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14 Jul 2020

Home of the NFL Offseason

Signing Dak Prescott: The Saga Begins

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 12: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts after a play in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Are you old enough to remember when the movie Star Wars came out to theaters? At the height of science-fiction, George Lucas was able to cash in with an interesting plot, lots of specifics and details to a world far away from our own universe. It was a good, original movie that was enjoyable despite a poor script. The dialogue between the characters oftentimes felt out of touch with the situation and the scenario. Regardless, it was well-received because, at the time, there wasn’t much that could compete with it. Did you see it becoming a nine-part series back then with a cult following, a massive fan base, and multiple other films coming out?

The Dallas Cowboys have been trying to re-sign quarterback Dak Prescott to a multi-year deal. The story has ended up being a movie-type situation that keeps getting deeper and deeper.

Even at the time of its release, Star Wars was unlikely to be the hit piece that it has become. As the story and the plot got deeper and deeper from the movies that were afterward released and the comic-books and novels that followed, it’s become a fantasy world of its own.

Many things are parallel to the origins of both the Dallas Cowboys franchise and the Dak Prescott story. The Cowboys weren’t supposed to have one of the biggest cult/fan bases in the NFL or be dubbed as America’s Team. Dak Prescott wasn’t supposed to be banging on the door trying to get upward over $30 million a year either.

Prescott was a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, taken after a plethora of quarterbacks. There was Jared Goff (who went first overall), Carson Wentz (the next pick), Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg, Jacoby Brissett, Cody Kessler, and Connor Cook. Four picks after Prescott, there was Cardale Jones.

Prescott entered the season as the third-string quarterback behind Tony Romo and Kellen Moore. Fate had it out for Prescott, as both Romo and Moore fell victim to injury in camp, and Prescott had one of the most impressive pre-seasons that we had ever seen. Since then, Prescott has yet to miss a game in his career.

Five years later, Prescott is entering a franchise tag season with the Cowboys while engaged in very bitter contract disputes. Let’s run through a recap of this story so far.

The 2019 season and discussions

Entering the 2019 season, the Cowboys tried to work things out with their star quarterback but to no avail. Rumor is that Prescott was offered by the club around five years and $30 million per year, with somewhere between $100-$110 million in guarantees. The Cowboys thought they were close to getting a deal done when Dak’s representation pulled out and ended contract negotiations.

Rumors swirled around the situation that Prescott was asking for $40 million a year, and of course the Cowboys said no. Those rumors were hardily believable, and the Prescott camp denied that it was the case.

Anyone familiar with the Cowboys knows how dirty owner Jerry Jones can be with the press while they are working out contract deals with star players. Jones has always been the type to leak rumors about the ridiculousness of the player and his demands to get the media and the fans all on the side of the owner. What ends up happening? Jones gets his way, they sign the star for less, and life goes on.

In 2019, that ploy was the “Prescott is asking for $40 million per year.” Prescott didn’t take the bait then and sign for less.

Negotiations this year

So far, negotiations have been fruitless between Prescott and the Cowboys. Prescott is coming off of the most productive season of his career, even despite an injury, throwing for just shy of 5000 yards and 30 touchdowns. The price tag has (reasonably) gone up.

This year, Jones tried a new media ploy. This time, it was leaked that the Cowboys offered a 5 year, $175 million deal and Prescott had again turned them down. At an average of $35 million per year, it would have made Dak the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. Immediately, the media and fans reacted with a “What is Dak thinking?” and “He’s not worth that.”

Again, Dak and his team denied the report. Only this time, a phone conversation leaked with Dak reportedly saying that if Dallas “can’t afford me, they need to trade me to someone who can.”

No one has yet to confirm the validity of the recording, and several videos have been posted by Cowboys media people debunking it as a fake video. If it’s real, it’s understandable. Prescott has been trying to get paid, he’s not settling, and that’s his perfectly fair right.

If the video is fake, it’s amazing just how far Jerry Jones and his staff is going to get the media to turn on Prescott. To an extent, they already have.

The complexity on both sides

Dallas has been, as of late, a great place to play football. If you play well, you will get paid well. That’s evident by the deals in place with running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, guard Zack Martin, so on and so forth. The problem is that these players are all getting paid, and now you have your biggest elephant in the room (the quarterback) and you’re running out of cap space.

Does Dak deserve the money? Probably, he’s certainly been productive enough. The Cowboys haven’t finished under .500 during his four years as a starter. Prescott has put up good numbers. They have two playoff appearances, and he won a playoff game against the Seahawks in 2018.

That’s exactly the problem though, the Cowboys in four years have never advanced beyond the Divisional Round. That’s problematic if you are trying to sign a deal worth more than any other at your position.

Now, with how low the Cowboys ownership has stooped to demean your name and your image, do you take the money and play in Dallas? Do you even want to play in Dallas?

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott rolls out to pass against the New England Patriots in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

In the meantime, as I had mentioned previously, Jones stoops low at times when negotiating with his players. When the team was working out a deal with Ezekiel Elliott, he referred to his running back as “Zeke who?” The media flipped on Elliott, and two weeks later he signed his contract with the Cowboys for less than he was asking. Jones unveiled the “Zeke who” t-shirts that sold in the Cowboys team store to celebrate.

All throughout history, you will see the toughness of Jones throughout his career when dealing with these. Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, etc, all of these players have experienced this. Now, he’s tried his normal routine with Prescott, and his quarterback hasn’t budged.

With as much that has been spun out of the whole situation, most of it being Jones’ doing, if Prescott won’t settle, can Jerry? Jones now runs the risk of getting backlashed by the media for signing Prescott to a crazy deal, because “he’s not worth the money.”

How can we expect this to end?

When Troy Aikman retired in 2001, the Cowboys went through a “purgatory” period without a good starting quarterback. The team cycled through Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Hutchinson, and Drew Bledsoe before finding and settling with Tony Romo. Jones knows a thing or two about how difficult it is to find a franchise quarterback and keeping him around.

However, it appears that Prescott is a cut above other people. He wants to be fully compensated. He will not settle for less, and he appears to be looking to make an example out of Jones and his negotiating tactics.

Reasonably, how can we expect this to end?

The two sides have until July 15th to work out a long term deal. On that day, Dak will sign the franchise tender, and the two sides will not be permitted to negotiate until after the season on a long term deal. Dak can holdout of work without penalty until week one of the regular season.

Right now, I wouldn’t expect the two sides to come to an agreement. I would almost expect Prescott to walk in 2021 and look for a new team. There will most certainly be a market lined up for him to. If Prescott is looking to make a point, that’s what he will do.

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