An absence of non-COVID-related news has forced NFL talking heads to increase the temperature of their respective takes, if only to preserve the attention span of their audiences. What were hot before are now merely lukewarm, and what were nuclear are the new baseline.
Exemplifying this paradigm shift is FS1’s Nick Wright, who argued Friday that the Dallas Cowboys are an ideal suitor for free-agent quarterback Jameis Winston. Wright pointed to the arrival of offensive-minded head coach Mike McCarthy and the team’s ongoing contractual standoff with incumbent QB Dak Prescott as reason enough to sign the former Pro Bowl passer.
The intimation: It’s cheaper — and arguably wiser — to pay Jameis than give in to Dak’s demands.
“It would be a shot across the bow to the agent of their starting quarterback who seems really deadset on his client becoming one of the two or three highest-paid people in the history of the sport. All the Dallas Cowboys have done is send love letters to Dak Prescott. Jerry and Stephen Jones, for two years, have been saying, ‘He’s our franchise quarterback.’ Saying how much they love him. How they know he’s the face of the franchise, the future of the team. They’ve been doing all that despite the fact he’s not under contract. They thought they were gonna get a deal done last September, and then they didn’t. Then all year long, they didn’t. And then this offseason, they offer him reportedly $110 million guaranteed, around $33 million per year … and Dak Prescott is coming off a season where the team’s healthy, no one in the division runs away with it, where they don’t make the playoffs. Dak Prescott and his agent look at that offer and says, ‘If it doesn’t have record-setting numbers, I’m not interested.’
“I do wonder what bringing in a former number one overall pick to back up Dak Prescott would do to those negotiations. Because, right now, Dak Prescott seems to want a pay grade that is not commensurate with his production.”
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Cowboys Unlikely to Agree
Even the most mediocre starting-caliber signal-callers rarely hit the open market, and they’re usually scooped up lightning-quick on the off-chance they do. There’s a reason why Tampa Bay declined Winston’s option, sending him to free agency. There’s a reason they replaced him with 43-year-old Tom Brady. And there’s definitely a reason why no team has since touched Winston, nor have been rumored for his services.
It’s not for a lack of talent, as Winston led the NFL last season with a whopping 5,109 yards on 380-of-626 passing (60 percent), thriving under QB whisperer Bruce Arians. It’s for a lack of consistency, as Winston — who lives and dies by long, jump-ball attempts — consequently tossed a league- and career-high 30 interceptions while also fumbling 12 times, losing five.
Consistency is something the Cowboys have wanted from Prescott, and he delivered in 2019 with 4,902 yards (second-most in the NFL), 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on 65.1-percent passing. He achieved the second-highest QB rating of his career (99.7) despite a personal-best 596 attempts. He, too, cut his number of fumbles from 2018 (12) in half.
McCarthy is seeking to build on Prescott’s pinpoint production and help him evolve further. That same exercise would be entirely futile, and counterproductive, with Winston’s skill-set.
Dallas Already has a Backup
… and his name’s Cooper Rush, who officially signed his restricted free agent tender last month. He’s due to collect $2.1 million for the 2020 campaign, his third straight as Prescott’s understudy. That’s a lot cheaper than what Winston would garner, even on a prove-it deal.
Dallas probably will explore an outside option via this month’s draft, but as Wright mentioned himself, they appear genuinely invested — emotionally and monetarily — in the 2016 fourth-round pick. Such is why they slapped the $33 million franchise tag on him. Such is why they’re resigning themselves to emptying the Brink’s truck at his feet.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL