Drama in Dallas

Dak Prescott, who’s contract expires after this season, is the next QB in line for a big new contract.

How much will he be paid? Well, that’s the question.

There have been reports since the beginning of training camp that the Dallas Cowboys have offered Prescott – as well as Ezekiel Elliot and Amari Cooper – contracts that would put them in the top 5 in terms of average salary earners for their respective positions.

For Prescott, that would mean over $30 million per season.

However, reports are coming out that Dak Prescott declined this offer by the Cowboys, and is asking for a contract that would have an average annual salary of $40 million.

To put that sum in perspective, Russell Wilson, who is currently the highest paid QB in NFL history (something that changes quickly), has an average annual salary of $35 million.

Going from an average annual salary of $35 million to $40 million would be a drastic reset of the QB market. In my opinion, a jump that large would only be warranted for Patrick Mahomes (due to his age and ability).

The $40 million asking price does sound crazy, and it has been shot down by some.

Pro Football Talk has said a source confirmed this offer was never made.

That sum coming out is likely a negotiating tactic by the Dallas Cowboys in order to paint Dak Prescott in a negative light for being too greedy and not understanding his worth, and painting him as a potential flight risk.

dak prescott
Just how much is Dak Prescott truly asking for? (Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

To prove this, PFT pointed back to a report about Dak Prescott’s agent “broaching” a contract worth $34 million per season.

This sounds a lot more reasonable.

If PFT is correct, and Dak’s camp is coming in at $34 million, while the Cowboys are, at worst, at $30 million, that means there’s a $4 million difference in salary requests.

The Cowboys have over $60 million in cap space for 2020, however, at minimum, signing Prescott, Elliot, and Cooper to deals that would put them in the top 5 for average salary at their respective positions would add up to $54.2 million in salary. Now that does not mean all three players would incur a combined cap hit that large, but they will be worth a large portion of the cap (likely more after 2020), and Dallas has to be careful how much they offer them because they will need money to pay the rest of their roster.

Ezekiel Elliot has already been holding out for a larger contract, and Cooper has yet to accept the deal offered to him, so the Cowboys are in a tough position right now.

Difficult decisions could be on the horizon.

The team has Elliot under team control through 2020 due to his fifth-year player option, but Cooper and Prescott are free agents next offseason.

The team can use the franchise tag on one of them, leaving the other to become a free agent, and top options on the open market.

Unless Dallas would prefer to pay Tom Brady a hefty 1-year contract, the only other replacement worth considering in free agency would be Marcus Mariota (I don’t think the Chargers will let Philip Rivers leave).

Cooper is a more interesting case.

He was seen as a missing piece for the team already, and Dallas paid a first round pick to acquire him last season. They could let him walk in order to keep Prescott and Elliot, but that would lower the ceiling of the team.

To me, it all boils down to how good the Cowboys think Dak Prescott is.

Since Prescott became the Cowboys starter in 2016, he has 32 wins, which is second in the NFL to Tom Brady.

Prescott has a career passer rating of 96.0 and a career AY/A (adjusted passing yards per pass attempt) of 7.5. Including Prescott, there are 11 QBs that have put up those numbers, and started at least 16 games, since 2016:

Prescott, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes.

For a list that includes the last three NFL MVPs, I’d say it’s good company to be in.

However, it could argued those numbers are a product of Ezekiel Elliot.

According to Barstool Sabermetrics, in the 8 games Elliot has missed in his career, Dak is 138 for 219 (63%%) for 1570 yards (196.3 per game), 9 TDs & 7 INTs, with a passer rating of 84.9, and 4-4 record.

That means in 40 games with Elliot, Prescott is 837 for 1256 (66.6%) for 9306 (232.7 per game), 58 TDs & 18 INTs, with a passer rating of 97.9, and a record of 28-12.

Furthermore, with Elliot, Prescott has a TD% of 4.6% and an INT% of 1.4%; without Elliot, his TD% is 4.1%, while his INT% is 3.2%.

Image result for dak elliott
Can the Cowboys win without Ezekiel Elliot? (Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

With the superb offensive line play Dallas has had over the years, it is safe to say the team is built around Elliot (or for a RB in general). Having Cooper helps, but Elliot is the engine that makes the offense go, which makes him a top priority.

Typically I would suggest against paying a RB top money, but the Cowboys are in a position where they haven’t won a Super Bowl in over two decades. They have a trio of talented players, and have to try their best to keep them all if they want to win in the next few years.

If Prescott were a slightly better QB, I would say Elliot is worth letting go, but I’m not sure he and Cooper can carry the team far enough with an average level RB. Cooper should make Dak better if Elliot isn’t around, but not enough to be a SB contender.

I do believe Dak is a winning player, but if I were Dallas, he might be the most replaceable out of the bunch, given their circumstances. But once again, finding a QB in free agency is almost impossible (once again, unless they were willing to shell out money for Brady and go all-in next season).

Their best best is focusing on Elliot, then Cooper, and hopefully finding a compromise with Dak, or using the franchise tag for him.

It’s rare that a QB would fall that low on the pecking order, but Dak’s numbers without Elliot worry me enough to warrant that view, and maybe a game-manager type QB that would have Elliot and Cooper (and the strong offensive line) in place would be enough.

Getting good players is hard, but keeping them all is harder.

With 3 of the best players on the team, this is the position Dallas currently finds itself in.

Hey… if worst comes to worst, maybe they can call Tony Romo and see what he’s up to (it already worked with Jason Witten).


Photo above via the New York Post

Follow Nick on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14)

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