Cowboys are claiming to have learned their QB-contract lessons

Some lessons are harder to absorb than others. For the Dallas Cowboys, they continue to learn at a slower pace than most of the league. In the NFL, it’s become evident that when a good quarterback is eligible for a new contract, it would behoove the team to pay them as soon as that time comes because waiting only costs more money. With the Cowboys, it was a costly lesson learned with their Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott.

During the 2019 offseason, the Cowboys had an opportunity to lock their emerging QB into a long-term deal, but failed to do so. It was a difficult time for the team because they were also dealing with the holdout from running back Ezekiel Elliott, so they were being pulled in a few directions. While trying to feel out what Prescott might ask for in a new deal, the QB was at least still working out with the team while Elliott was away in Mexico. At the time, the team wound up working out an extension with the star RB and allowing Prescott to play out his rookie deal.

When the 2020 offseason rolled around, the Cowboys and Prescott had work to do to get the QB a new deal. Reports were the team was willing to pay around $30 million annually, while the players price was at $40 million. There was no deal to be had and Prescott played under the franchise tag for $31.4 million.

A serious injury robbed Prescott of much of the 2020 season, and his future was in doubt. There were questions about Prescott getting back to playing at the same level after his ankle fracture, and how would the Cowboys react to a new contract with their QB coming off a gruesome injury?

The answer came quickly, Prescott signed his current deal, at four years, $160 million, with a $66 million signing bonus and $126 million guaranteed in late February. The new deal was done before Prescott was able to hit free agency.

Prescott got his $40 million per season, the Cowboys ponied up more money than they wanted, and the QB leveraged the team to a four-year deal and a no-tag clause based on their unwillingness to work with him the prior offseason. If the team had gotten a deal done a year or two earlier, they probably could’ve saved a ton of money.

Currently, Prescott is two years into that four-year agreement, but the team could extend his contract. With Dallas being strapped for salary cap dollars, it would make sense to either restructure or extend Prescott because they likely cannot afford for him to eat up $49.1 million of space. If the team wants to use free agency to improve the team (stop snickering) and re-sign some of their impending free agents, they’ll need to make that decision.

It looks as though the organization has learned their lesson and will look to extend Prescott sooner rather than later. Team Executive VP and COO Stephen Jones let the cat out of the bag during an interview while in Indianapolis at the NFL combine.

This is the right move; the Cowboys have to see the writing on the wall. Not only do they need to open up some cap space, but there are other high profile quarterbacks who are about to re-set the QB market and getting a deal done sooner rather than later would be ideal.

Among the those due for extensions or new contracts are Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow, Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert and Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who are all sure to skyrocket past Prescott both in average annual salary and guaranteed money. These are the QBs the Cowboys want to avoid getting behind in terms of a deal, getting Prescott’s deal completed first should be a priority. That’s easier said than done, but it could ultimately save the team money.

There are also other solid starting QBs who aren’t as good as the group above who are about to get new deals. This list includes former Las Vegas Raider Derek Carr, San Francisco 49er Jimmy Garoppolo, and perhaps the most interesting name, Daniel Jones, who is coming off his best season.

The New York Giants’ QB is reportedly seeking $45 million in an extension, a number that many laugh at, but Jones’ representatives aren’t dumb, they know what it took the Cowboys too long to understand. The prices never go down, especially on quarterbacks, they only go up.

Dallas learned that with Prescott and it’s a lesson they don’t care to repeat. When it’s your time as a QB, you get paid; the next QB in line breaks the bank and sets the price for the next guy. That’s how it has been for the quarterback market and that doesn’t feel like it’s going to change anytime soon. If Jones gets his asking price before Prescott gets an extension, things could turn ugly for the Cowboys in trying to get a deal they’d be comfortable with.

The Joneses are wise to try and get Prescott extended this offseason, preferably before any of the other quarterbacks get signed. Even if they fail to do that, a new Prescott deal needs to happen. Locking in Prescott for more than just the next two years while reducing his cap hit is a no-brainer.

Maybe the Cowboys were paying attention after all. Usually slow to react, the team looks like they’re on top of Prescott’s contract this time around, and it will save them money in the end. Waiting to pay a quarterback is always a bad idea, and the Cowboys, for once, are taking the smart approach.

What took them so long?

You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire