Column: Why the Cowboys need to pay Dak

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The Cowboys’ offseason plan is, or at least should be, pretty simple. Pay your quarterback. 

Drafted in the fourth round with the 135th pick in the 2016 draft, Dak Prescott exceeded his value when he was named Rookie of the Year. He was thrusted into the starting role in the preseason that year, has only gotten better since and on the cusp of free agency, has done more than enough to earn an extension in Dallas. 


Cowboys huddle at Texas Stadium.  Photo in the    public domain

Cowboys huddle at Texas Stadium. Photo in the public domain

In four years as the starting quarterback, Prescott has been the model of durability, not missing a single snap. The two-time Pro-Bowler has played through small, but nagging injuries en route to a 40-24 career record that does not include his playoff win over the Seahawks in 2018. 

Many will be quick to credit those wins to the Cowboys’ top-tier run game. While Ezekiel Elliott is the best running back in football, that is just not the case. Prescott, despite a dip in 2017, has seen his passing yards increase each year including a career-year in 2019. He threw for 4,902 yards (306.4 per game, another career-best), second best in all of football, and was two yards shy of setting a new franchise record. His 30 touchdowns were also a new career-high and he has never thrown less than 22 in a season. He did all this while his receiving corp lead the NFL in dropped passes (24) which explains his dip in completion percentage from 2018 (65.1). 

Still not enough numbers for you? Prescott has a career passer rating of 97, tied for fifth all-time with Tom Brady. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, the top two picks in that 2016 draft, are a bit further down the list. Wentz has matched Prescott’s career passing touchdowns, but has had some injury problems and has not won a playoff game. Goff, who has only played in one more playoff game than Prescott, has a lower completion percentage and hasn’t thrown for as many yards. Both have been less consistent than Prescott. Both have long-term deals. 

Goff signed a four-year, $110 million guaranteed deal before the season that is worth up to $134 million. Wentz signed a similar deal a few months prior that gave him $137.25 million in new money with the potential of $153 million overall. Prescott is looking for a bit more than that and deservingly so. 

Prescott has not been shy in his request and his confidence in his request to make $40 million a year. Over five years, Jerry Jones would pay his franchise signal caller $200 million, but he has yet to feel inclined to do so. Instead, Jones and Prescott’s representatives have gone back and fourth to the point where Prescott turned down a deal worth $33 million a year before the 2019 season started. 

When asked in an interview if he thinks he’s worth that price tag, he responded with three words. 

“You tell me.” 

The initial offer would have put Prescott in the upper-echelon of NFL quarterbacks, amongst the likes of Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Wentz and Goff. His request would make him the highest paid in the league. With Pat Mahomes’ extension on the horizon and a new collective bargaining agreement not too far off — that would include an increased salary cap — the Cowboys will be smart to get this done sooner than later. 


Dak Prescott attends the DIRECTV + NFL SUNDAY TICKET at The Bungalow party on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami.  Photo by Jesus Aranguren/AP

Dak Prescott attends the DIRECTV + NFL SUNDAY TICKET at The Bungalow party on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami. Photo by Jesus Aranguren/AP

Using the franchise tag would secure Prescott for the 2020 season, and pay him north of $20 million, but would likely end with the team’s leader holding out from OTAs and training camp, a possible nightmare for first-year head coach Mike McCarthy. The Cowboys dealt with this just last season with Elliott before dishing out $96 million. They even paid fellow 2016 draft class member, linebacker Jaylon Smith, more than $50 million. All before signing Prescott.  

Good news for Cowboys fans is that a deal may be coming sooner than later. 

“We want to get this done,” Steven Jones, the team’s vice president, said. “Things are fixing to heat up. We want to put every foot forward and try to grind this out and get a deal done.” 

The Cowboys have the capital to get a deal done. Their $77 million in cap space is top-5 amongst NFL teams and though they have plenty of other needs to address, quarterback should be their top priority. The defensive line needs to be replenished, losing the likes of Robert Quinn and Michael Bennett. Byron Jones, their All-Pro cornerback, is without a contract and so is veteran linebacker Sean Lee. Oh, and stud wideout Amari Cooper doesn’t have a deal either.  

There’s plenty of money for the Cowboys to do this offseason the right way. Someone will have to get the franchise tag. Others may walk. Cooper and Jones should be re-signed.  

But Prescott needs an extension. Immediately.  


Kevin Arnold is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kevin.arnold@uconn.edu. He tweets @karnold98. 

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