Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott's Return Makes the Cowboys Serious Contenders

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Despite the best efforts of the folks in charge, the Dallas Cowboys are likely to be very good this year.

Jerry Jones' contract melodramas and random spending splurges won't stop them. Mike McCarthy's "Hardest Working Man in the NFL (source: Mike McCarthy)" routine won't slow them down (much). Bumbling, cantankerous defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is gone. The pandemic has retreated to the point that "you can't teach entirely new systems on Zoom" will no longer be a stumbling block/excuse.

The Cowboys, as only they can, walked away from a disastrous 2020 season in better shape than they entered it.

The Dak Prescott situation is a fine example of how the Cowboys somehow manage to strike oil by accident while trying to shoot themselves in the foot. Just before the world went through the Black Mirror last March, Jerry franchise-tagged Prescott after months of bickering and posturing over the size and shape of the quarterback's long-term contract. The two parties appeared determined to walk the path Washington walked with Kirk Cousins: multiple years of expensive, mutually unsatisfactory friend-zoning, followed by a parting of ways that leaves the unprepared organization (the Cowboys, like Washington, weren't clever enough to draft or sign any feasible leverage/insurance) without a quarterback.

Then fate played its hand. Prescott broke his ankle, giving him extra motivation to seek the security of a long-term deal. Andy Dalton and others were terrible in relief, pouring ice water on any pipe dreams Team Jerry might have had that they could plug 'n' play a scrappy veteran replacement. And empty stadiums caused revenues to tank and the salary cap to shrink, creating a short-term cash-flow situation that would have caused a real problem for a team that, say, signed someone to a franchise-quarterback contract in 2019 or 2020 that backloaded the cap hit into 2021.

In other words, Jerry accidentally helped himself by handling the Prescott situation poorly. Prescott got the four-year deal he wanted this offseason, though it's really the five-year deal that Jerry wanted once the franchise year is tacked on. Team Jerry structured the contract so the...