Dak Prescott may soon receive a contract extension, bringing him life-changing wealth and securing him to the Cowboys for bulk of his prime years of his career. However, if Prescott and his agent desire a truly groundbreaking contract (as reports have indicated), they won’t get one anytime soon. That would only come at the earliest next year when Prescott would be negotiating off of a franchise tag, not a rookie contract. The question is…can he wait?
Last week the spin-doctors on each side of the negotiation were in full throat, debating whether Prescott had turned down a contract worth $30 million a year and was asking/requesting/demanding $40 million a year. Even though this is a good example of teams and agents using the media to advance their agendas, this contract is a tough one to negotiate, especially from Prescott’s side.
Scheduled to only make $2 million in 2019, Prescott’s situation is similar to that of Russell Wilson earlier in the decade: a mid-round draft pick starting quarterback stuck on a drastically undervalued rookie contract. Like Wilson before him, Prescott is further disadvantaged than other productive young quarterbacks such as Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes, who received first-round level signing bonuses (Prescott’s signing bonus was $384,000). Due to the nature of the rookie compensation system, the Cowboys have received extraordinary value from Prescott, as the Seahawks did years ago from Wilson, a point that should be a focus point for his negotiations. Alas, however, Jerry and Stephen Jones have dealt with situations like this before, and capitalized.
The Cowboys are now negotiating contracts with their three offensive stars—Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper—and are playing the “we only have so much cap room” card. Left unsaid by the team is how they have preyed on the rookie compensation system with all three players, being on the plus side of inequitable contracts for multiple years. Now they are playing the cap card while conveniently not mentioning the team-friendly nature of the past.
Knowing he is staring at a remaining compensation of $2 million, the Cowboys will float a signing bonus of $25-30 million in front of Prescott with a team-friendly deal attached to it. That enticement will be tough for Prescott to turn down, like it would be for any young player, and he may well make a deal.
If, however, Prescott were able to resist the instant gratification of signing a lucrative contract now, he would gain considerably more leverage in a few months, when he will either be a free agent, able to leverage negotiations among multiple bidders or, much more likely, given the Franchise Tag. At that time the “starting point” for Prescott’s negotiation will not be $2 million, as it is now, but rather $25 million! Once there, an offer of a $30 million bonus with several years of service attached to it will not be so enticing to Prescott. The question is, as it is for all young players in the NFL, can he wait?
Prescott won’t get $40 million a year, and may not get $30 million a year (in true terms) in 2019. However, he can pass the $30 million a year threshold and approach the $40 million number if he simply waits until 2020. And, if he has true fortitude, he can even pass the $40 million threshold if he waits until 2021. The Cowboys will waive big upfront money in front of him and subtly—or not so subtly—instill the fear of injury in him. My sense is he will jump and sign and contract. But, to maximize his value, he shouldn’t.
Trading talent, removing drama
Throughout the Antonio Brown drama playing out (partially) on a national stage on HBO, I have wondered less about what the Raidersare thinking about their new diva receiver (who blocked me on Twitter), and more about what the Steelers are thinking.
I was wrong. I was completely wrong about what the Steelers would do with Brown this offseason. I predicted, with great conviction, that there was no way the Steelers would trade Brown due to his electrifying talent, their tolerance of his antics for so many years and, most importantly,a debilitating $21 million dead money cap charge that would accelerate upon a trade. Incurring that charge upon trading Brown, I remarked, would put the Steelers at a serious disadvantage in playing with much less than a full deck in 2019.
Well, we know how my prediction turned out. The Steelers’ tolerance quotient, even with the drastic financial ramifications, finally ran out. And we are seeing some of the reasons why now, playing out in national media and, in a highly sanitized version, on HBO’s Hard Knocks.
As for Brown’s helmet search, one that included a threat to retire without being able to play with a helmet of his choice, Brown has seemed intent on defying standards established by the NFL and his own union. We have seen players such as Tom Brady and Joe Staley who also preferred older models of helmets, defer to the new safety standards in switching to a new model (given a year to adjust to a new model, as Brown had). Brown, however, wasn’t going to switch without a fight, filing a grievance, which he quickly, and predictably, lost. And another grievance, again against the league and his union, may be on the way.
As for Brown’s frostbitten feet from cryotherapy, well, there may be lawyers. I also use cryotherapy as a modality, trying to maintain this aging body as much as possible. As all customers, I am not allowed near the cylindrical chamber without the required footwear consisting of heavy socks and sandals issued by the operator. For Brown to walk into a cryotherapy chamber without the appropriate footwear is either grossly negligent by the operator (why there could be lawyers) and/or questionable behavior by Brown who, as an elite athlete, had to wonder about putting his feet on a floor registering -284 degrees Fahrenheit.
I do believe that Antonio Brown, when properly situated from head (helmet) to toe (feet), will practice hard and play well for the Raiders. If I’m the Raiders management, however, I’m more worried about managing all the surrounding drama that comes with it throughout the rest of the week. We may never know how much time and energy the Steelers had to expend to maintain and coddle Brown over the years. What we do know, however, is that by 2019, they had had enough.
With all that happened in the 2019 NFL offseason, one storyline stood out, and continues to stand out, to me: the Steelers and Giants decided that they were better off without Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., respectively, than they were with them. Those teams shed these singular talents away even while incurring highly detrimental cash and cap consequences.
For at least two teams heading into this season, even the greatest of talent can sometimes not be worth the tolerance.
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