Our long (well, two years), national (well, Cowboys Nation plus the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex) nightmare (well, for those who regularly cover the NFL) is over.
Dak Prescott agreed to a long-deserved extension with the Dallas Cowboys on Monday evening. The four-year pact will pay him $160 million with a maximum value of $164 million. The guarantees amount to $126 million – meaning Prescott moves ahead of the Texans’ Deshaun Watson and will trail only the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes on the compensation scale when it comes to contract value, guaranteed money and average annual salary ($40 million).
But the considerations go beyond just Prescott’s wallet. Here are winners and losers from the NFL’s biggest story of the offseason (so far):
Prescott: Let’s dispense with the Captain Obvious stuff. He’s being paid like a Super Bowl MVP and reeled in the relatively short-term deal that should allow him to cash in yet again in the not-too-distant future – once the league’s coffers are full of newly negotiated television contracts which are expected to send the salary cap soaring once again. Prescott, who was likely one day away from getting stuck with another franchise tag, also has precious security on the heels of a season when he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. And, per NFL Network, he even secured a no-trade clause and can’t be franchised by Dallas in the future.
Dallas front office and locker room: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones finally turned on the cash spigot for Prescott, effectively resetting the NFL’s quarterback pay scale since Mahomes’ half-billion arrangement is an outlier. Yet Jones barely had to top Watson’s package and is investing in a worthy, popular player – while eliminating a distraction that has enveloped ownership and the locker room ever since Prescott was eligible for a new deal following the 2018 season. Jones, Prescott, coach Mike McCarthy and the players will surely look forward to answering questions unrelated to the quarterback’s bottom line.
Cowboys salary cap: Before striking a deal with Prescott, Dallas was scheduled to have about $20 million in available salary cap space this year, per Over The Cap – which sounds decent until you factor in that giving the quarterback another franchise tag would have cost $37.7 million and forced the club to restructure a lot of deals for other players and/or release them. Not only that, but franchising Prescott anew would have surely complicated subsequent talks given that a potential third tag in 2022 would have been worth at least a cap-collapsing $54.3 million. But now, the Cowboys not only have breathing room, they might even be able to pursue one or two decent imports for a defense that was dominated in 2020.
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Tom Brady: There’s always a TB12 angle, right? Well, consider that the five-time Super Bowl MVP is entering the second season of his two-year, $50 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which means he’d currently rate – by far – as the most desirable quarterback on next year’s free-agent market. Per reports, Brady and the Bucs are already considering their options. But though the “GOAT” has never sought top dollar in his negotiations, Prescott’s mint likely means Brady can command more cheddar himself.
QBs drafted in 2018: The Browns’ Baker Mayfield, Bills’ Josh Allen (he finished second in MVP voting in 2020) and Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, who won MVP honors in 2019, are eligible for megadeals of their own three years after each was a first-round selection. Prescott’s raising of the bar should only help the rest of them realize their own windfalls.
The rest of the NFC East: With Prescott locked up, Dallas is now the only team in the division with stability under center. Sure, Washington was able to ride what’s become an elite defense and patchwork QB play to the 2020 NFC East crown. But a healthy Prescott, who didn’t face the WFT last season – when the Cowboys finished a game out of first despite losing their biggest star in Week 5 – definitely changes the equation.
Andy Dalton: He started nine times last year and played reasonably well in his first pro season spent in his home state. But if Dalton, who’s scheduled to become a free agent next week, had any thoughts of starting for Dallas this year amid a Prescott holdout or some such … welp. Prescott and Dalton became close friends in 2020, but the 33-year-old veteran will have to willingly accept a backup role in 2021 if he’s going to put friendship ahead of money and a desire to start.
Russell Wilson: The unhappy Seattle Seahawks quarterback with the no-trade clause on his $35-million-per-year deal would have been willing to accept a (very far-fetched) deal to the Cowboys, per ESPN. Oh well. All signs point to Russ cooking in the Pacific Northwest once again.
Prescott: Wait, what? The good news for Prescott is that he got paid. The bad news for Prescott is that he got paid. He won’t be crippling the Cowboys’ cap in 2020 and probably not relatively so in future years. But he’s also no longer the fourth-round flier made good, thriving on a cheap rookie deal and allowing Jones to stockpile veteran talent around him. As Wilson learned, when you get the big checks, your supporting cast suddenly isn’t so supportive because the club can only invest so much in it. At least Wilson has a ring. Prescott is 1-2 in two playoff appearances but will now definitely be expected to do what predecessor Tony Romo couldn’t: End what’s become a Super Bowl drought of a quarter century for the NFL’s most high-profile team. Good luck with those questions, Dak.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
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