One of the biggest questions of the 2021 NFL offseason was resolved Monday night when news broke that the Dallas Cowboys signed Dak Prescott to a four-year, $160 million deal. By coming to terms, Dallas avoided having to put the franchise tag on Prescott for the second year in a row.
In reality, this was the only move that made sense for the Cowboys. From Dallas’ point of view, it made no sense for Prescott to play on a one-year deal at the $37.8 million franchise tag. It would have been a terrible use of resources, because he would then be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
Once Deshaun Watson signed a $39 million-a-year deal last year, clearly that was the floor. Prescott’s deal includes a $66 million signing bonus and $126 million guaranteed in the first three years. With Watson’s deal as the floor, we had been thinking Prescott’s deal would be in that $40 million for four years area. The fact that he’s got $42 million per year for the first three years truly demonstrates the rare and unique leverage that Prescott had.
Remarkably, his injury this past season actually helped Prescott’s leverage. Including playoffs, Prescott’s career record as a starter is 43-29. After Prescott went down last season, the Cowboys were 3-7 – and their offense sputtered.
The seeds of this situation began to be sowed two years ago when Dallas unnecessarily signed Zeke Elliott to a long-term deal when he still had two years under contract (plus the ability to franchise him after that). I fully expect Elliott to be cut next year and have a $10.8 million cap charge. Look for Tony Pollard to be a cheaper, almost-as-productive running back for them.
Meanwhile, now that the Prescott drama is over, they can turn their attention to other pressing roster issues. Maybe they try to keep CB Chidobe Awuzie.They need to sign a pass rusher, another corner, maybe an offensive tackle. They can go in a number of different directions here. This should free up a significant amount of cap room.
In terms of looking at this through the lens of Dallas, they did get five years for Prescott when you consider they had him on the franchise tag last year at $31,409,000. Add $160 million to it and that’s $191,409,000 — which is $38,281,800 over five years. That comes in under Deshaun Watson on an average per year. So while we heard that length was always an issue (Prescott wanted shorter, Dallas wanted longer), when you consider this a two-year negotiation, Dallas certainly got the length it coveted.