactly how much Dak Prescott should make.
— First Take (@FirstTake) March 30, 2020
Prescott’s Rookie Deal
While some argue Prescott’s value with different stats and comparisons, one thing is certain – Dak Prescott drastically outplayed his rookie contract.
The deal paid him $4.9 million over four seasons with just over $2 million coming in 2019, according to Spotrac.
Consequently, Prescott ranked 40th in cash earned by NFL quarterbacks in 2019.
Despite that, Prescott posted a career year and finished second in the NFL with 4,902 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, which was good for third.
In his four seasons with Dallas, Prescott has accumulated a 40-24 record without missing a start. Additionally, he has thrown for 15,778 yards and 97 touchdowns while completing 65.8% of his passes.
.@Dak Prescott: Franchise QB.
His 10 BEST PLAYS from a career year in Dallas! pic.twitter.com/bw6PJZFeNO
— NFL (@NFL) March 16, 2020
Since 2016, those stats are superior to those of Jared Goff, who averages $33.5 million per year, and Carson Wentz. Additionally, he’s thrown for more yards at a higher completion percentage than Russell Wilson, while achieving a nearly identical record. Through the last four seasons, Wilson’s Seahawks are 40-23-1.
So while it’s unclear how much Prescott will make in the years to come, it is safe to say that he has earned the right to sign a deal in the neighborhood of three of the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks.
How Did We Get Here?
Heading into the 2019 season, Prescott turned down an extension worth $30 million per year. His intent to play out the season and improve his stock was seemingly supported after a red-hot 3-0 start.
After going 5-8 the rest of the way and missing the playoffs, skepticism regarding his worth reemerged in mass quantities.
Sure, he boasts a solid career win-loss record. Sure, he has better career numbers than Goff and Wentz. But he has Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper and a dominant offensive line. What has he proven without their help?
Well, what can any quarterback do without the help of elite talent surrounding them?
Looking back at some recent Super Bowl champions, many quarterbacks are surrounded by elite skill players.
Patrick Mahomes had Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Brady had Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Nick Foles had Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz.
Having a solid team built around a Prescott isn’t a demerit to his legitimacy as an elite quarterback.
It solidifies the team’s need to resign him.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) March 31, 2020
The Cowboys’ win-now mindset and roster construction surely ease the tensions surrounding the negotiations.
According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, both parties are satisfied with the current timeline for negotiations. With three and a half months left to make a deal, the two parties remain encouraged that a deal will be completed.
The Cowboys used their exclusive franchise tag on the Mississippi State product on March 16 when the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement on an offer that would have paid Prescott more than Goff.
Tag deadline for Dak Prescott is today at 10:59am CT. I'm told that while the #Cowboys felt good about their latest offer last week which was described to me as "above the Goff deal" His agent, Todd France sent back another proposal and as of late last night "all was quiet".
— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) March 16, 2020
The exclusive tag ensures that the Cowboys are the only team permitted to negotiate with Prescott until after the 2020 season, but only gives the two sides until July 15 to strike a deal.
If the stalemate continues beyond the July 15 deadline, the Cowboys will have to wait until the 2021 offseason to negotiate a long-term deal. That delivers added pressure to finalize a contract. Waiting until next offseason gives every other team the chance to negotiate with the quarterback.
Prescott Following Tannehill’s Lead?
As a result, Graziano reports that the Cowboys and Prescott are closer to a deal than they have been. The two sides are currently working on structuring the deal and determining how much will be paid each year.
It’s believed that Prescott and Todd France may aim to structure the deal similarily to France’s other client, Titans’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill’s contract pays him $118 million over four years.
Ryan Tannehill has agreed to terms on a new four-year contract with the Titans, per source. Here’s the numbers:
$29.5m average per year
$62m full guarantee
$91m total guarantee
BIG deal for Tannehill!
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) March 15, 2020
While Prescott will surely receive more than Tannehill, Graziano points to the $62 million in guaranteed money headed Tannehill’s way in the first two years of that deal.
He believes that while Prescott may receive an offer with the highest average annual value, Prescott and France may be looking for more guaranteed money. Especially with the possibility of a 17-game regular season.
The uncertainty surrounding the ongoing negotiations is accompanied by the uncertainty surrounding how much Prescott’s franchise tag will be worth in 2020. With the anticipated salary ranging between $30 million and $33 million, Prescott will now rank among the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks in 2020.
That figure will be determined in mid-April when Ben Roethlisberger and Kirk Cousins are expected to restructure their deals.
What happens after 2020 should be decided in the next few months. But if it isn’t, we’ll have to go through this entire process again next off-season. And if that’s the case, Dak Prescott could be wearing a different uniform in 2021.