By Richard O’Brien
The key story within the NFL this offseason, COVID-19 aside, has been the contract dispute between the Dallas Cowboys and their star Quarterback, Dak Prescott. The deal, or lack of, has received plenty of attention and speculation, with many members of the media portraying the negotiations as a clash of titans pitting Jerry Jones against the former fourth round pick. With that being said, we’ll look at the ongoing saga and the stage that has been set for the 15 July deadline for long term deals.
First of all, let’s look at the rumour. Reported by Chris Simms, the supposed rejected deal was a 5 year, $175 million contract which would have made Prescott the second highest annual earner slightly behind Russell Wilson. If this report is to be believed, Dak would receive $35 million per year. Simms also claimed the quarterback out of Mississippi State would be roughly on par as the highest earner in guaranteed money in line with the $110 million which Jared Goff received.
Following this claim by Simms, Prescott was met with harsh criticism for declining the proposed deal on grounds he wanted “north of $45 million in his final year”, but on further reflection, the saga may not be as clear cut as this.
The key issue raised with the report of Chris Simms is the source. Prescott and his team were, up until this point, declining the opportunity to discuss with the media. Since this leak was made by Simms, the implication made by Prescott’s agent is that someone, on behalf of ownership or not, leaked a deal to exert public pressure onto Dak during negotiations.
To support this claim, Ian Rapport, an NFL insider, tweeted that both the team and Dak’s agent argue these claims are false and that the key issue is the length of the deal. Prescott wants a 4 year deal, whereas the Cowboys want to settle on a 5 year deal.
Another issue raised with the deal is guaranteed money. If the major contract deals of the past few years are anything to go by, guaranteed money is the key component of any player contract within the NFL. Whilst total figures of contracts appear extortionate, in reality the players usually receive a fraction of this amount depending on performances and injuries.
The annual figure of around $32.5 million to $35 million has been widely agreed as an accurate representation of what the former MSU Bulldog has been promised, and is owed. But the guaranteed money is more hazy. Although Simms claimed Prescott had been offered a similar amount to Goff, at around $110 million, this figure has been refuted since the report of Simms.
Many NFL experts believe the real figure to be much lower than this, leading to the franchise quarterback to reject the deal. Given that Prescott has only earned $4 million from his rookie contract given that he was a fourth round pick, it is only fair that he is now searching for a more attractive payout now.
To summarise what we know so far, a leak from within the Cowboys organisation inflated figures to exert pressure on Prescott to take a deal less financially lucrative. But, in reality, money isn’t necessarily the sticking point in the deal, but more accurately what percentage is guaranteed and the length of the contract.
With that being said, it’s time to look at the stage which has been set. As the 15 July deadline inches closer, will a deal be done? There are plenty of those who doubt an agreement with be made with the two time pro bowler.
It has been argued that if the Cowboys genuinely believed Prescott to be their franchise quarterback he would have been payed last year and that Andy Dalton would not have been signed. Other notable draftees from the 2016 NFL Draft, Jarred Goff and Carson Wentz, were payed last offseason. And in addition to this, Dalton is a starting quality quarterback who could fill in for a disgruntled Prescott.
Whilst these arguments do have some validity to them, I do have my reservations about this case. Firstly, the Cowboys were in another contract saga this time last year with the Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliot who was threatening to sit out the season. Moreover, with regards to Andy Dalton, the move is a logical, precautionary move.
Whilst a side effect of the deal may be pressure put onto the former Rookie of the Year, I don’t believe this to be the sole focus of the deal. Firstly, to be able to sign a starting caliber quarterback to a 1 year $4million deal is an excellent business move. Prescott is yet to miss a game for the Cowboys. Take into account the Steelers’ season in 2019, Jones will be keen to avoid the scenario in which a talented team capable to making the playoffs is derailed by an injury. Prescott will miss a game at some point through injury, it is inevitable. But Jones has planned for this eventuality by signing Dalton.
In all likelihood, and if history is anything to go by, a deal will be made before the 15 July deadline.
Jerry Jones loves a star, and Prescott certainly is one. He has not only become the face of America’s team, but also of the NFL as a whole. As well as this, history shows Jones is willing to arguably overcompensate his star quarterback, as seen with Tony Romo.
Heading into the 2013 season, and with one playoff win under his belt, Jones signed Romo to a 6 year $110 million contract making him a top 3 earner in the league. Likewise, Dak is looking for a market setting deal despite having only 1 playoff win in his professional career as well. And finally, with the organisation in contention for their first Superbowl since 1996, the argument is that Jones would not risk this prospect before the season has even begun due to a dispute with the face of the franchise.
Ultimately, the saga between Prescott and the Cowboys which has lasted nearly a year by now will end one way or another come 15 July. Although I expect Jones to give way on either the percentage of guaranteed money or length, one thing is clear, the NFL is watching. With little else going on and the fact that Prescott will receive either record sums or the opportunity to join a team of his choosing, this is surely set to be a saga which shapes the NFL.