Wait, didn’t we just go through this exercise with the quarterback?
The path to Prescott signing a four-year, $160 million deal in 2021 was a long and winding one. To recap: He played the 2019 season on the final year of his rookie contract even as the Cowboys offered a deal with $90M guaranteed. He played the 2020 season on the franchise tag, earning $31M even as the Cowboys offered a contract with $100M guaranteed.
Finally on March 10, 2021, just five months after suffering a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle, he signed an extension that included $126M in guaranteed money and a record-setting $66M signing bonus.
So why would the Cowboys want to get an extension done with Prescott now?
Cap management starting in 2023
The rising cost of quarterback contracts
The fear of going into a season without a franchise quarterback
And why would Prescott be open to a potential extension after waiting worked so well for him the first time? That might be the trickiest part.
“I wouldn’t do it with where the money is going with the quarterbacks and where the salary cap is going with the new TV deal,” one long-time agent said. “He is already set for life. Why not wait? If Dak did it, it would be to help the team build around him.”
Technically, Prescott signed a six-year contract, which allowed the Cowboys to restructure his contract in 2020 and ‘21 to spread out the proration of the signing bonus. That’s why Prescott’s cap figure in 2022 is $19.73M. It’s also why in 2025, the Cowboys will have at least a dead money charge of $21.8M because of those restructures.
The biggest sticking point in the talks leading up to the $160M deal was the length of the contract. The Cowboys wanted a longer-term deal to help manage their salary cap in future years. Prescott and his agent, Todd France, wanted a shorter-term deal so he could potentially hit free agency quicker.
In 2023, Prescott’s cap figure is $49.13M. In 2024, it rises to $52.13M. At present, those will be the second-highest cap figures in the NFL in those years behind Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. While the salary cap will rise each year, it is expected to be a gradual process and not balloon in one season as the NFL works back economically from the coronavirus pandemic.
“As you know one of our biggest challenges [in the negotiations] was length and obviously it’s going to be popping up again real quick,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “We went along with the shorter length. You pay attention to these all the time and certainly we'll always be thinking about Dak and how he affects us in a salary-cap standpoint. But, yes, he's always in the back of our minds when you're managing the salary cap with this football team.”
At the time he signed his last deal, Prescott was one of two quarterbacks to average $40M a season. Now he's tied at No. 7.
Since the Cowboys and Prescott reached their agreement, young quarterbacks have cashed in. The Buffalo Bills have signed Josh Allen ($43M per year), the Browns have signed Watson ($46M per year) and the Arizona Cardinals signed Kyler Murray ($46.1M per year).
“I think anytime you have a franchise quarterback -- we're blessed to have one in Dak Prescott -- that's just the life you live,” Jones said. “We lived it with Troy [Aikman]. We lived it with Tony [Romo]. We're living it with Dak and that's a good thing. It's a blessing we have a guy like Dak Prescott, who is not only a great, great football player but he's a better man off the field.”
As part of Prescott’s deal, the Cowboys cannot use the franchise tag on him in 2025. Without that negotiating tool, the Cowboys will likely have to at least consider life without Prescott in the upcoming drafts by seriously considering taking a quarterback in the early rounds.
Rodgers is currently the highest-paid quarterback on an annual basis ($50.2M per year). Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers can sign extensions after this season, which would seemingly push the quarterback salary figures closer to $50M per season as the norm.
Prescott said he has not paid attention to the recent quarterback deals.
“I told you guys I wasn't paying attention much when mine was going on, so damn sure not paying attention to the other guys,” he said. “Happy for all of them. Good for the league. I'm sure it will just continue to go that way."
What if the Cowboys approached him about an extension now?
"I guess those talks will have to happen in a private conversation,” he smiled.
Prescott is in a good spot. He knows it. The Cowboys do, too.
“I know, at the end of the day, he's a common theme in why we're so optimistic about this team being very successful this year,” Jones said. “It starts with No. 4. He's always a big part of our planning and what we're thinking about with him.”