We thought the Dallas Cowboys’ looming contract extension puzzle was tricky before Monday’s report from Jane Slater of NFL Media that QB Dak Prescott turned down an offer including $30 million annually as he seeks to be the NFL’s first $40 million-per-year signal caller.
After all, Prescott plays quarterback, but it’s Ezekiel Elliott who stirs the drink that is the Cowboys offense, and it was the arrival of Amari Cooper last season that broke Prescott from his post-rookie-revelation doldrums. Oh yeah, Elliott is currently holding out in Cabo, threatening not to play this season short of a new deal, while Cooper is set to earn nearly $14 million in a team option season in 2019 before potentially hitting the open market.
That’s certainly not to say Prescott isn’t deserving of a fat new contract. Heck, we understand why he’s aiming to surpass rival Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz, who’s a better quarterback but certainly not a more dependable one. Wentz recently signed an extension — ahead of his team-option season — that includes an average of $32 million and a promise north of $66.4 million, ranked fifth and fourth among all NFL passers, respectively.
Prescott, a former fourth-round pick who’s earned roughly $2 million total from the Cowboys in his first three seasons, has never missed a game and quarterbacked Dallas to two NFC East titles and a playoff win in his first three seasons. Wentz, the former No. 2 overall pick, whose rookie contract was fully guaranteed at a cost of more than $26 million, has never played a full season, much less a playoff game, and watched Nick Foles quarterback the Eagles to their first Super Bowl.
But since Prescott’s second season, when the elements surrounding him haven’t always been as good as they were in a tailor-made rookie campaign with the NFL’s best back and O-line, he has looked more like a quarterback the Cowboys win with than because of. (And, yes, we’re aware of his impressive eight fourth-quarter comebacks and 14 game-winning drives, but in how many of those instances did Prescott help dig Dallas’ hole?)
And it gets more complicated.
In addition to Elliott’s contract demands and Cooper’s impending massive payday with the Cowboys or elsewhere, the bill will soon arrive on their outstanding, largely home-grown defense. All Pro CB Byron Jones and inspirational LB Jaylon Smith are also eligible for new deals, and the cap hits for DeMarcus Lawrence’s new $100 million extension rise to $22 million each of the next two years before jumping $2 million in each of the final two years.
To be clear: We don’t know what the solution is here for the Cowboys. But we know this: paying Prescott $40 million annually, like appeasing the wholly unreliable Elliott at all, ain’t it.