Could Cowboys have to choose between Parsons, Dak?

Mike Florio and Chris Simms analyze how the Cowboys have restructured deals for the cap to this point and question who Dallas would choose if they found themselves in a financial bind.

Video Transcript

- Now, Stephen Jones also addressed this issue of reassigning some of their star players who are up for extensions. So maybe for most guys, they're going to be as careful as they've been. Here's what he said, "I feel like as we move forward it will all be about timing, but we feel like we can work within the parameters of the cap and make those types of things happen. I wouldn't say just because we don't get it done by the start of the season, it doesn't mean we're not going to ultimately sign them. We're currently at a big number with Dak. So when the really daunting part comes is when you move from a rookie contract to making the type of money quarterbacks make now."

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Don't blame it on Dak. Blame it on yourself for screwing around and putting Dak in a position of extreme power he was able to leverage the best quarterback deal out there because it combines high API with short duration, gets him back to the table sooner, and he's already got them over a barrel again after two years of this four-year contract.

The cap number is high and he's got mechanisms built into this contract that if they don't get it done, he becomes a free agent. They can't tag him the way the voids work. And when they kick in, it's been perfectly and expertly negotiated to set him up for another huge payday or a trip to the open market. And the sooner they do it, the better off they're going to be.

But don't blame it on him. Blame it on yourself. It's not his fault. It's your fault for mishandling the situation. He's gotten paid, and now what they need him to do is a contract that reduces his cap number. That's on them to figure it out, and it's going to be interesting this time around because are they going-- at what point are they going to say--

- Yeah. Yeah.


- --start over.

- Right. Start over, or--

- Are they even tempted to do that?

- Right. I know. I know. I'm with you there, and that part of it being very intriguing and going, wait, would they start over, right? Or they're going to let them know that like, listen, you're not these guys. Sorry. You're good, but you're just not them right now. You're not. Dak Prescott's year was underwhelming last year. I'm a big Dak Prescott fan. You know that. He's been consistently, like, in my top 10 quarterback rankings and that, and I think there's been more value than people have realized.

But last year was not a great year. He didn't take care of the ball. He missed throws. He didn't make as many plays, right? He's still really damn good, but he was being paid as the starter quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys to be the man, and win, and pull through in some big moments when they weren't supposed to win the game. That's what you're being-- and that's where Dak Prescott is it's a part of his career he's missing right now, let alone it's like, no, no, you got beat as the better team at home against Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers, right? We've seen some of that.


We've seen them lay some eggs in some playoff games. And then, of course, last year with the way the year ended, I mean, that was-- he played really bad in the NFC Divisional game, I mean really bad. He threw 2 interceptions in really two of the most crucial moments of the football game that were inexcusable for a guy like him, let alone the last game of the regular season against Washington that was really bad too. So there's got to be a little bit of a bitter taste in the Cowboys brass' mouth there a little bit.

- Oh, he knows because the content team made sure he knew.

- That's right.

- And the Chargers made sure we knew and were reminded of it in the schedule release video last week. I'm looking at his contract now, and look, they did four years, $160 million, $40 million per year, which at the time they did it in 2021 wasn't top of the market. It was $5 million short of Mahomes' APY, but as I explained at the time it's a much better contract because of the cash flow, and because it's only four years. It's not 12 years. It's four years. You're back at the table. You get another opportunity.


But given the restructuring they've done to manage the cap numbers, they've got him to a point where his cap number for this year is $26.8 million, which isn't bad. It's not bad. Here's the problem. Next year, next year it's $59.4 million, and you can't restructure in the last year of a contract. I mean, you can with voidable years. You can convert you, and then you have-- but you can't do it as easily as you can when you have years left.

He's going to want and he's going to need a new contract. So you've got Dak. You've got Micah Parsons. And is there a point, could there become a dilemma for the Cowboys where they have to choose between one or the other? Could they have to choose between Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons? And just based on the things I've heard you say the past 20 minutes, I already know the answer as to which one you would choose.

- Definitely.

- If you had to choose between one or the other.


- Yeah, no doubt about that. I mean, Micah Parsons-- Micah Parsons is the first guy we've talked about in the last decade that's taken the mantle from Aaron Donald to where we go, no, this is the best defensive player in football. Dak Prescott's really damn good, and I believe you can win a Super Bowl with Dak Prescott. I certainly don't want to disrespect what he can do, but has he played to the level of, like you said, kind of a groundbreaking contract at the time, right?

Yeah. Mahomes is better, but, I mean, like, first three years cash flow, right? As you we explained and talked about last week. It's not even close. I mean, Dak Prescott's killing it that way, right? It was not nearly as team-friendly that. And so, will he maybe look at that this time around and start to go, you know what? I've made some money now. I did good there. Maybe I'll dial it back a little bit so we make sure we get CeeDee Lamb under contract, and we give Micah Parsons everything he deserves, and Trevon Diggs is another guy coming down the pipe here that is a special unicorn-ish type of player there. So they got some people on their radar here that they're going to have to pay big bucks. They got big personalities, and they're big ballers, and they want to be paid. And that's the Dallas Cowboy way, and that's what they're going to have to deal with.

- One of these times with one of these quarterbacks when you get into the back and forth over what he's worth, I'd love to let the team allow the player to hit the market. Let's let the market decide what he's worth. That's why I hate the franchise tag.

