The Dallas Cowboys can’t win for losing.
If the front office had signed Dak Prescott to a long-term contract, many would have criticized the club upon making Prescott one of the league’s highest-paid quarterbacks — perhaps the highest-paid.
But because they didn’t, and because the deadline to do so is now 13 days away, the Cowboys are drawing heat for leaving their former Pro Bowl passer twisting in the wind.
According to Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport, the Prescott contract standoff will go down as Dallas’ “riskiest move of the 2020 offseason.”
It’s entirely possible that this will wind up being much ado about nothing. It’s awfully difficult to imagine a scenario in which Dak Prescott winds up playing quarterback for any team but the Dallas Cowboys in the foreseeable future.
But still, the fact that it’s in any way even a possibility is alarming in its own right.
After signing his franchise tender, Prescott is under contract for the 2020 season at $31.4 million. It’s still possible that he and the Cowboys could agree to terms on a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline, but at this point, that doesn’t appear especially likely.
Per ESPN’s Todd Archer, the Cowboys offered Prescott a deal worth about $33 million a season last year. Prescott declined before going on to have the best season of his career. Now the two sides are at an impasse, with the team lobbying for Prescott to take a smaller deal to help the organization and Prescott seemingly unwilling to do so.
Assuming that no deal is reached, Prescott”s future in Dallas is going to continue to loom over the team. And that’s a distraction a Cowboys team with Super Bowl aspirations doesn’t need.
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Davenport failed to mention the unignorable fact that the Cowboys floated multiple offers to Prescott’s camp, the latest — a five-year proposal — reportedly worth more than $34 million annually with upwards of $110 million guaranteed. The total value would vault Prescott to second-highest-paid behind Seattle’s Russell Wilson while the guarantees could eclipse Los Angeles’ Jared Goff’s record-setting mark.
Prescott, though, has refused to acquiesce. The biggest (and possibly only) hurdle to clear remains length; the 2016 fourth-round pick is holding firm for a four-year agreement, allowing him the chance to re-test the market at 30.
Prescott, too, holds a lot of the cards. If he doesn’t receive his megadeal, he can simply set his sights on 2021 free agency, where a QB-hungry team is likely to assuage his financial wants. If tagged again next offseason, he’d earn a fully-guaranteed $37.7 million, a mandatory 20 percent increase in pay, per the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Dak Graded Out As Top-5 NFL QB in 2019
Much of the critique that Prescott generates is centered around his perceived inability to conquer elite NFL competition. But a deeper dive into his play reveals a wholly different narrative.
Based on a metric by Pro Football Focus, the Cowboys’ cornerstone signal-caller ranked as the fifth-best passer against playoff teams in 2019, finishing with a cumulative grade of 77.4.
Only Houston’s Deshaun Watson (84.5), Seattle’s Russell Wilson (81.0), Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill (80.8), and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (79.6) graded out better than Prescott, who turned in a career season despite Dallas posting an 8-8, non-playoff record.
The Cowboys met six clubs that qualified for the postseason: the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills, and Minnesota Vikings. They split with Philadelphia but lost to each of the aforementioned foes, often in disappointing fashion.
But Prescott was particularly masterful, from a statistical standpoint, in many of these defeats. He threw for a whopping 463 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers, 355 yards and two TDs against the Bills, and 397 yards and three scores against the Vikings, registering a 101.4 QB rating in the latter contest.
His harshest detractors were hit over the head with numbers: Prescott ranked second in the league with 4,902 passing yards (one shy of tying the single-season team record) and 30 TDs. He added a personal-best 388 completions, 8.2 yards-per-average, and 68 completions of 20-plus yards. His 65.1-percent completion rate and 99.7 passer rating were the second-highest of his starting tenure.
The popular analytics outlet also revealed that Dak is one of just two QBs since 2018 to throw at least 20 TDs outside the red zone. The other? Reigning Super Bowl MVP Mahomes.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL