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Dak Prescott Gets Paid

The Cowboys are signing Dak Prescott to a new contract: four years, $160 million with $126 million guaranteed. There's a $66 million signing bonus with a no-trade clause and a no-franchise tag provision. $40 million average per year will rank second in annual value behind Patrick Mahomes. Prescott stared the Cowboys down and won, but the Cowboys also won because they have one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league locked down for four years.

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83 comments, Last at 12 Mar 2021, 10:59pm

1 Whos a team with average…

Whos a team with average receivers and an average offensive line with say an average playcaller? I might be describing the Steelers maybe? Or the Raiders?

If its the Raiders and we said Dak is now their starting qb, is he the kind of QB that makes the Raiders a sb team? I think that's a hard no.

Its deals like this one that make Mahomes an even bigger bargain than he appears. I will be very curious to see how this deal ages. I'll go on record, I think Dak is closer to that volatile tier than the Watson Wilson tier, let alone the Mahomes tier.

5 I agree they did. They made…

I agree they did. They made mistake after mistake that were all plainly visible even without the benefit of hindsight. Much like the Texans, I am thinking about what the right move is now that they find themselves in this awful situation. 

Question - Do the Cowboys have more long term championship equity with this signing or less? I think its closer than it seems. 

8 IMO Dak is in the rare…

IMO Dak is in the rare category of QBs that can elevate a flawed team around him.  Now that they found one, they really had no choice but to pay him (which they should have done last year).  Would have been nice for them if they hadn’t tied up so much cap already in low value positions (as has been pointed out).

11 Can he though? I was…

Can he though? I was debating this with a friend of mine. Dallas had the 24th ranked offense prior to them acquiring Amari Cooper. Pff grades on him show a similar dip when the talent around him was injured. 

Seeing Jared Goff and Kirk Cousins and Jimmy G has started to make me question how much intrinsic value these guys have.

16 You're probably not wrong to…

You're probably not wrong to note how Dak struggled after his rookie year before they brought on Cooper, but I think you're also discounting how well Dak played in 2019 & 2020. He threw for 4,900 yards at 8.2 Y/A in 2019, and was averaging 8.4 Y/A at very high volume again early last season before he got hurt. Using more modern efficiency metrics, even at such a high volume he finished 6th and 8th in DVOA these past two seasons plus 4th and 5th in QBR. (I don't love QBR, but worth pointing out he adds some rushing value.) That's a pretty uncommon combination of volume + efficiency regardless of supporting cast.

That said, Jared Goff's 2018 is decently close to what Dak achieved in 2020, so I guess you're also not wrong to point out that there's still some uncertainty here. But by bouncing back after a sophomore slump, I think Dak has also shown some resiliency that Goff hasn't since he's failed to rebound from his 2017-18 peak.

17 If you think Prescott's…

If you think Prescott's ceiling aligns with Goff and Cousins (and maybe Garappolo - not sure we've seen Garappolo ceiling, yet) then I'd agree with you.  And that may end up being Prescott's tier. 

I still think it's a good bet by DAL, though, to lock Prescott up and see whether he has another gear.  I was not a fan of his the first couple of years - no pocket awareness whatsoever.  Lately, though, he's looked better, and I think he might continue to progress.

I'm not generally a fan of paying big bucks to mid-tier QBs, but Prescott's a situation where I think it makes sense to roll the dice.

71 Cousins signed 4 years older…

Cousins signed 4 years older than Prescott making $33M/yr for 2020/2021. Using the decade-long 10%/yr QB growth rate (which is obviously unsustainable, but hey, it is what it is), that equates to $31.5/$34.5 for 2020/2021.

Scaling forward, that gives $38M/42M/46M for 2022/2023/2024 - or, adding 2021... $160M for 4 years. Not kidding. Exactly the same. In other words, Dallas paid Prescott basically the equivalent of Cousins's contract. If I do the same thing with, say, Ryan Tannehill, it'd be something like $130M for 4 years equivalent, but Tannehill never hit free agency, so Cousins is the better analog.

The difference is that both Tannehill and Cousins are ~4 years older than Prescott. So yeah, I agree, it's basically like they paid market free-agent level for Prescott at 28. Obviously you do that deal. Just sucks for the Cowboys they couldn't lock him in earlier to avoid the free-agency premium.

28 Derek Carr ranked 7th last…

Derek Carr ranked 7th last year. That's quite a lot above average. Carolina seems like a pretty good choice based on rankings - very average across the board. 

To be honest, maybe I undervalue how good Mahomes is but I don't think if you stick even Mahomes on Carolina you have a Super Bowl team. A playoff team, definitely. 

33 Mahomes is complicated…

Mahomes is complicated because we still haven't seen him outside of Reid and his awesome receivers. I think he'd still be great, but there's still uncertainty there.

What about a prime Rodgers, Brady or Manning? I think that team is a serious contender. Such QBs paper over a lot of things.

Now swap them with Watson or Wilson. I think that team is a playoff team probably, but not a contender.

Now put Carr and Dak ok that team. What do you get? A lot depends on how you value Dak and I think this was the acid test I was going for. 



43 Interchangeable?

I'm skeptical that Mahomes would be anything but above average to good on a team less stacked than the Chiefs have been since his inception.  Imagine Mahomes drafted to the Cardinals in Kingsbury's first year when Murray went 5-11.

