Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott bet on himself in September, and he’s about to cash in. One way or the other.
Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Cowboys and Prescott “came close to deal in September on a contract that would have paid him roughly $33 million annually.” Talks broke down when Prescott wanted more.
Here’s the thing to remember regarding any talks from 2018. Prescott’s paltry salary of $2 million for 2019 would have dragged down the total value at signing of any new contract. If, for example, the Cowboys had offered a five-year extension worth $33 million per year, the average value at signing on the six-year deal would have been $27.8 million per year, halfway between to total value at signing of the contracts signed by Jimmy Garoppolo (five years, $27.5 million per year) and Kirk Cousins (three years, $28 million per year).
Hill reports that Prescott wants a deal that will pay him as much or more than Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. But there’s a big difference between Wilson’s new-money average of $35 million per year and his total value at signing of $31.4 million per year. Since Prescott currently has no contract, Prescott’s total value at signing and new money will be the same.
So will it be $35 million per year or $31.4 million per year or somewhere in between?
Here’s the more important reality regarding the value of Dak’s next deal. Once the Cowboys apply the franchise tag, the market at the position doesn’t matter. What matters is the projected payout under the tag. If the Cowboys risk exposing Prescott to an offer sheet from another team (which if not matched would give the Cowboys a pair of first-round picks), the starting point would be the non-exclusive tag of roughly $27 million for 2020, along with a 20-percent bump in 2021 to $32.4 million. And then comes 2022, where Prescott would be entitled to a 44-percent increase, to $46.65 million. That’s a year-to-year payout of $106 million over three years, an average of $35.35 million.
If the Cowboys apply the exclusive tender, things get much more expensive. It’s $33.4 million for 2020 (for now) then $40.08 million for 2021 then $57.71 million for 2022, a three-year payout of $131.19 million, or $43.73 million per year.
That’s a huge amount of leverage, if Prescott is willing to play on a year-to-year basis. And he has shown over the past year a stubborn reluctance to bow to the wishes of the Joneses, holding firm for the contract he believes he deserves.
Prescott has even more leverage, given that under the rules of the tag he has the right to stay away from all offseason, training-camp, and preseason activities while still making the full amount of the tender if he shows up in early September. The Cowboys can’t afford to not have Prescott around for the preparations for the first season of Mike McCarthy’s tenure as coach, and if Dak is willing to continue to hold firm it puts maximum pressure on the Cowboys to pay up.