With team-friendly deals like this, the Dallas Cowboys won’t need any enemies.
Quarterback Dak Prescott‘s agent, Todd France, has “broached” a deal in the range of $34 million per year, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
It’s unclear whether that’s an opener, a bottom-line position, or something in between. Presumably, it reflects the new-money average on an extension, and not the total value at signing.
Prescott’s fourth-round rookie deal complicates these talks, because he’s saddled with a below-market salary of $2.025 million in 2019, through no fault of his own. The Cowboys, however, won’t want to rip up the current deal and start over as if Prescott had finished his rookie contract, even if the Cowboys have enjoyed quite a bargain over the past three years.
Look at it this way: A $34 million new-money annual average on a four-year extension becomes for Prescott a five-year, $138 million contract. That gives the deal an average of $27.6 million at signing, putting Prescott only $100,000 per year ahead of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who relative to Prescott hasn’t done much during Garoppolo’s time in the NFL.
That’s why the new-money analysis, used by the NFL Players Association to value contract extensions, should be ditched in favor of analyzing these contracts for what they are: Entirely new deals, written and executed from scratch.
Teams will still want credit for the remaining year(s) on the existing deal, and that’s fine. But Prescott will come off as unreasonable if the media and public regard his proposal as carrying a value of $34 million per year. Viewing the contract as falling between Garoppolo ($27.6 million per year at signing) and Kirk Cousins ($28 million per year at signing) seems much more reasonable, if not (wait for it) team-friendly.
Let’s say Prescott wanted $29 million per year on a five-year deal. Given the current market, that’s not a ridiculous request. But the five-year, $145 million deal would translate to a four-year, $143 million extension. That’s $35.75 million per year in new money, the richest contract extension in league history.
It’s unclear whether the Cowboys are anywhere close to Prescott’s ballpark, and it’s unknown whether Prescott would abandon what he wants once the Cowboys put their best offer on the table. But Prescott retains at all times the ability to follow the Cousins path, forcing the Cowboys to tag Prescott twice and becoming a free agent after six seasons, at the age of 28.
Eventually, an elite quarterback will play hardball, wanting more than the team will pay. And the elite quarterback will follow the trailed blazed by Cousins, a decidedly non-elite quarterback. That’s when we’ll find out what an elite quarterback on the right side of 30 can get on the open market.
Spoiler alert: It will be considerably more than any other quarterback has ever gotten.