I was making a point on another forum that you could have slotted a number of QB's familiar with the spread offense in to Reid's offense who "may" have produced similar results. I could see a scenario where Murray produces great results like Mahomes did in Reid's system given the same skill players around him.  

I don't see Dak Prescott as anything more than a good QB with limited ceiling.  I think he's in the same tier with Watson and Cousins.  Jimmy G is below that for me.  

Colin Cowherd was making a salient point yesterday that we know what Watson is, but we don't know Kyler Murray's ceiling yet.  That's why you take Murray going forward over a Watson even in today's market.  Watson can give your great numbers on a lousy team, just like Dak Prescott.  


45 I disagree on Mahomes, but…

In reply to by DIVISION

I disagree on Mahomes, but sure...its plausible as we haven't seen him play on worse teams coached by worse coaches. 

Your Watson take though....I mean, the guy had a sensational season last year and I think it takes a lot of mental gymnastics to look at that team's record and blame Watson. I don't think there's any doubt what Watson is and if anything last year cemented his floor at awesome and even improved his ceiling to me. I don't think he's quite at the elite Rodgers level of Qb, but I now think he has a chance to get there. 

Also, the guy has made it to the divisional playoff round. Fair or unfair, this Murray has yet to make the playoffs and so I don't see a universe where anyone would take Murray over Watson right now. Maybe Murray improves and this looks silly in retrospect, but right now, Watson is the obvious answer. If every team was picking QBs in a draft, Mahomes would be first and Watson would be second.

50 We actually have an…

In reply to by DIVISION

We actually have an excellent control group with which to compare Mahomes in the same offensive environment: Alex Smith 2013-2017. He was extremely efficient, and the team won consistently, but they were never the perennial title contender they seem to be now with Mahomes.

Due to my loathing of the Cowpokes, I haven't watched a lot of Prescott, but I think he's worth the contract even if he never reaches Mahomes level. At the very least, it means they don't have to spend three years searching for another starter. 

7 Wow.  This is a blunder. I…

Wow.  This is a blunder.

I like Dak.  I'd be okay with him as my starting QB.

For $40 million per year?  Nah.

Good on Dak, I suppose, for extracting every possible dollar from the Jones'.  Although he's not going to win much.

Gotta be a weird day for Cowboys fans.  You locked up your quarterback, but might have hamstrung your franchise.




10 Haters out in force

And I'm not even a Cowboys fan. But this is funny coming from a Broncos fan.

Let your franchise QB walk because you paid your RB and LB. Compound your mistakes with another. 

13 Huh?

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I'm trying to find the relevance to my Bronco fandom, but I am at a loss.  Did the Broncos let a franchise quarterback walk?  I must have missed that.  I cannot even guess at your intended point.  Then again, I am not what "smart" people refer to as . . . well, "smart".

19 You and simplehook

In reply to by BroncosGuyAgain

seem not have seen the chasm between former 9 year starter Dalton and Dak. Which isn't surprising since the Broncos havent had a franchise QB in 7 years. Want him to walk because the franchise has already made multiple mistakes and roll with...what?

This is the QB market. Yall always say everyone is overpaid. In no way is Zekes better or even the same level of "mistake." Zeke's production is easily replaced as we've seen. Daks is clearly not. Worried about cap hits way down the line, when the real mistake contracts are finally movable. 

30 There's absolutely no need…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

There's absolutely no need for name-calling.  If you're going to refer to other users, please refer to them by their username or don't refer to them at all.  


32 I'll do what I want

and call out the sus when I see them. Endless questioning of a man rightfully finally paid (or not, like he did with Bieniemy, hence why he doesn't reply because I called him out on defending Patricia, Meyer, Vrabel etc.) but will get all the blame when things don't go right even though it's clearly not his contracts fault. If you even think that tame mention is somehow egregious...to comment on, but whatever, if tone policing is your biggest concern I'll oblige this time. 

15 My question is - what kind…

My question is - what kind of team will they be with Dak eating 40 million in the cap. The whole point of paying QBs that kind of money is that they can compensate for sup par receivers, sub par offensive lines and even sub par coaching. Rodgers, Brady, Manning etc can. Watson and Wilson can too some what. Can Dak? He's being paid like he can. I don't think we've seen anything so far that suggests the answer is yes. 

22 It's a valid question, it's…

It's a valid question, it's definitely a high cap number that will hamper them. But I don't think there's any doubt that you can answer the question of what kind of team they will be with Dak eating 40 million in cap by saying: a heck of a lot better than without him, unless and until they managed to hit on another rookie QB.

24 This is the common retort…

This is the common retort. They are miles better with him that without. And I don't disagree. But that's true also at 50 million a year isn't it? Is it true at 60? Maybe still right? After all, they are either going to overdraft a Christian Ponder like rookie or have to go for Mariotta/Winston/Fitzmagic. 

Its also a lazy statement. Are the Rams better off with Stafford than Goff? Almost assuredly. So why not trade 3 first rounders instead of 2? I mean, they are better with him than without right? Shouldn't the Patriots fork over 3 first rounders and 3 seconds for Kirk Cousins? They are clearly better with him than a broken Cam Newton/Stidham. And on and on. 

I think that retort misses something. There is a number at which Dak becomes prohibitive to winning a title. This is nothing against Dak or what kind of qb he is. This all about whether he justifies $40 million. If you think yes, then your answer has to be more than just, "Duh, they will be starting Andy Dalton...so clearly you fool the answer is obvious!"

