Getty Dak Prescott
Pro Football Focus is playing contrarian to the Dak Prescott–Dallas Cowboys contract saga, forecasting a long-term agreement between the sides this offseason.
In ranking 2021 free-agent quarterbacks, the analytics-based sports outlet predicted that Prescott will avoid the franchise tag for the second straight season and instead ink an extremely lucrative multi-year deal.
The prize of the free agent market, Prescott went down with an unfortunate injury after just four-plus games in 2020. With four full seasons under his belt, Prescott has finished in the top 10 of PFF grades twice while ranking closer to 20th in the other two seasons. However, Prescott’s 85.2 PFF grade this season would’ve been a career-best, and his 2019 and 2020 work is the most productive of his career.
From a macro view, Prescott’s play dipped as his supporting cast took a step back, but a revamped receiving corps has had Dallas’ offense moving the ball efficiently with Prescott at the helm. With solid accuracy, decision-making and mobility, he has proven capable of putting up high-end production, and he appeared on his way to establishing himself as an annual “top-eight” quarterback prior to his injury.
Prediction: Cowboys sign Prescott for four years, $158 million ($39.5M APY): $115M total guaranteed, $75 million fully guaranteed at signing.
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Breaking Down The Would-Be Pact
If PFF is correct, then Prescott will have bet on himself — completing 2020 on his fully-guaranteed $31.4 million franchise tender before taking another swing at the negotiating table — and hugely won. The two-time Pro Bowler rejected several contract offers last year that reportedly would have paid him around $34 million annually with approximately $110 million guaranteed.
At $39.5 annually, Prescott would become the league’s second-highest-paid QB behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes ($45M APY), and just ahead of Houston’s Deshaun Watson ($39M). The same situation for the hypothetical guaranteed money.
Curiously, the $75 million guaranteed at signing would rank third behind Atlanta’s Matt Ryan ($94.5M) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers ($79.2M), usurping Watson ($73.717M).
The Cowboys are estimated to wield roughly $18 million of salary-cap space for 2021, which might not be enough to absorb’s Dak’s prospective megadeal. If the club indeed locks him down, it likely will come at the literal expense of other players on the roster.
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Jerry Acknowledges Prescott’s Leverage
In a morbid sense, Prescott’s hideous ankle injury was the best thing that could have happened to his bank account. He ended up missing 11 of the Cowboys‘ 16 regular-season games, only four of which were wins in his absence with various backups under center. The offense was noticeably and considerably diminished without the franchise quarterback, who enters the offseason holding all the contractual cards.
“I don’t know how you could have any more leverage,” Jones said last week on 105.3 The Fan. “… His evolving into an NFL quarterback has been nothing short of a perfect picture. He has great ability, in my mind, to win games. He’s talented. He certainly has the experiences and he has all the things, which has been substantiated by what we’ve offered Dak. You wouldn’t offer Dak what we offered in the past if you’d not thought he was very special. The issue is, how do you come together? And that’s no stranger to me. I’ve been doing it all my life, putting things together. We’ve got to get it together.”
After the July 15 deadline passed and no accord was struck, the parties were not permitted to resume negotiations until after the 2020 campaign ended. The expectation is that Prescott will again be slapped with the tag — a projected $37.7 million for 2021 — if discussions fail to yield a long-term extension.
“One of the things that we’re going to have to really see where we are, and it will affect everybody, all 32 (teams), and it will affect our team, is what the consequences of the virus have had on our cap situation going forward and where is that salary cap going to be and what kind of cap are we going to manage into,” Cowboys VP Stephen Jones said last week on 105.3 The Fan.
“So all those things will play a role into players that we keep that are under contract, where we can sign — obviously Dak being at the top of that list — and then going from there.”
Injured on Oct. 11, Prescott was given a recovery timetable of 4-6 months for his surgically-repaired ankle. He’s expected to be fully healthy well before the start of the 2021 season.
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL