It takes a lot of courage to turn down a contract worth $30 million per season. That’s the number that was reportedly on the table for Dak Prescott before the beginning of the regular season.
Of course, the devil is in the details. There’s no word on what the structure of the Cowboys’ offer was, or what guarantees were on the table. Still, there was a substantial deal for Prescott, and he rolled the dice by turning it down and waiting for more.
That’s especially brave when you consider that $30 million sounded like a lofty but worthwhile goal for Prescott earlier in the year. He had a chance to become one of the highest-paid players in the NFL, but Prescott bet that he’d be able force the Cowboys to pay more. It looks like he was right.
Prescott’s leverage is at an all-time high
In the first three seasons of his career, Prescott wasn’t quite an elite quarterback.
While his 104.9 passer rating in 2016 was third-best in the NFL, his 23 touchdown passes ranked 15th. He threw 22 touchdowns in 2017 and another 22 touchdowns in 2018. Six rushing touchdowns in each of his first three seasons added to his value, but at best he proved himself an above-average quarterback.
That’s not to say he was disappointing, by any stretch. So far in his career, he’s been an efficient passer and stepped up his production upon the arrival of Amari Cooper, the legitimate deep threat Dallas was desperately missing. Prescott’s numbers also compare favorably to Jared Goff and Carson Wentz — two other 2016 draftees who each got lucrative contract extensions in 2019 and were picked much earlier than he was.
Prescott’s leverage for a new contract has stemmed from how difficult he would be to replace.
The Cowboys have three consecutive winning seasons with Prescott at the helm and are all-in on winning right now. Owner Jerry Jones has made it clear that the team has decided Prescott is its quarterback of the future and that means paying up.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talking about Dak Prescott today on the @RichEisenShow: "We're sold on Dak and we do want to have him for the long term. We think he's worthy of investing in for the long term. … We see real upside in Dak. You don't have it all yet."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 6, 2019
Then Prescott dialed that leverage up to full blast in Week 1. He completed 25 of 32 passes for 405 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions in a 35-17 win over the Giants. It was just the second time in Cowboys history that a quarterback finished with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 — the only other was a Craig Morton performance in 1969.
They weren’t easy throws either. Prescott was completing difficult passes at every level.
It was the first regular season game for Prescott with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. For the last three years, the Cowboys offense failed to reach its full potential under Scott Linehan. It’s only been one game, but Moore and Prescott look like a match made in heaven for Dallas.
.@dallascowboys OC, Kellen Moore, looked like a high school kid calling plays for the #Cowboys yesterday, but the “boy wonder” knew exactly what he was doing and @dak was the commander in chief of a good looking offense. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/OdtqRSaNvf— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 9, 2019
It could be that the New York defense is terrible, but that doesn’t really matter much. As our Geoff Schwartz explained, Prescott’s performance was still very much the real deal. The Cowboys are justified in feeling like they’re a Super Bowl contender and their quarterback is capable of leading them to big things.
Jones believes so much in the roster that he’s dished out almost $200 million in guaranteed money in 2019. Most recently, the Cowboys gave Ezekiel Elliott a six-year, $90 million extension with $50 million guaranteed that is a win for all parties. Now it’s Prescott’s turn for a great deal of his own.
Neither side will want to wait much longer
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says a contract extension for Prescott could get finalized before the team’s Week 2 game in Washington.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says Dak Prescott extension is imminent, could be done in a matter of days— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) September 9, 2019
That’d be good for the Cowboys, with both Prescott and Cooper in the final year of their respective contracts. Both will only get more expensive as other players around the league get new deals. Just in September, contracts for Goff and Julio Jones set the market higher for quarterbacks and receivers.
Prescott would be wise to wrap up negotiations sooner rather than later too. Injuries can happen at any moment and wipe out a player’s negotiating power. Just last year, Earl Thomas appeared on the verge of forcing the Seahawks into either trading him or paying up. Then he broke his leg and that window of opportunity closed.
Prescott’s not going to have any more leverage than he does right now, either. You can’t exactly beat the most perfect day a Cowboys quarterback has had in 50 years.
When the dust settles, expect Prescott to have a contract that averages around $35 million per year and has at least $100 million in guarantees. Prescott gambled by pushing for a record-setting deal and betting his play would back the Cowboys into a corner. All indications are that his bet is about to pay off in a big way.