31 You're right, and the…

You're right, and the challenge is that measuring the impact of each different position is so challenging.

If you're just looking at QBs, you could do expected DYAR per dollar of salary cap.  That may tell you who's a good bargain.  But it doesn't tell you the impact of using the extra spending cap on other positions, like DE, instead.  So it still wouldn't answer the question of whether a good bargain QB, measured by DYAR per salary cap, is better than an expensive, but middling value QB, who generates a lot of DYAR and gets paid for it.

Things are further complicated by the rookie payscale, which essentially means you only have to pay veterans.  So extra spending cap is used to upgrade positions over what a rookie could provide, and what a rookie can provide depends heavily on the quality of your scouting and the quality of your coaching.  The infamous "replacement level" player isn't really the baseline, its what can you get from guys on rookie contracts.

As a thought experiment, if you used 100% of your salary cap for Mahomes, retaining just enough to fill out the rest of the line up on rookies, what sort of a team do you have?  Now strip away $10 million from Mahomes' salary:  where do you spend that $10 million, and how much do you improve the team?  If DYAR could be assigned to every position, you could make some rough estimates.  But I know no way to try and measure the impact of allocating an extra $10 million of cap across all of a team's myriad needs.  And without that, I don't know how you properly answer the question of "how much is too much" for your QB.

34 I've run your thought…

I've run your thought experiment in my head more than a few times.

Roughly speaking, Peyton Manning took a team that got a little unlucky to finish with 2 wins to a 10 win season that was a little lucky in close games as well. That's an 8 win improvement with a pretty awful roster overall. In that context, Manning probably deserved about 70 percent of the cap. I'd wager someone like Brady or Rodgers might have a similar type of impact give or take. 

But that team isn't good. It's on net a 9 win team in a solid division, prone to an upset against a weaker foe or a blowout against a superior one. 

The other issue though is even if you trade back salary, it's not like grocery shopping where you save on meat so you can buy high quality vegetables. The guys in free agency are rarely all pros, especially at high impact positions like corner, receiver, or pass rusher. You are usually overpaying for middle tier veterans.


The real question is, am I a contender if I have a half decent roster comprised of middle to late round draft picks plus a couple free agents year after year and my QB eating up a sizeable chunk of the cap. That's kind of where you get to this mendoza line for QBs. I think right now, excluding Brady because of his age, there are 4 QBs I feel confident the answer is yes. I think Lamar is in that group as well, so maybe 5. The rest I am uncertain about. And with Dak, I'm closer to that answer being no. Happy he got his money, he was ridiculously underpaid for years thanks to the rookie wage scale. But outrage aside, it still doesn't change the question.


46 That's a miscalculation, SlotHooker!

Lamar Jackson is still unproven and can't carry a team, so why would you put him in that upper echelon of QB's?

His ceiling may be there, but right now he's not there.  Kyler Murray is a much better thrower than Lamar and probably a better runner as well.  The only reason I don't put Murray in that upper echelon is because he's still developing like Lamar.  The only difference is that Lamar has been in the NFL a year longer and should be showing more by now.  He did sit a year, though...

What Mahomes' situation demonstrated is that having a stacked team with an offensive genius will expedite your development as a QB.  If the Bears had drafted Mahomes, I don't think he'd be where he is today.  

59 Good grief!

Lamar Jackson is still unproven and can’t carry a team?  He was the freakin unanimous selection MVP last year!  Your statement reminds me of 49ers “fans” who insisted that MVP Steve Young couldn’t win the big game and shouldn’t take Joe Montana’s job.  I like Kyler Murray almost as much as you, but get serious — just because Murray has promise doesn’t mean other young QBs can’t be great too.

39 Yeah, but my answer was…

Yeah, but my answer was considering not just that they're better with Dak than without, but that they're better with Dak - 40 million than without Dak + 40 million. At what point is the cap hit too much? That, I don't know. I suspect when the QB market starts reaching the point of balance we will know it.

42 I think Goff and Carson…

I think Goff and Carson Wentz sort of answered that question for us. Even if the Eagles thought Wentz was unlikely to repeat his nightmare season from a year ago, They probably figured that even a return to normal Carson Wentz was an overpaid player. And Jared Goff on a rookie contract is an asset. Jared Goff getting paid what he is, is an albatross that you have to entice teams to take on.

Those are the cautionary tales that I'm referring to. Now ask yourself without the benefit of hindsight if it was a no-brainer to sign both of those players. At the time I would have said yes easily. 

51 The cap itself is not…

The cap itself is not constant, though; it's expected to jump considerably in 2022, and it has pretty much increased every year for the last two decades.

ETA: Not official, but Over the Cap projects $227M in 2022, $241M in 2023, and $256M in 2024. By 2024, I fully expect much worse QBs to sign even bigger contracts with more guaranteed money.

65 " and it has pretty much…

OTC's revised those numbers down, expecting a 203M in 2022 - this includes the expectation of a new deal which normally would've set the cap at ~225M - but they're spreading the ~$45M in losses (relative to an originally projected ~$200M 2021) as $15M/20M/10M between 21/22/23.

" and it has pretty much increased every year for the last two decades."

It was relatively stagnant for the latter part of the 2000-early 2010s.

