Jerry Jones didn’t have unique information about the money that was coming from the TV networks. The real question is whether he had any idea that the broader free-agency market would be as soft as it has become.
Reflecting on the first eight days of free agency and, seven days before that, the Cowboys’ decision to give a record-shattering four-year, $160 million contract to a quarterback recovering from a badly-broken ankle, it’s fair to ask whether the Cowboys could have gotten a better deal if they’d simply waited.
Their problem, of course, came directly from waiting. Waiting to make Prescott an offer he couldn’t refuse immediately after the end of his third NFL season. Waiting to make Prescott an offer he couldn’t refuse during his fourth NFL season. Waiting to make Prescott an offer he couldn’t refuse before his $31.4 million franchise-tag salary for 2020 locked in.
The irony may be that, if they’d simply waited another week, the Cowboys may have been able to get Prescott for less than the massive contract they paid when the challenge was to get Prescott to take something other than $37.68 million in 2021 under the tag and, most likely, a shot at free agency in 2022.
It would have been the ultimate cowboy move for the Cowboys organization. An all-in, calculated risk that another team wouldn’t have offered more than whatever the Cowboys wanted to pay — and they surely didn’t want to pay $42 million per year over the next three years under a deal that forces them back to the table after 2023.
In this market, with the cap $25 million less than it would have been but for the pandemic, who would have offered him that kind of money? Throw in the questions about his ankle, and it would have been very difficult for any other team to outbid the Cowboys on the open market. And the top bid for Dallas in an auction for Prescott surely would have been far less than $126 million over three years, all of it guaranteed for injury and $95 million of it fully guaranteed at signing.
Yes, the Cowboys would have assumed the risk that Prescott would have taken less to play for another team. He wouldn’t have done it. Although his agent, Todd France, steadfastly refused to give the team financial credit for the tangible and intangible benefits of being the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Prescott knows that it means more to quarterback the Cowboys, and if the Cowboys were offering as much or more than the next team, Prescott would have stayed.
Two weeks ago, Jerry justified overpaying for Dak. The reality is that the Cowboys grossly overpaid because they waited too long to do it — and then they didn’t wait long enough.