Dak Prescott has a chance to be the highest paid player in NFL history

For two years, Dak Prescott played himself. And for two years, the Dallas Cowboys sat across the table and bet against their starting quarterback and the growing salary scale that surrounded him.

On Monday the impasse was broken. Or if we are looking for a more accurate descriptor, Prescott broke it.

The 27-year-old quarterback landed a four-year, $ 160 million deal that essentially makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history (based on his contract value at signing) and places Prescott in the race for a huge windfall on the course. of his career that could ultimately make him the richest player the league has ever seen. That’s what Monday’s deal ultimately means for Prescott, who hit a plateau of $ 40 million per season shared by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. .

What sets Prescott apart from those players is his next window into extension negotiations, which in theory should take place after the third year of this deal (after the 2023 season). That period is considered significant because it will take place amid a huge financial windfall of NFL revenue that will include a new TV deal and what are expected to be expansive earnings related to gaming revenue that will skyrocket over the next decade.

Either way, it’s a landslide victory for Prescott and his group, who have been pursuing a high-level quarterback deal for the past two years, with their leverage increasing exponentially with each offseason. Now it has brought Prescott to a remarkably lucrative intersection of skyrocketing increases in the league’s quarterback pay scale and a strong financial future for the NFL that will see free agent prices soar even higher in the next decade. And it all comes in the time frame that Prescott and his group wanted: within a four-year contract rather than the five or six years of control Dallas initially wanted.

Dallas Cowboys' Dak Prescott (4) and Tony Romo (9) speak on the bench in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Arlington, Texas.  (AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth)

Dak Prescott has come a long way since he was a fourth-round draft pick and backup to Tony Romo. (AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth)

Prescott is on track to sign up to two more extensions within this decade, given his chosen four-year control framework. If that wasn’t enough, Prescott also has a powerful no-trade clause in this deal, along with Dallas having to franchise Prescott this week while the details of this extension are worked out (which will count as Prescott’s second label and virtually guarantee that can never be tagged by any team in the future)

When you look at all of that, Prescott earned the money, control, freedom, and years that he was looking for. Perhaps the only thing he didn’t get was the property rights to the “D” in Dallas.

This is what Jerry Jones, Cowboys got at the bargaining table

The deal isn’t a completely lost proposition for the Cowboys, either. Not only does the franchise have its main leader locked up for the next four seasons, Prescott’s four-year extension is actually a six-year contract that is canceled to four. That’s a vital reality for Dallas because it means the team can technically distribute its signing bonus within six years. It’s a mechanism to lower Prescott’s cap in 2021, which the deal does by reducing his salary from a franchise figure of $ 37.7 million to $ 22.2 million. That’s a significant change for the Cowboys, who will look to create respite when the salary cap is finally lowered after the 2020 revenue shortfall from the impact of the pandemic.

And if we view this as a glass-half-full scenario for Dallas, it’s also worth mentioning that Prescott’s deal comes on the heels of its 2020 franchise tag. Technically, it means that Dallas has finally achieved the five years of control it was trying to achieve. win in negotiations last offseason, with one year under the 2020 franchise tag and then four years through an extension. If you look at this deal from that angle, it means that Dallas has obtained the five years of control it sought last year (from 2020 to 2024) for between $ 191 million and $ 194 million, depending on the incentives. Is that significantly more than what Dallas would have paid if it had made a long-term contract before the 2019 or 2020 season? Yes. But team owner Jerry Jones can finally point out that Prescott will have a five-year payout of around $ 38 million and frame that number as nothing more than another deal that sets the pace of the market rather than a huge loss in the market. negotiating table.

Most contract negotiators will tell you that it is a sure sign of defeat if you have to work so hard to find the right framework for your deal. But if it makes Jones and his son Stephen sleep better at night, then so be it. History will recall that Dallas could have had Prescott for much cheaper and a much longer contract if it had worked to get ahead of the quarterback contract curve after the 2018 season, Prescott’s third year as a starter. It didn’t, perhaps believing that the Prescott market would eventually settle much lower than it ultimately did.

How the talks between Prescott and the Cowboys heated up

The result was a negotiation that dragged on through some controversial lows, while other quarterback deals that established the market were consolidated. And while the two sides yelled at each other this offseason, it wasn’t until last week that conversations became more productive between Stephen Jones and Prescott’s agent, Todd France. Finally, Jones blinked, giving in to the four-year, $ 160 million threshold for offsetting a structure that would reduce the immediate salary impact. And while Jerry Jones seems to have taken a backseat in these conversations, it’s worth considering that the 78-year-old franchise owner was very reluctant to start over in a quarterback job that may turn into a quest that will last. years, if not decades.

That certainly helped overcome the stalemate that persisted between the Cowboys and Prescott’s camp, although it didn’t gain steam until last week. In fact, the situation was uncertain enough after the weekend that a source familiar with the talks suggested a likely scenario was that Prescott would be tagged on Tuesday and then the two parties would work out a five-year, $ 200 million deal in July. . The possible complication with that approach is that Dallas would also be in an even weaker position, with Prescott virtually certain to head to free agency after 2021 and put his fate in the hands of other teams that would most likely offer his price even higher. than what it is now.

In the end, Dallas came to his senses and refused to allow other teams to set the table with Prescott. And the result was that the Cowboys absorbed a loss at the negotiating table that took two years to make. Maybe it was because Dallas had to lower Prescott’s salary cap number in 2021 to avoid pushing the team into a difficult corner with its roster. Or maybe it’s because Jerry Jones knows the next TV deal and the next wave of gambling revenue will cover him (and maybe because of both).

The resulting result was that Prescott reached staggering salary heights for a player who was selected in the fourth round in 2016 and prepared for potential history if the next four seasons play out as he expects.

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