NFL cap growth's 6% long term, and that's averaging through the "considerable" cap increases due to new media deals. If you replace the COVID drop of 2020 with its original projected ($198M), the increase to $227 (14%) isn't the largest jump in history - that'd be the ~20% increase in 2006.

But the problem is that QB%'s have been growing far faster than the cap since then. They're now typically ~70% guaranteed (which means they're essentially saturated) and growing typically at around 10%/year. At some point this has to flatten out, because, well, math.

That's why waiting for QBs is so bad - until the QB market saturates (lord knows when that'll happen!) every year you wait, the situation's worse.

"By 2024, I fully expect much worse QBs to sign even bigger contracts with more guaranteed money."

Yeah! And Prescott will be one of them, since that's when his contract's up! Prescott targeted 2024 specifically because that's when the COVID losses should come off, leading to a big jump in 2024.

12 agreed that the Zeke…

agreed that the Zeke contract was bad, but disagree on the magnitude.  Okay, the cap hits this year and next are pretty egregious.  And running backs are pretty fungible and Zeke hasn't really over-performed to a magnitude that overcomes that.  I didn't like the Zeke contract at the time, and still don't.  I guess I see the -- I wanna be kind here -- imprudence? -- of the Zeke contract magnifying the, uhm, imprudence of the Zak contract.  And vice versa. (also Amari Cooper, but now it is 3-D chess, and I am a bear of very small brain)

18 There's just no comparing…

There's just no comparing Elliot's contract to paying a quarterback. Zeke's cap hits the next three seasons are $13.7m, $16.5m, and $15m, and thanks in no small part to how Zeke himself is keeping the Cowboys pressed firmly against the cap, it would be extremely painful for them to cut him in 2022 and it would probably still hurt in '23. Yeah, for a RB whose backup outperformed him last year, that's an order of magnitude of a difference. 

54 While there's no denying how…

While there's no denying how bad that contract is, a part of me is also really happy that Zeke got it. The way rookie contracts work are structured, most RBs are going to be grossly underpaid during their prime; the only way to balance it out is to be wildly overpaid during their decline years, which the smart GMs (most likely to be the best teams) are most likely to avoid. 

20 Paying 4 star prices for a 2 star QB.

In no universe is Dak Prescott worth anything close to Mahomes money regardless of how they manage the numbers with guaranteed money.

If you're a Cowboy's fan, expect to be mediocre for years to come.  

I suppose it was destined to happen.

If you follow the patterns of the Cowboys and their spending, it falls right in line.

23 And this, folks, is why you…

And this, folks, is why you sign QBs early.

Yeah, Goff and Wentz failing hurts. Costs them about $20-30M or so. But waiting cost the Cowboys waaay more, *and* if he doesn't work out, they're probably tied to him more than the Eagles/Rams were with Wentz and Goff.

61 Hindsight's 20/20. Both Goff…

Hindsight's 20/20. Both Goff and Wentz were easily worth the risk.

And the cap growth doesn't matter: what matters is the *QB* contract growth rate. So long as it's greater than cap growth (which it is, by a lot) signing early's always the right move. And Prescott's is only 4 *real* years!

26 Great offseason move. The…

Great offseason move.

The Cowboys are moving into the right direction, making decisions where it matters.

They will be a superbowl contender for years to come.

I will now send my resume to ESPN, Fox, NBC, NFL Network and all the other stations that think the Cowboys are on their way back to the 1990's.

29 with the coming cap spike…

with the coming cap spike from the new tv money, this isn't a bad deal at all (every deal completed before the new tv money is negotiated is better than the alternative).  it's only a disaster if he doesn't come back healthy

36 I have no idea if the…

I have no idea if the particular number is right or not, but it doesn't matter.  This was a mandatory move.  To be a contender, having a good-or-better QB is necessary but not sufficient.  And there are less than 32 good-or-better QBs at any one time.  So, you make the moves you need to to lock one in, and you do the best you can with what is left over.

40 Dak has had one fluky Keenum…

Dak has had one fluky Keenum-esque rookie season, a couple mediocre years, than one genuinely great season. Now he will be coming off a major injury. It's far from clear he is a good QB. More importantly, he's getting paid like he's a contender for best QB in the league. The most reliable system for being a top team in the NFL seems to be to get a good QB on a rookie contract. Paying $40+ million if you have Russell Wilson or Mahomes also makes sense. Paying a guy who is at best still clearly a huge step below the best QBs that much money doesn't seem wise.

37 One thing the Cowboys got…

One thing the Cowboys got was cap relief this year - Dak only counts $22M thanks to the bonus being spread out over 6 years.

The big mistake the Cowboys made was not locking up Dak the first year he was eligible for a new contract.  Which was compounded by the contract they gave Zeke. And compounded more by how badly the team fell apart after Dak's injury.

38 This was the thing I was…

This was the thing I was discussing with Pat. Leave aside Dak Prescott for a moment.


You have a QB who has had a somewhat up and down performance over his rookie contract. He's had some years where looked like a top 5 qb. Then he's had some years where he performed closer to average and you notice his play seems to swing with supporting casts. You are now close to the end of his rookie contract, what do you do?

Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are the cautionary tales here. And Kirk Cousins on the Redskins is the other. That's why I think its not entirely clear what the right answer is. I suggested waiting while Pat says eating 20-30 million as a loss is more palatable. Maybe, but the two above led to a coach getting fired or forking over an enormous draft haul to dump the player. And remember, there is a number at which that qb is not worth it. What is the functional difference of 40 to 50 million dollars really? You lose a number 2 receiver or corner, so through that lens, its still worth it?

