If it feels like you’ve been hearing about the contract negotiations between Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys for years now, well, that’s because you have. Over the course of several seasons and offseasons the same questions have kept tumbling over each other: Will Jerry Jones pay up? Is Prescott even worth a big extension? Which side would end up getting over on the other? Now, finally, blessedly, we have some answers: Yes, Jerry Jones paid up; yes, Dak Prescott is worth the money; and hey, look at this, both sides got a good deal.
For Prescott, things could not have worked out much better than this, which is quite a turn considering how his last season ended. After having the franchise tag forced on him last year, Prescott made it through five games before suffering a serious ankle injury that ultimately required two surgeries to repair. At the time of the injury, it was hard not to envision a worst-case scenario for Prescott unfolding, in which the Cowboys would decide that Prescott wasn’t ultimately worth the money and cast him out into the free-agent market as damaged goods.
But 11 games of Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci, and Garrett Gilbert were apparently enough to demonstrate to the Cowboys just how grim a post-Prescott era could be, and to convince them to hand over exactly the sort of contract Prescott had been seeking. Not only is he getting $126 million in guaranteed money, he can also hit the free-agent market at age 31, when he’ll still be in his prime and there will be a lot more money to go around thanks to new TV deals.
The Cowboys are getting a lot of what they wanted out of this deal, too. For a long time the sticking point between the two sides was the proposed length of the contract, which the Cowboys wanted to be at least five years so as to spread around some of the salary cap burden that Prescott’s salary would create. The team managed to solve this problem by reportedly making Prescott’s functional four-year deal a six-year deal, in which the last two years of the contract will automatically void. This is a creative bit of accounting, as laid out by ESPN’s Todd Archer a few weeks ago, that allows the team to keep Prescott’s cap hit relatively low through the first two years of the deal.
So now the Cowboys have both their franchise quarterback locked up and some money to play with over the next two seasons to try and improve the team around him. I won’t be the 400th person to remind you that the most valuable thing in the NFL is a good quarterback on a rookie contract, but a proven veteran QB on a contract that doesn’t suck up all of a team’s cap room is a close second.
And yes, sure, there is a chance that Prescott never breaks into that next tier of franchise-altering quarterbacks and the Cowboys spend the next four years just kind of piddling around as the same “good” team they’ve been for the last four, a state of being that has resulted in some decent win-loss records and not a single playoff victory. You may find yourself preparing to point and laugh at how big Prescott’s cap hit will get in years three and four of his deal, or rubbing your hands together in anticipation of making fun of the Cowboys for carrying around all sorts of dead money in years five and six after Prescott has already bolted for another team.
Well, don’t anticipate too much schadenfreude. The new TV deals that are going to make free agency such an attractive proposition for Prescott come 2025 are also going to take the roof off the salary cap, and any amount of money the Cowboys pay Prescott will start to look like a bargain. Jerry Jones knows we’ll all be too busy laughing at Jared Goff’s inevitable mega-deal to even remember what the Cowboys will be paying Prescott in 2024.