Since the Dallas Cowboys played in their last Super Bowl, Tom Brady has made it to 10.
Alas, the Cowboys aren’t getting Brady, or Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers or Josh Allen or … any quarterback other than Dak Prescott.
The Cowboys don’t have one of the NFL’s top four. But in Prescott, do they have one of the top eight? Top 10? Top 15?
The answer entering the NFL’s two weeks of thumb-twiddling before Super Bowl LV is that the Cowboys have zilch because – inexplicably – Prescott remains unsigned.
There is a Dak Dilemma in Dallas, and it needs to be solved. Now.
In 2020 we got a five-game glimpse of what Prescott is capable of with the Cowboys’ receiving corps, to the tune of a 6,000-yard, MVP pace before his season-ending injury. We also took the reality of life without him right in the skeptical kisser, courtesy of Andy Dalton, Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci.
Jerry Jones publicly concedes Prescott has all the leverage. Stephen Jones confirms Dak is the team’s quarterback of the future and that signing him to a long-term contract this offseason is “certainly at the top” of the team’s to-do list.
Says Troy Aikman in his recent visit with our Mike Fisher (and Shan Shariff on 105.3 The Fan), “I wouldn’t hesitate to pay Dak. I could sleep good knowing that I have Dak locked up to a big contract.”
The negotiating window is open. The Dak door should be slammed shut.
After failed flirtations ultimately led to them making Prescott play under the franchise tag for $31 million last season, the Cowboys should commence 2021 with some positive news:
Four years. $160 million. Done.
There are hurdles, but each can be navigated. CowboysSI.com has exclusively reported that an offer last year included as much as $110 million guaranteed. Nothing wrong there.
A year ago, the gulf was that Prescott’s camp wanted a shorter deal (four years) and the Cowboys more security (five). With the NFL’s lucrative TV contracts soon expiring (ESPN after 2021 and Fox, CBS and NBC after 2022), Prescott might now want an even shorter agreement in order to take advantage of a future contract negotiated under the new TV deals and, in accordance, a drastically bigger salary cap.
Three years? More guaranteed? An autographed pair of Bernie Sanders’ mittens? Whatever it takes.
Notice, I’ve never said Prescott is worth it. But if $40 million a year is what it costs just for a seat at the table, so be it.
I’ve seen enough of Prescott. Just as importantly, we’ve seen more than enough of life without him.
To be more like Brady, Prescott needs to improve his accuracy. To be more like Mahomes, he needs nuance and subtlety and awareness in the pocket. To be more like Rodgers, he needs better vision downfield when scrambling. To be more like Allen, he needs … wait, isn’t he already as good as Josh Allen?
The Bills’ quarterback enjoyed his “breakout season”, throwing for 4,544 yards, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In 2019, Prescott produced 4,902, 30 and 11. In 2020 – before his gruesome ankle injury in the third quarter of the fifth game – Prescott was on pace for 6,592, 32 and 14.
(And remember, he was performing at that lofty level despite a turbulent year in which he lost his brother to suicide, suffered from depression and was forced to play without a vote of confidence because his team didn’t value (enough) locking him up long-term. (Fish has written often of the "dark cloud'' that can exist when the star and ownership aren't on the same contractual page. Yes, Dak can be tagged again. But why invite the cloud?)
In the NFL this season, 74 quarterbacks threw a pass. Maybe I’m delirious with absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder fever, but I’d rather have Prescott into 2021 – and beyond – than all but six of them.
Today, he’s not better than the four championship-game quarterbacks we saw last weekend. But, honestly, in the 2023 season would you rather have a 30-year-old Prescott or Brady at 46, or Rodgers at 40?
This contract won’t validate Prescott’s present, but it will inject hope into the Cowboys’ future.
Of the current crop of quarterbacks that should still be playing at their peak in three seasons, obviously Prescott doesn’t belong in the company of Mahomes, Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson. Allen and rookies Joe Burrow and Justin Hebert have higher ceilings. But that’s it. That’s the list.
By my math, Prescott is at least comparable and, in some cases, favorable to the remaining pack on the way down (Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford) or the way up (Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray, Ryan Tannehill, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, Daniel Jones, Carson Wentz, Tua Tagovailoa and Jimmy Garoppolo).
The Cowboys have signs of life. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is definitely leaving. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is likely staying. Next season serves up a third-place schedule. They have the 10th pick in April’s NFL Draft.
And, over the last two seasons and into the next five they, conservatively, have a top-10 quarterback in Prescott. For that luxury – that promise – there is a price.
It’s past time the Cowboys should pay it.
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