41 The way I would put it is…

The way I would put it is that there is no such thing as a right answer to this conundrum at the time the decision has to be made.   There's only calculated risk.  Some front offices calculate better than others ({cough} Bruce Allen {cough}), but the risk will always be there.

47 Conservative Approach.

Given what we know about Prescott's performance relative to his supporting cast, I would play everything conservative.

I would never have given Zeke an extension for what he wanted; I'd have let him walk.  

I would offer Prescott a prove-it contract based on the fact that he had a major leg injury which doesn't ensure a return to peak performance.  If he decides not to sign, you cut him or let him walk and cut your losses.

You build a team through depth and quality acquisitions through the draft and coach players to reach their potential with the occasional FA signing.  Dak is clearly a cautionary tale of a franchise who sat on its hands while other teams were busy making moves.  If they wanted Dak, they needed to offer a long-term contract long ago and take the risk.  They kicked the can down the road so far that they have no other options now.

Poor, poor management, which is what we already knew about Jerry Jones.  

Every time I see a Cowboy's fan around town, I remind them that they won't be good until the owner dies or sells the team.  They agree.

60 I've seen articles from 2019…

I've seen articles from 2019 that claimed that the Cowboys were offering $30m per year back then, and Prescott wanted $40m per year. Assuming that Prescott wasn't going to meet them half-way (e.g. $35m per year), it doesn't seem like the Cowboys are any worse off for having waited two years to sign him. In fact, you could probably say that they are better off because they now have two more years (less injury time) with which to evaluate him.

I think I also remember reading that the Cowboys were aiming for a longer deal than Prescott wanted. The rationale being that Prescott wanted to get another contract while still in his prime, which he looks like he's well positioned to do.

I'm not trying to defend the Cowboys or the Joneses (I really don't like the Cowboys), but I'm not sure they've screwed these contract negotiations as badly as many people are arguing. (I am ignoring the Elliott contract.)

64 " but I'm not sure they've…

" but I'm not sure they've screwed these contract negotiations as badly as many people are arguing."

It depends on how you view the negotiations. You're viewing them from the point of view that the Cowboys had no leverage, and had to give Prescott everything he wanted. And I totally agree with you - because star QBs are basically nonexistent, there was nothing the Cowboys could do. Tagging him again would just make the situation worse in a bad cap year, and they'd have to give Prescott what he wanted next year anyway.

The problem with saying "I'm not sure they've screwed up that bad" is because other teams didn't have that same problem. Mahomes and Watson both have far friendlier deals (Watson's is like, 10+% cheaper, and Mahomes's is way longer). So why is it that Prescott was able to demand far better terms than 2 other QBs who've basically been his equals?

The only conclusion is that the Cowboys must not cultivated the kind of relationship that led Mahomes and Watson to sign those deals (we'll ignore the fact that Watson's relationship must've cratered harder than any in history), and that's how they screwed up.

Of course the other possibility is that Dak's just more of a "business is business" guy, and didn't care, in which case the Cowboys were just screwed. That part, we'll never know.

66 One angle at play here is…

One angle at play here is Watson and Mahomes are both first rounders while Dak is not and that reality means Dak was severely underpaid for years while the other two were mildly underpaid by comparison.

I suspect Dak could have reasoned..."You guys enjoyed your savings when I was being paid peanuts, so now this is how I make it even"

And that logic isn't wrong. As long as Dak was willing to gamble that he wouldn't have a Carson Wentz year, he had all the leverage and the optics were always going to be in his favor.

As you noted, there is no way this contract represents a bargain in any way.  And I maintain, unless Dak improves, I don't think Dallas' championships equity is any higher than if they had signed Fitzpatrick or Jameis and gone heavy on free agent veterans. 

This resembles the Flacco extension. I know people will scoff about how much better Dak has performed compared to Flacco, but that comes with two caveats:

1) Hindsight. Flacco at the time was coming off a great playoff run and was seen as a solid qb who might be improving

2) the Ravens then and now and always fielded a solidly pathetic receiving core outside of a few wily veteran seasons from Boldin and Mason.

68 "One angle at play here is…

"One angle at play here is Watson and Mahomes are both first rounders while Dak is not and that reality means Dak was severely underpaid for years while the other two were mildly underpaid by comparison."

Yup - but in some sense, that makes Dallas's failure worse. Prescott was a starting-level QB from day one with the Cowboys. Literally that very first year they should've started talking to him (yes, I know they can't sign extensions that early, but they can talk) and gotten on a good footing with him and his agent.

Again, though, it's entirely possible Prescott was just like "yeah, I'll wait, I know I'm fine and you actually have no leverage," in which case that means 1) the Cowboys were just screwed and 2) Prescott has epic levels of confidence in himself.

" And I maintain, unless Dak improves, I don't think Dallas' championships equity is any higher than if they had signed Fitzpatrick or Jameis and gone heavy on free agent veterans. "

I mean, I hope you're coming up with that as "they're going to struggle to be a championship team no matter what under this contract, so signing garbage QBs doesn't change anything." You keep mentioning Fitzpatrick, and... c'mon. Fitz is 38 years old and has never played in the playoffs. Winston's also a "yeah, no" option - look at the difference between him and Brady in Tampa Bay. Even if you say "Tampa Bay's a 0% offense base" that puts Winston as a base -10% QB, which you're not going to win a championship with unless you've got a historically awesome defense. I mean, I would throw Cam Newton out there too, for that matter, at least he's probably a better candidate for regression to "okay."

