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Dallas and Dak Prescott: What’s the deal?

The Cowboys and their franchise quarterback still have time to figure it out

Don’t shed a tear for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Regardless of whether the Pro Bowler and the team agree to a multiyear contract extension soon, Prescott, because of the exclusive franchise tag, will be paid about $27 million next season. In any line of work, that’s spectacular compensation.

That established, Prescott’s protracted contract negotiations could become a potential minefield for the Cowboys, especially following the player’s breakout season during the Year of the Black Quarterback. With 4,902 yards passing, Prescott finished one yard short of the Cowboys’ single-season franchise record established by Tony Romo in 2012. Prescott ranked fourth in the league with both 30 touchdown passes and a 70.2 Total QBR.

By any metric, Prescott, 26, is among the group of young, star black players at the game’s most important position – Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes is at the front of the line – who will lead the NFL into its next 100 years. Besides his outstanding numbers, Prescott is also the Cowboys’ leader. Spend any time around the Cowboys, and you’ll hear story after story about the confidence Prescott inspires in his teammates. Former longtime Cowboys tight end Jason Witten spoke for many in the organization during training camp in Oxnard, California, in July 2019, saying, “Everybody respects him. They want to play for him. They listen to him. They believe in him.”

Cover Three: Dak Prescott gets the franchise tag, new QB in Indianapolis

The Cowboys know Prescott is their guy. But all players want the security of multiyear deals. Elite players who are also proven leaders on and off the field demand it. And rightfully so.

Former Cowboys running back Calvin Hill, who can understand both sides, says Prescott should seek the best contract possible.

“It’s a business,” Hill said on the phone last week. “You can never forget that.”

A longtime team consultant in the Cowboys’ player development program, Hill has closely observed Prescott’s development from an unheralded fourth-round pick (134 players were taken ahead of Prescott) out of Mississippi State in the 2016 NFL draft to the most important player on America’s Team.

“I want to be clear about this, I’m not involved with that [contract negotiations], but I would imagine they’re still going to continue to work on a long-term deal,” said Hill, who played 12 seasons in the NFL and was a four-time Pro Bowler. “Why do I say that? Because I know what Jerry, and the whole Jones family, thinks of him. In my mind, that’s big.

“Have you ever seen our [game] program? He’s the face of the Cowboys. Everyone understands what he means to the team. The team and the league look at him as being a guy who can help sell the league. That’s very important for him. So what type of position is he in right now? He’s in a very enviable position.”

If the Cowboys’ relationship with Prescott becomes strained, they run the risk of eventually losing their franchise quarterback. That would likely be a major setback for the organization. Just ask Washington’s NFL franchise about how that can go.

Back in the 2012 draft, Washington used a fourth-round pick to select signal-caller Kirk Cousins out of Michigan State. After serving as a backup his first three seasons, Cousins, in 2015, set a single-season franchise record for passing yards and led Washington to only its second NFC East title in 16 years. The next season, Cousins broke his own record.

During Cousins’ run, Washington officials repeatedly botched contract negotiations with him. The team ultimately placed the franchise tag on him twice, making Cousins the only quarterback to play under the designation in consecutive seasons. His relationship with the team irreparably damaged, Cousins was eager to leave Washington.

After the 2017 season, Cousins joined the Minnesota Vikings in free agency. Washington, which had winning records in two of Cousins’ three seasons atop the roster, went 10-22 the next two years.

Knowing how much the Cowboys value Prescott, Hill would be shocked if the two sides – which have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal – ever got close to that territory. And if Prescott stays in Dallas, Hill sees many benefits for the star quarterback.

“Because he’s the quarterback of the Cowboys, look at all the other opportunities he had,” said Hill, who is the father of Basketball Hall of Famer Grant Hill.

Prescott is believed to have made millions as a corporate pitchman – he has marketing deals with Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Oikos, Beats by Dre and Adidas, among others – and has banked additional funds through the league’s performance-based pay system for players who outperform their draft slot, which the former fourth-rounder obviously has done in a big way. Additionally, because of the Cowboys’ immense nationwide popularity, many former Dallas star passers have cashed in during their post-playing days as well.

“If he [Prescott] wins a Super Bowl, he’ll be elevated to the status of Roger [Staubach] and Troy [Aikman],” Hill said. “The world will be his oyster. Again, he’s the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. That’s what it used to be like to be the center fielder of the New York Yankees. … That’s not a bad position to be in.”

Few NFL players will ever be as well-positioned as Prescott is right now. But remember: Being paid great and being paid what one truly deserves aren’t necessarily the same thing.

Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at Andscape. He enjoys watching sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.