What Dak Prescott's new deal means for him, the Dallas Cowboys, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and the NFL
After betting on himself, Dak Prescott secured one of the best contracts in NFL history as he agreed a four-year, $160m extension with the Dallas Cowboys that includes a record signing bonus, a record year one payout and record fully guaranteed money.
By Cameron Hogwood
Last Updated: 09/03/21 8:17pm
"The franchise tag can be your friend," was the advice Kirk Cousins gave to Dak Prescott last offseason. The wily Viking was spot on.
Dak stuck to his guns, bet on himself and won. On the eve of the tag deadline, he and the Dallas Cowboys closed the lid on one of the prime will-they-won't-they offseason plots by agreeing a new four-year, $160m contract extension.
The deal will see Prescott receive a $66m signing bonus, make $75m in year one alone when including his $9m base salary, and earn $95m in fully guaranteed money upon signing thanks to his $20m salary in 2022 - all three representing NFL records. His $31m base salary in 2023 also means he is fully guaranteed $126m unless the team were to cut him after one year, which they will not. All while living in income-tax free Texas.
Back in 2018 Jimmy Garoppolo signed a five-year deal worth up to $137.5m with the San Francisco 49ers, surpassing Matthew Stafford for the biggest contract in league history based on his $27m average annual earnings. Three years later, Prescott is signing a deal that equates to an average annual value of $40m, second only to the $45m figure offered up by Patrick Mahomes' 10-year contract worth up to $503m.
In the end, the leverage favoured Dak overwhelmingly amid a quarterback market that continues to rocket. Remember when Matt Ryan's record $30m annual value was a big deal? Well, that was also just three years ago.
Some wondered whether Prescott and agent Todd France had overplayed their hand when negotiations regarding an extension first began in 2019. No longer is that a question.
At that point fellow 2016 draft picks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were both signing extensions, while Prescott was insistent on a four-year deal as opposed to the Cowboys' desire for at least five years.
He refused to budge on a four-year commitment again when discussions carried into last offseason, during which the Cowboys supposedly offered him a five-year contract averaging $34.5m and including $110m in guaranteed money. Their eventual failure to reach an agreement resulted in Prescott being franchise-tagged, inflicting a hit of $31.4m as the team's record-holder for highest passer rating as a rookie backed himself to warrant a hefty pay day in 2021.
While the Cowboys technically got that five-year control they wanted courtesy of a season playing on the franchise tag, there is perhaps an argument they also missed the opportunity to set the market themselves two years ago.
Prescott being tagged again this week as a matter of procedure means it is near-impossible for the Cowboys or any other team to ever tag him for a third time after his current deal, which includes both a no-tag and a no-trade clause. Doing so would require him being paid 44 per cent more than his previous annual salary.
The fact the final two years of his new deal void after the 2025 franchise-tag deadline and before the start of the new league year also means his contract will not even expire in time for him to be tagged, as Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted Tuesday.
With that in mind, the 27-year-old is well-positioned to begin renegotiating another deal ahead of his 31st birthday, at which point he will likely be in line for another mammoth pay rise. In the unlikely event Dallas move on from him, he is assured of a small fortune in free agency.
As it stands he is currently due to make $29.3m more than Mahomes will over the next four years - we are talking about one of the best contracts in NFL history.
❓ Is Dak Prescott a top 10 quarterback in the NFL?— Sky Sports NFL (@SkySportsNFL) February 23, 2021
Without welcoming injury, the season-ending compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle that Prescott suffered against the New York Giants in Week Five provided the Cowboys with an insight into life without him. A life they were not particularly fond of.
Prior to his injury Prescott had led the league in passing yards with 1,856 for nine touchdowns and four interceptions, stringing together a career-year as a shining light across from Mike Nolan's underperforming defense.
Between his undeniable impact since snatching the reins from Tony Romo and the shortage of better options staring at the Cowboys heading into free agency, Prescott was always the way forward. That is without taking into account the uncertainty over what you might get from a quarterback not named Trevor Lawrence at this year's NFL Draft. Equally, there are no assurances one of the top play-callers available would even fall to Dallas at No 10 overall.
As far as the deal's influence on the rest of the league goes, there is the outside possibility some quarterback-needy teams were gearing up to make a run at Prescott on the off chance he did hit the open market. On that note, might we see the quarterback carousel begin to pick up speed over the coming days?
QBs picked before Dak:— PFF (@PFF) March 9, 2021
🔹 1: Jared Goff - Traded
🔹 2: Carson Wentz - Traded
🔹 26: Paxton Lynch - No team
🔹 51: Christian Hackenberg - No team
🔹 91: Jacoby Brissett - Free Agent
🔹 93: Cody Kessler - No team
🔹 100: Connor Cook - No team
Prescott: Pick 135 — $75M next year pic.twitter.com/hHpPnhHiX0
Elsewhere, the ears of quarterbacks coming towards the end of their rookie contracts will have pricked up at the sound of a player securing his own future as Prescott did. Namely the 2018 class of Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, all of whom have playoff wins to use as bargaining power. Their respective agents will be licking their lips.
The lesson the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens should take from the Prescott situation is to avoid dragging their feet or risk the market continuing to change until a deal becomes tricky to navigate. In the not-so-distant future, one of the three aforementioned names will match, if not leapfrog Prescott's annual value.
For the Cowboys, it is a long-awaited win. They can rest easy knowing they have their top-10 franchise quarterback locked in for the foreseeable, with the necessary weapons in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup to assist him.
From a financial standpoint, Prescott's $22.2m cap figure for this season is saving them $15.5m on the $37.7m it would have cost to franchise tag him. To put that into further context, Carson Wentz' $33.8m dead-cap hit on the Philadelphia Eagles is more that that of Prescott's, which is notably level with Jared Goff's $22.2m hit on the Los Angeles Rams.
The job now is to ensure that stabilising an ageing offensive line doesn't become out of reach, while turning the league's worst defense into one capable of competing for a Championship.
Because, ultimately, that is the expectation with a deal like this. It may not be Championship-or-bust territory, but when you make your quarterback one of the highest-paid in history you expect a shot or two at a ring.