"This resembles the Flacco extension. I know people will scoff about how much better Dak has performed compared to Flacco, but that comes with two caveats:"

It's similar in that the Ravens waited and Flacco ended up in a situation where he had all the leverage, and used it. But you're way underselling Prescott. Prescott basically came in and replicated Romo's performance, and Romo without a doubt was a top 5 QB. Flacco came in and was replacing utter garbage at Baltimore, so it's far more likely that his apparent value to the team was biased.

In other words: Dallas knows what a top 5 QB with their team looks like. They just had one right before him. They should've been cultivating a good relationship with Prescott by late 2016.

69 I think the disagreement is…

I think the disagreement is over where Dak is as a QB. Is he top 5? I prefer tiers:(Brady omitted due to age making him a big question mark)

With just today's knowledge at hand:

Tier 1: Mahomes and Rodgers

Tier 2: Wilson and Watson

Tier 2.5? Lamar and Josh Allen - I could see both of them go up a tier or down, its why I am putting them here

Tier 3: The crowded tier where Dak is I think. 

This was the point I was making. Seeing Dak without Amari and seeing his offensive line injured, the offense badly regressed. Like all the way down to 24th in offense. Now he has the third or fourth best receiving core in the league. But that won't always be the case. 

I am really probing at the same question you are. At what point is the salary not worth it and you are better off going that other route? And by the way, there is also the chance Dak gets worse due to injury/being even more dependent on the supporting cast than we realize. The 24th ranked offense is not something you associate a top 10 qb with. 

I am willing to put out a prediction which of course means I could be very wrong, but I see Dak as a tier 3 qb which means he's going to need his receivers to stay healthy, his line to be no worse than average, and his defense to be solid for this team to be a superbowl contender. That reality might happen next year but I predict over the life of this contract, the Cowboys will top out as weak division winner or plucky wildcard team. That's my prediction.

70 "At what point is the salary…

"At what point is the salary not worth it and you are better off going that other route?"

The salary practically doesn't matter. There's not much difference between a top tier QB and a middle tier QB: Cousins is 5 years older, pulling $33M on a contract through 2022. Garoppolo is 2 years older, pulling $27M on a contract through 2022. Tannehill's 5 years older pulling $30M on a contract ending in 2023.

All of those guys are "middle tier" and if you factor in the age + contract length considering 10% QB growth rate, Prescott's contract if anything only has maybe a slight premium over them. The only guy I'd even suggest is markedly cheaper than Prescott would be Teddy Bridgewater at ~$21M/yr - and, well, I'm pretty damn sure the Panthers would trade Bridgewater for Prescott straight up in a heartbeat.

The real issue I've been having with the arguments you've been saying is you keep suggesting there is another route. And there's no evidence that there is. I'm pretty sure the lowest-paid non-rookie contract QB in the playoffs last year was Philip Rivers, at $25M/yr (single year), and I think the year before it was Garoppolo at $27.5M/yr, which would be the equivalent of ~$33M/yr now. Starting-level QBs, even 'tier 3' ones, are ~$33M/yr at this point.

So really you're only talking about Prescott being about a ~$7M/yr premium, which isn't surprising given the leverage he had over them. And saying "oh, no, we can't build a team paying a QB this much" - that doesn't work, because again, the market isn't saturating yet. Even if they found some other QB, they'd be paying him more (as a percentage of the cap!) in a few years anyway.

I might seem to be contradicting myself, because I'm saying "hey, Prescott isn't being paid that much relative to the league" and "the Cowboys got screwed." But what I'm trying to say is that any team that doesn't try to buck the trend of "QB salary growth" is, in the long term, screwed. The problem is, really, that QBs still have all of the leverage here. There aren't enough of them for the whole league and the price penalty for a top-tier QB still isn't enough to hamper success.

72 I'm asking at what price is…

I'm asking at what price is the alternative route more palatable. 


IE saying short of landing a very good roster we're never winning with this guy and we need to explore a draft pick that may turn into someone better.

That number exists. Dak at 40 is probably not the number. What about 50 or 60?

73 If it's your own draft pick,…

If it's your own draft pick, at the end of his contract, like Dak? Probably $60M/yr at least. Which sounds insane, I know, but with Dak you still don't know what his actual ceiling is - and if his ceiling is top-5 QB, $60M/yr for 4 years isn't too much to pay. It sucks, it makes it harder to win, but you can deal with it for 4 years as a Super Bowl window. And because you can't just go get a top-5 QB, a potential top-5 QB is going to be worth that.

Think about it - how many years in the draft would it take to get a QB better than Prescott? More than 4. Which means even if you only plan on keeping him for 4 years, it's worth paying the price. Then the bubble pops, you part ways, and start all over again.

Building a top team is always going to involve risk because, of course, there are 31 other teams trying to do it. You're always going to have to gamble.


77 Hell no, it's probably $30M…

Hell no, it's probably $30M. I'm not even sure it's that high. I don't think you can build a winning team long term with anything less than a top-5 QB (at nearly any price - the cost just limits your window to win) or a significantly sub-market middle-of-the-road QB. The rise of rookie QBs in the playoffs, to me, indicates that.

However the problem with thinking like that is it's still not taking into account the fluid nature of cap space. A middle-of-the-road QB is still drastically better than a replacement-level one, and in addition, they're difficult to find. So if you ask "can I win with a middle-of-the-road QB at $30M" the answer's still "yes" - but not sustained winning. If Prescott ends up being a middle-of-the-road QB, you extend him and bounce back and forth between high cap hit periods and low cap hit periods.

High cap hits don't kill you in one year - it's the sustained hit that matters. There's definite value in paying for a middle-of-the-road QB when the rest of your team's in great shape. You just have to accept that you've only got a few years with him.

78 You've articulated my point…

You've articulated my point very well. Sustained winning is the goal. Is Dak Prescott good enough to get you sustained winning considering the current talent on the team and its immediate likely talent in the next couple years and then down the road. Is he worth paying 40 million with that reality?


79 The only way to get…

The only way to get sustained winning is to have a top 5 QB-type. Literally the only way. Mid-tier QBs are too expensive to be able to solidly build around them long term. Mid-tier draft picks become expensive quickly, and it's not possible to draft enough QBs to rely on them continuously.

Which means if sustained winning's the goal, then the price you pay for the chance at a top-5 QB is irrelevant. I know you don't have a high opinion of Dak but the point is that he's 28 and he still has the chance to develop into one. It's also worth noting that virtually every late-round QB pick who surprises people has doubters for years. Happened with Wilson, Romo, and Brady.

If Prescott settles into a mid-range type performance, yeah, it'll be a bad contract. But just like the Wentz and Goff contracts, it's still a contract they have to sign. The reward's extremely high and the risk is exactly the same as not doing the contract - a period of mediocrity/failure.

80 I guess this depends on how…

I guess this depends on how long sustained winning is defined for.

The Ravens have had sustained winning despite no better than average qb play( and sometimes a lot worse). The Bears and Bengals have also gone through a long stretch where they were competitive without top 5 QB play. 

And while yes there are QBs that began their careers as above average and blossomed into great players, those stand out as exceptions in my opinion.

To me, this question really is asking - if I have a middle tier QB and he is demanding 30+ million, should I pay him if sustained winning is my goal? I think the cold analytics answer is no and to let him walk and try to find someone better even though you know its a long odds play. 

In Dallas' case, I think Dak's contention window short of hitting on some big draft picks or Dak himself improving is next year and that's it. I think the year after they will need to start making hard choices on veteran talent. 

The chiefs just lost a ton of their offensive line, but you can live with that if you have Mahomes. If I knew tomorrow that Smith and Martin were leaving the Cowboys, I'd have an incredibly dismal outlook for the Cowboys offense. 

83 The Ravens had success on…

The Ravens had success on Flacco's rookie contract, faltered on his market contract, and are having success again with a solid QB on his rookie contract. That's what I'm talking about. But note that Lamar struggled last year, and his rookie contract's ending. If he doesn't return to 2019 form, they could falter again for ~4-5 years, and after that there's no guarantee they'll land a successful QB in the draft again.

"And while yes there are QBs that began their careers as above average and blossomed into great players, those stand out as exceptions in my opinion."

Yeah, I'll disagree there. Rodgers didn't play his first few years. Wilson's had doubters for years. Brees was *released* by his first team. Brady was an average QB until the late 2000s. Romo had a YouTube tribute to his failures. The guys who started day 1 awesome and *stayed* awesome are just about equal in number. And then, of course, there are plenty of guys who *started* awesome and fell apart.

48 Dallas isn't in a position…

Dallas isn't in a position to do it, I don't believe, but one of these years I hope we see a team just hugely front load a qb's second contract, so the money in the 1st year consumes 50% or more of cap space, but goes way below market, in terms of % of cap space consumed, in years 2-4 or 2-5. Obviously, that will have to be an already very young team, or one that will become one after veterans are cut. The challenge will be not to get your qb killed in that 1st year.



52 Yep, they kind of did. $37-…

Yep, they kind of did. $37-$20-$26-$26-$27 million cap hits, and they're basically finished dealing the with guaranteed money after 3 seasons. Notably the year of the $20 million hit was the year they went to the Super Bowl.

If he had been as good as they hoped or he had been healthier, even that $26/27 million number could have been an excellent value. And as things are, they still have a lot of flexibility to move on this offseason or next, and his contract is such that he still probably has some trade value.

55 C'mon think of how insanely…

C'mon think of how insanely fun it would be to see a qb with a 100 million cap number, on a team with a 185 million dollar cap! Some stocks up 15 draft picks, releases everybody not on a rookie deal, except for the qb who gets paid! Then, if he survives that 1st year, his cap% drops to about 10%!

56 This might be something the…

This might be something the Texans should consider. Pretty everyone but Watson and Tunsil are extraneous. You solve his disappointment by fast tracking all his cash to next year - send him in bubble wrap to Tahiti while you stink badly on the field and get yourself a high pick in the draft.


I think this strategy makes a lot of sense. 

58 I mean, if the qb trusts…

I mean, if the qb trusts management (which likely obviates Watson&Texans), why not? Just have a wink&nod agreement that about two weeks into camp the niggling, hard to diagnose injuries start, and keep the guy mostly off the field, while you get ready for years 2-5 on the qb contract, with plenty of cap space to maneuver. Now, you'd wanna do it in a year with a very deep draft, but it'd be fascinating to watch.

