Since the end of the 2018 NFL season, Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott and team owner Jerry Jones, have been at a stalemate over contract negotiations. Until now! To be exact, as of 5:53 pm on March 8th, when ESPN’s NFL insider, Adam Schefter, broke the news via Twitter.
“The Cowboys are giving Dak Prescott a four-year, $160 million deal, including a record $126 million guaranteed, a source tells ESPN. The first three years average $42 million per year.” – @AdamSchefter (Twitter)
It has been a long saga, that has been the inspiration for many segments on Sports debate shows because as the old saying goes “When in doubt. Talk about the Cowboys.” After all the Cowboys are “America’s team.” They have been America’s team since NFL Films gave the team that nickname in their 1978 Season Highlight video. The nickname has proved to stand the test of time because the Cowboys are the most viewed, most valuable, and most talked about franchise in American Sports. With that being the case, uncertainty as to who the starting Quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys is a huge deal.
But now there is certainty. Dak Prescott will remain as the starting Quarterback of America’s team for at least the next four seasons. According to an ESPN article by Todd Archer, the salary that Prescott will receive will differ each season. The salary cap hit for Prescott will be
“$22.2 Million in 2021, instead of the $37.7 million that would have come along with the franchise tag, saving the Cowboys $15.5 Million.” According to Spotrac, the salary cap hit will be $33.2 Million in 2022 and $44.2 Million in 2023. On the contrary to the negative reactions from Cowboys fans that are worried about Prescott taking up too much of the salary cap, the deal is reasonable for both parties.
Crunching the numbers:
I believe this to be the case because as of yesterday, the NFL announced that the salary cap limit for 2021 will be $182.5 Million, a decrease from the 2020s $198.2 Million. The reason for the decrease is because of COVID-19 limited fan attendance in 2020. As a result, the league has had to make budget cuts to make up for the smaller profit margin from the previous season. Prescott’s contract in 2021 will take up a smaller percentage of the salary cap, 12%, in comparison to the franchise tag that he played under in 2020, worth $33 million, which accumulated for 16% of the cap.
Currently, Prescott will not be the Cowboy’s biggest cap casualty in 2021. That title belongs to Defensive End, Demarcus Lawrence, who is projected to take up $25 million. In 2021, when the cap puts teams at a disadvantage due to the unprecedented decrease in allocated spending, there will be 12 other NFL Quarterbacks being paid more than Prescott.
You may be thinking something along the lines of “2021 may be okay but how about the future?” Prescott’s $33.2 Million contract will also be team-friendly. In fact, it is extremely likely that Prescott’s slice of the salary cap will cost less than it did the last time he was paid north of $30 Million. This is due to the new T.V. deal that is to be signed with the Networks and the League to allow them the rights to broadcast NFL games. The T.V. deal is projected to skyrocket the salary cap for the 2022 season. According to a CNBC by Jabari Young, the deal “Could reach $100 Billion via a 10-year deal [for the NFL]” providing the league with a huge revenue stream, allowing the 32 NFL franchises to increase spending budgets. This includes having more to spend on players. According to a report from Buffalo News, “The cap could rise to somewhere around $220 Million.” If the cap does increase to $220 Million, which is realistic, then Prescott will be paid only 15% of the cap. That is not bad at all for a Franchise Quarterback that has played in multiple Pro-Bowls and was the 2016 Pepsi Offensive Rookie of the year.
As a huge Cowboys fan myself, I was originally pessimistic about the situation. Reports suggested that Prescott’s agent, Todd Frances was playing hardball and wanted a three-year deal worth $42 Million per year, which would handicap the team financially. But that isn’t the case. Perhaps you still don’t believe that the new T.V. deal will increase the salary cap to a figure as astronomical as $220 Million in one year’s time. To that I say, Jerry Jones is a member of the board that will negotiate the T.V. deal. Jones, regardless of your opinion of him as a General Manager, is one of the most intelligent and skillful businessmen and negotiators in the world. I am confident that Jones knows something that we as fans do not. For example, how close the T.V. deal is to being completed, what the exact figures are for the deal, and how much money teams will be allowed to spend on players after the deal is signed. I do not believe that Jerry Jones and his son, Stephen Jones would allow Prescott to sign the contract that they put in front of him unless they were confident that it would not put the Cowboys in “salary-cap hell.” The contract also would-not be offered unless they were confident in their Quarterback’s abilities.
In Spring 2019, I wrote an article titled Flacco, Prescott and the Quarterback conundrums, which was partially about Dak Prescott. The message of the article was that I felt as though Jerry and Stephen Jones were going to pay Dak Prescott “market value.” At the time I wasn’t happy with this because I felt as though he hadn’t earned it. He had shown flashes of elite play, but at the same time, he consistently left yards and points on the board. Far more than one of the top paid quarterbacks in the NFL should. The team won a lot of games between 2016 and 2018 with Prescott under center, 32 plus one playoff game to be exact. Prescott did play well at times, especially in 2016 when he deservingly won the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year award. However, it seemed as though he was a product of a run-first offense, with two-time NFL rushing champion, Ezekiel Elliott leading the way, with one of the most dominant (when fully healthy) offensive lines in recent memory. Not to mention that in 2018 the Cowboys defense was elite, ranking sixth in the league in points allowed per game. Since the Cowboys were a run-first team in this period and in 2018 won games thanks to exceptional defensive play, I was skeptical of offering Prescott a huge contract extension. With this being the case, you may be wondering why I am positive and optimistic now.
In the two years since the article was published, Prescott has improved in every aspect of his game. Prescott’s pocket presence has improved drastically. He has looked far more comfortable throwing the ball deep and making the correct read. His footwork has also improved drastically.
The statistics support this. According to Pro Football Reference, the official passing yards and Touchdowns for Dak Prescott per year for his first three seasons were:
2016: 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns
2017: 3,324 yards, 22 touchdowns
2018: 3,885 yards, 22 touchdowns
Solid numbers. But there was an obvious improvement in his next two seasons:
2019: 4,902 yards, 30 touchdowns
2020: 1,856 yards, 9 touchdowns (On pace for over 6,000 yards and 30 touchdowns prior to his season-ending injury midway through the team’s fifth game)
These statistics show an obvious improvement. It is partially thanks to playing in Offensive Co-Ordinator (O.C.) Kellen Moore’s system instead of playing in former O.C. Scott Linehan’s outdated offense. It is also thanks to having talented receivers such as Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Ceedee Lamb. But it mostly due to his improvement as a passer.
There is much more analysis that can be done to evaluate the performance of Dak Prescott. But to put it simply, Prescott has established himself as one of the league’s top 10 Quarterbacks. He earned a contract extension from the team and it is favorable for both sides. If management can-not retain talent and acquire talent to improve the team’s chances of winning and making a playoff run, it is not because Prescott is taking up too much of the salary cap. Should Jerry and Stephen Jones address the team’s weaknesses, which they in a favorable position to do so with the number 10 pick in April’s draft and an approximated $20,749,340 in salary cap space, according to Spotrac. Plus, many of the Cowboys players (especially on the offensive line) returning from injury, then it is reasonable to expect the Cowboys to win the NFC East and potentially win multiple playoff games. My fellow Cowboys fans, there is reason for optimism.
Archer. T. ESPN. QB, Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys reach four-year $160 million deal, source says. Retrieved from: https://www.espn.co.uk/nfl/story/_/id/31029457/dallas-cowboys-agree-new-contract-qb-dak-prescott
Buffalo News. NFL Salary Cap big increase in 2022 looms over team’s decisions. Retrieved from: https://buffalonews.com/sports/bills/nfl-salary-cap-big-increase-in-2022-looms-over-teams-decisions/article
Schefter. A. Twitter. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/AdamSchefter/status/1369073897040142336
Spotrac. Dallas Cowboys 2021 salary cap. Retrieved from: https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/dallas-cowboys/cap/
Young. J. CNBC. NFL wants to finalize T.V. Deals before setting 2021 salary cap in March. Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/10/nfl-wants-to-finalize-new-tv-deals-before-setting-2021-salary-cap-in-march.html