How far Jerry Jones and Co. venture outside the proverbial box remains to be seen. If no progress is made, the team will simply slap the exclusive franchise tag on the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who’d earn roughly $33 million for 2020.
But Dallas brass is working diligently to avoid such a band-aid. The sides want a multi-year agreement in place before the NFL’s signing period takes hold, allowing the club to focus its efforts on retaining star wide receiver Amari Cooper, also an unrestricted free agent.
It’s easier said than done, which brings us back to the box, and how the Cowboys can escape its four hypothetical walls.
The solution, courtesy of CBS Sports insider Jason La Canfora: Give Prescott a ten-year contract worth an astronomical $350 million, including $143 million in payouts over the first three seasons and a whopping $125 million signing bonus — guaranteed.
Here’s how it would work: Prescott gets a $125 million signing bonus, fully guaranteed, paid out in three installments over the first three years of the deal ($50M, $50M and $25M). Sure, it’s a lot, but Jerry’s deep into his new stadium now, flush with cash and has a franchise some project is worth $5 billion. He can swing it.
Under this proposal, which I was frantically scribbling down in the carpool line waiting to pick up my kids from school on Tuesday, Prescott’s base salaries in the first five years would be: $4M, $6M, $8M, $10M, $12M. Signing bonuses can be spread out over a maximum of five years, so that $125 million counts $25 million per year against the cap over the first five years. And then, in the final five years, Prescott would have salaries of: $36M, $37M, $38M, $39M and $40M.
Everything about this would forever alter the NFL landscape; no player has ever eclipsed the $200 million barrier. It wouldn’t just reset the QB market, it’d set the precedent for future megadeals, rivaling Major League Baseball with significantly long-term and insanely lucrative figures.
Unbelievably, though, this isn’t the first time a proposal of this magnitude has been suggested. Back in December, former New York Jets general manager-turned-football analyst Mike Tannenbaum predicted a 10-year, $400 million contract — a mind-numbing $40 million annually — for Prescott.
“You pay him first, and everybody else falls in line,” Tannenbaum said, championing for Dak’s just desserts.
The richest QB, in current terms of annual salary, is Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who’s pulling in $35 million per year. Regarding total value, Atlanta QB Matt Ryan holds the top spot, having signed a five-year, $150 million extension in 2018.
The Cowboys have until March 12 to apply the franchise tag to Prescott, who’s scheduled to hit the unrestricted free-agent market on March 18, following a two-day legal tampering window where he’d be eligible to speak to (but not officially sign with) outside suitors.
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Prescott Prefers Unconventional Contract?
Aaaaand here’s why La Canfora’s idea falls flat on its face: Prescott reportedly could lean toward a short-term deal with Dallas rather than the long-term-type extension that some of his teammates recently inked.
Per ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler, who confirmed Prescott rejected a $33 million-per-year offer last September, this is the route he may go, culminating in a huge windfall now and the opportunity to re-test the market later, before he turns 30.
“One source suggested that Prescott might prefer to do a shorter-term deal than the traditional long Cowboys deal that allows them to keep restructuring for cap relief. If Prescott signed a Kirk Cousins-style three-year deal, for example, he’d hit free agency again at age 29. Prescott might also be waiting to see whether the Texans extend Deshaun Watson this offseason, and then he could work off of that deal if it establishes new quarterback standards.”
Prescott made just $2.025 million in 2019, the final year of his rookie deal, when he threw for a career-high 4,902 yards (second-most in the NFL) and 30 touchdowns (fourth-most).
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL