Cowboys' indecision on Dak Prescott has hampered their ability to improve the roster

For a team at the forefront of the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys have had an uncomfortably quiet offseason for their fan base. The Cowboys have kind of sat on their hands for the vast majority of the past few months. They tinkered around with their roster with a few lower-level free agents, but overall it was a fairly quiet offseason for a team that had high hopes before it was mercilessly beat down by the Green Bay Packers in a home playoff game.

Teams have had quiet offseasons before, but the Cowboys have handcuffed themselves by not making moves to the core of their roster, especially when it comes to their star quarterback Dak Prescott.

Perhaps the loudest noise came from Prescott himself on Wednesday, when he made the curious statement to reporters about his compensation, saying, "I don't play for money. Never have and never cared, to be honest with you. I would give it up to just play this game. I'll leave that to the business people to say what it's worth and what they're supposed to give a quarterback of my play, a person of my play and a leader of my [caliber]. I'll control what I can control, and the rest will take care of itself."

According to Spotrac, Prescott has the second-highest salary-cap hit among all players in the NFL this year with a whopping $55.5 million cap figure as he enters the final year of his deal. It has been a big hamper on the Cowboys’ plans for the offseason — they currently have a little under $2 million in available cap space as training camp looms around the corner. The indecision on Prescott’s future is hampering what’s possible for this year, which in turn could hamper Prescott’s ability to have a strong season as he gets ready for what's next in his career.

What’s mind-boggling about this is that the Cowboys could easily do something about this situation if they had some resolve and an idea of what they wanted to do next. There are three paths ahead for the Cowboys right now and they’re currently taking the path of least resistance by just walking into the season as they are with this gargantuan cap figure for Prescott. The other two paths would take a level of commitment they aren’t ready for — and they’ve missed the window to reap immediate benefits for both.

  • The first option is to extend Prescott now, locking him in as the quarterback for the foreseeable future and lowering his cap hit this season so they could have been more aggressive in the free-agent game. It’s not guaranteed they would have been able to get a big-time player in free agency with a lower figure for Prescott, but it could have been possible. Inaction has left them with a weaker roster than it had last season.

  • The Cowboys' other path would have been radical, but trading Prescott if they’re not sure about him being the quarterback of the future isn’t unreasonable as a thought experiment. They could have acquired multiple first-round draft picks for Prescott and would have had the ammo to shape the Cowboys' future as they see fit. Now, this would have huge ramifications, like deciding what to do with stars CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons and their upcoming contract situations, but trading Prescott at least would have had the potential to jumpstart the next era of Dallas football. Unfortunately, the 2024 NFL Draft is long over, so any picks the team would get wouldn’t even kick in until next season. All signs point to the Cowboys just moving forward without any innovation or creativity as far as their cap space is concerned.

Dallas is entering a pivotal year without making real moves to start ensuring its future. Even beyond Prescott, it still has to make moves on long-term contracts for Lamb and Parsons, who have similar levels of value as Prescott in terms of what they could get back in a trade. Right now, the Cowboys are just floating in limbo. And it’s really inexcusable that they haven’t made the requisite moves to capitalize on such a huge season.