- Yeah.


- It provides an artificial barrier to the opportunity for everyone to know what the player is truly worth, and the Cowboys played that game with Dak. Now, it was about to blow up in their faces, and they did this four-year $160 million deal, but at some point let the world find out what a guy would get from another team.

And it would be a fascinating question right now if Dak Prescott were available after this season to any team out there, how much would he get? How much would someone offer him? Would someone get rid of the quarterback they have and make a beeline for Dak Prescott? I don't know where he fits. He's not on my short list of franchise quarterbacks right now. He's on the other side of that line.

- Right.

- And it'll be interesting where you have him in your top 40 as we work our way up, and we'll have a few more of them later in the program. But there's only one way for the player and the team to learn what the player is truly worth, and that's for the player to hit the market.


And the Ravens kind of did that with Lamar Jackson, but the problem was there was two first round draft picks as compensation. The whole fully guaranteed contract thing, the absence of an agent. I don't know that Lamar Jackson got a true picture of what another team viewed him as being worth, and it's still worked out for him well with the Ravens because the Ravens were looking at life without him.

But I'd love to have a chance to find out what the rest of the league thinks of Dak Prescott because that would be the best way for he and the Cowboys to get a fair contract that carries them into the future if they choose that they want to keep continuing. I think what happens, Chris, is that because they found him in round four and they've developed him into this franchise quarterback, there's a certain amount of ego and pride that prevents them from saying we're going to start over again. I really feel like they take ownership. They take too much ownership and too much ego--

- Of their draft picks.

- --that creeps into their business decisions.


- Yes. Right. I'd agree with you there. Right? I feel like Ezekiel Elliott, you could speak to that with that contract, that it got a little personal because he was their guy, and they went out on a limb and took a running back in the top five, and he was really good early on in his career. Then they got backed into a corner and paid him too much money.

I feel like that's a little bit, like you said, they backed themselves into a corner here a little bit with this conversation with Dak Prescott, but also have, like, let us have little warning signs that they're not always, like, exactly pleased, or they want more from him at the position, you know? Whether it's being thrown under the bus by the media team there and the social team there in Dallas, or I can think of-- I think of, like, two years ago, I think they played at Seattle, right?

Do you remember after that game where Jerry Jones made some comments? Like, man, well, their quarterback ran around and made some plays. I wish our quarterback would run and make some of those plays and do some of that stuff, right? You know, I feel like they almost realized he's not superstar to a degree. But again, it's like, OK, we got one who's good. He's not Mahomes or Allen or that kind of guy, but he's good and we don't know what we could get or what's going to be better than him at quarterback.

And because of all that, and the things you explained, and his good start to his early career, I think they backed themselves into a little bit of a corner there as well. But as we saw just with like the Niners and Brock Purdy, when Cooper Rush was playing quarterback the Dallas Cowboys were still a really good football team. And to your point, I know, when is one team going to have the guts to maybe make that decision?


- You know what's funny? Cooper Rush became a free agent. We got a chance to see what the market would bear for his services, and not even a cricket, not even a ripple, not even a consideration of him going somewhere where he could maybe be the placeholder while a rookie gets ready. He goes back to Dallas for a reasonable contract for a backup. Nothing to write home about. And it's just, yeah, the guy was 4 and 0 last year I think, or he had-- he's got some tremendous record of winning.

- Right. Might have been 4 and 1.

- --in the games he's played.

- Yeah. Yeah.

- And he runs he runs the offense. And remember what happened last year? When he came in, you were right on this from the get-go. He forced the Cowboys to be more creative offensively. They no longer could just sit back and say we have Dak, he'll do his thing. They had to be more creative about moving the football, offensively with running it and passing it, and fooling the defense, game-planning, putting in more time, putting in more effort.

That's one of the dangers. When you have a great quarterback, one of the real dangers-- and this is something you've taught me-- is relying upon the guy instead of combining the guy with a relentless work ethic and passion to get the most out of the guy. Too many teams will sit back and say he's got it.

- He's got it. We're good.

- Instead of we need to help him get it.

- Right. Right. We need to help him get it, and then, yeah, he's got this and then more, right? I think that's where we get into the Mahomes conversation. There's a little of that. Like, he's got it, but they're always tinkering with a new way to help them out and help him even make our jaws drop even more. That's what the really good ones are.

Same with, like, I used to laugh with Tom Brady, right, in New England early in our working relationship. I said why is it that the best team with the best quarterback runs the most trick plays? Well, why is that? Why doesn't anybody else do that, right? I mean, that's, again, that's good offensive football.

So it is. It's a trap a lot of organizations fall into, and we saw Dallas focus on the run game and get more creative because of that last year with the absence of Dak Prescott. But yeah. This is a big year. I think there's a big spotlight on Dallas, and they're a team that's semi in the Super Bowl window, and the quarterback has not played up to the standards of what I thought he might be or what the Cowboys thought he might be when he signed the contract.

- Bottom line, they still haven't been to the NFC Championship game since the year 1995. And this year, a lot more pressure on head coach, Mike McCarthy, because he is running the offense, and there are many who believe that Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator, is the guy who will take over if and when McCarthy no longer is the guy in the opinion of the Jones' who run the team.