Cowboys Contracts: Should Dak Prescott Listen to His 'Media Advisors'?

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - It was 1993, and Emmitt Smith has just signed his "quarterback-money'' contract with the Dallas Cowboys. The team was on its charter flight, returning home after yet another victory, when, as the story goes, safety James Washington was fidgeting in his seat and grousing about his salary.

At some point, Washington made the mistake of not only mentioning his wages, but also mentioning Emmitt's. ... and Smith rose to his feet, twisted himself backward to face Washington's row, grabbed a full can of Pepsi (The Official Soft Drink of Jerry Jones' Cowboys!) and with all his might hurled the 12-ounce weapon smack into Washington's face.

"We,'' Emmitt reminded sternly, repeating a wise mantra created by team leader Michael Irvin, "don't talk about each other's money,'' 

Emmitt is long-retired now, playing a different role for the Cowboys. He's a "media critic'' of sorts, though the "media'' part is really about selling product. And the "critic'' part? Emmitt is about the softest, nicest Cowboys "critic'' around. In a sense, as a Cowboys icon, his words almost come across as "advise'' to a brother in silver and blue.

So what motivated the NFL's all-time leading rusher to suggest that "Dak should take less'' in his contract negotiations when Emmitt - in actions leading up to that Pepsi-Can Toss - did nothing of the sort? Smith famously withheld his services all spring and all summer (as unsigned Prescott is presently threatening to do) and then held out for the first two games of the NFL regular season, too, before the defending Super Bowl champs' 0-2 record forced owner Jerry Jones to cave.

Emmitt ended up getting about $4 million a year. But he'd been asking for $9 million a year. At a time when the NFL's salary cap was about to be installed (at about $35 million per team), that meant Smith was demanding to be paid 26 percent of the cap.

That's rather outrageous - and especially so when Emmitt is now saying Dak should "take $28 million APY,'' as with the 2020 cap figuring to be about $200 million, that equals 14 percent of the cap.

Meaning, calculating cap inflation, that Emmitt is instructing Prescott to accept a contract for almost half as much as Emmitt once asked for.

I'm seeing a lot of national media figures piling on Smith. But ... Knowing Emmitt as I do, I believe his calculations here are poor but his intentions are pure. He's not "anti-Dak''; rather, he wants to see his favorite team with all its parts assembled make a Super Bowl run. (Dak and the Cowboys of course feel the same way, a source telling CowboysSI.com that COO Stephen Jones and agent Todd France re-opened negotiations in Indy on Wednesday.)

On the other hand, I cannot pinpoint the motivation of Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com, who certainly and proudly fits the description of "media critic'' and who has offered Prescott "advice'' in direct conflict with Emmitt's.

"Dak shouldn’t take less,'' Florio writes. "And the fact that he has held firm in the face of the pressure for this long strongly suggests that he won’t take less.''

We've got three problems here, in reverse order of Mike's paragraph:

3) Florio has no idea if or when Prescott's side might "give in.'' Or when the Joneses might. Both sides have "held firm.'' Eventually, they won't. That's all we know for sure.

2) Florio (and in his defense, Smith and many others) throw around the phrase "take less'' as if is has a definitive meaning. Take less than who? Take less than what? I've worked on the information given me that the September proposal nearly agreed upon was in the range of $34 million APY. But it'd be misleading for me to tell you that I know for certain that is the carved-in-stone "take-less/take-more'' boundary. There is also the issue of guaranteed money ($100 mil-plus?) and years.

Without knowing dollars, guarantees and years, we don't even know what "more'' or "less'' is.

1) Like Emmitt, Florio is seemingly giving advice here at Dak Prescott doesn't need. He won't heed Smith's nudge to "take less.'' He won't heed Florio's nudge to "take more.'' In addition to probably chuckling over their ignorance as to what the full offers being exchanged are (years and guarantees matter just as much as APY), he's surely chuckling at the idea that the most powerful agency in the business, CAA, needs any guidance from Emmitt, from Mike, from me or from you.

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I don't write this with any disrespect to Emmitt or to Mike. Like all of us, they can have our wishes or predictions on what will happen contractually between the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. But to the parties actually doing the work, self-appointed media advisors are likely about as welcome here as a Pepsi can to the face.

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