62 Not sure what else Dallas…

Not sure what else Dallas could have do here. I absolutely think it was the right call to franchise Dak last time—he had 2 good years and 2 bad years, and even with the gaudy advanced stats in 2019 there were legit question marks. Franchising him a second time wasn’t feasible and he’s good enough not to let get away. In a fantasy world where Watson or Wilson could be had, I’d take one of them hands down, but this is the next best thing. It's a far cry better than RB investment they made. In a few years this signing could well seem like a bargain.

63 It depends on how much of…

It depends on how much of this was Dak playing hardball and how much was the Cowboys being stingy. There was an article out last year that said the Cowboys were offering 5 years, 175M, which would've been a pretty solid deal last year. If that offer was true, then there really wasn't anything Dallas could've done - this was just Dak playing hardball, and good for him.

"In a few years this signing could well seem like a bargain."

This signing will never seem like a bargain with Mahomes's deal out there. Mahomes is under contract for seven years past Prescott's contract's end, with essentially ~flat cap hits (within 5M or so, excepting a bit of a spike and valley in 2027-2029) of $40M for 2023-2026 and $50M for 2027-2031, which is *incredibly* mild growth for a QB contract.

The biggest problem with Prescott's contract is its length. QB contracts (as a percentage of the cap!) have been growing so fast for the past 20 years that waiting to sign a QB is super-costly and signing a QB to a short contract is also super-costly. So doing both is extremely bad.

The other concern is this: Prescott's contract will be up in 2024. They can't use a franchise tag on him then. Who do we expect to be signing new contracts between now and then? Jackson? Mayfield? Murray? Maybe Herbert? None of those guys are going to get their teams to push much higher than Prescott's contract. None of them are clearly above Prescott's level, or significantly younger.

Which means in 2024, Prescott (assuming he succeeds) will likely be in the same position he was in now: wanting a raise on a contract with a ~$47M/year cap hit when he's already one of the highest cap hits in the league.

This was a ludicrously good contract for Prescott. I mean, wacko good.

75 I've read your comments with…

I've read your comments with interest (here and probably also in another article about Wentz), and I think your argument (about not waiting to sign a QB and that essentially a team is taking a risk with their roster/future whether they pay or not) makes a lot of sense. I still wouldn’t have locked up Dak last year unless I got the deal I wanted, which as you note Dallas could not seem to get him on board with (and as you note, good for him).

“Bargain” probably not the exact right word for me to have used. I read reports that the cap is expected to increase quite a bit over next few years. And enough mediocre QBs have signed big deals that I think we can expect that if the cap increases greatly then we will see more mediocre QBs signing for more than they are worth. So in that sense, and speaking to one of the primary criticisms of the signing that is out there, I think there's a good chance that it does not become a roster-building hinderance to the level that some are arguing.

Being only a four-year deal is an issue, but again I think they were kind of in a corner here. At least Dak seems like a good person, so if nothing else, as a fan, there is that to root for.

76 I think there's a good…

I think there's a good chance that it does not become a roster-building hinderance to the level that some are arguing.

I mean, that's really tough to quantify, in the sense that the only thing that matters is whether it's a hinderance relative to other teams. For instance, Dallas is in a way better position than, for instance, Tampa Bay/New Orleans/Pittsburgh who won't have quarterbacks by the time Dallas needs to extend Prescott again (in 2024). And even situations like Seattle/Green Bay aren't necessarily great on that timescale either.

But QB contracts in general are getting to the point where just having one is starting to be a hindrance, period: honestly I can't see any other reason why rookie-ish QBs have been dominating the playoffs and Super Bowls lately. And if market contracts are actively a hindrance, then if you don't constrain a QB to a sub-market contract (which the Chiefs did - we'll see how that plays out) you're going to be handicapping yourself relative to teams that take fliers on draft picks.

I read reports that the cap is expected to increase quite a bit over next few years.

Yeah, those reports are really misleading, in my opinion. The historical year-over-year cap growth for the NFL is 6%. Those include the new media contract jumps, which have happened before. The cap estimates for 2022 that people are reporting don't take into account that the league still is bearing ~$30M in COVID losses according to OTC. Their estimates for the cap goes:

2020: 198.2M
2021: 182.5M
2022: 203M
2023: 225M

Which gives YOY growth of -8%, +11%, +11%, but an average growth of only 4%/yr. The problem is that quarterback salaries have grown extremely consistently at 10%/yr, and that's clearly unsustainable long term.

The unsustainability, like I said, means that at some point just having a vet QB period becomes a hindrance to building a team, relative to the huge salary boost that a rookie QB gets you. Which means that just doing an "OK" job with a contract means you're behind the curve.

81 LOL

“ for instance, Tampa Bay/New Orleans/Pittsburgh who won't have quarterbacks by the time Dallas needs to extend Prescott again (in 2024).”

Tom Brady: hold my cane

82 I swear, if Brady's still…

In reply to by Raiderfan

I swear, if Brady's still playing in 2024, half the GMs in the league are gonna be like "I GIVE THE #$&@ UP." And the QBs, too.

Normally we'd be looking at Brees or Roethlisberger and being like "man, what longevity, what a career" and now we're like, meh, he's no Brady. I remember when Favre having success in Minnesota at 40 just blew my mind, and it practically seems common now.