There has been a pattern in recent years in the NFL where the next big quarterback deal tends to be a tad more money than the last one.
All respect to the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott or the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson, but no quarterback anytime soon is likely to receive anything as extravagant or with quite the scope as the Chiefs’ deal with Mahomes just did.
This one is likely to bust the charts for a while. That doesn’t mean it likely won’t have an effect on what Prescott will eventually make.
His status is more urgent than that of Watson, who is scheduled for free agency after this season. Prescott has been levied with the franchise tag, and he and the team must work something out before July 15 before their window closes for this year.
Prescott’s agent, Todd France, almost assuredly knows his client isn’t getting Mahomes money. That doesn’t mean France can’t use that deal as leverage for a contract for Prescott.
Length matters ...
Ten-year contracts used to be a thing of the past. Drew Bledsoe, Daunte Culpepper and Michael Vick once signed deals that length, but that was a generation ago.
The assumption from the player/agent perspective is that the longer the deal, the more likely it is to end up being a bargain — leaving money on the table — the longer the contract goes on.
With the Mahomes contract, this isn’t likely to end up as some feel-good, hometown discount. And as it relates to Prescott, he and France sought a shorter deal similar to recent QB extensions. Carson Wentz ($128 million extension, $107.97 million guaranteed), Jared Goff ($134 million extension, $110 million guaranteed) and Russell Wilson ($140 million extension, $107 million guaranteed) all recently signed four-year add-ons.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson, France previously turned down a five-year offer from the Cowboys that was “fundamentally better” than Goff’s deal.
That leverage was tied to the idea that the Cowboys once caved to Ezekiel Elliott’s demands, so they of course needed to do the same for their quarterback. Now, France and Prescott have more leverage in Mahomes’ deal, not to mention the window soon to close.
They might not be thinking along the same lines as Mahomes on length. If the standoff proves anything, it’s that the tension is higher between Prescott and Dallas than it is with Mahomes and the Chiefs. And Prescott has wanted the shorter deal because that means it’s another year closer to hitting free agency again.
... but so does the money
Assuming France and Prescott do not pivot off of their shorter-deal strategy, any extension with Dallas almost certainly will have to be structured around average salary per year and guarantees.
Starting with the former element, Prescott’s franchise tender would guarantee him a one-year salary worth $31.4 million for 2020, assuming a new contract before July 15 supersedes that. Assume that’s the floor for a per-year average.
The deals for Wentz ($32 million per year), Goff ($33.5 million per year) and Wilson ($35 million per year) create a middle range for a per-year average.
It’s safe to say that Prescott and France can’t ask for Mahomes’ per season salary without Jerry Jones hanging up on them. But a deal somewhere north of what Wilson received per year, plus a little bump following the Mahomes news, is a reasonable ask for the agent.
As for the guaranteed part, the two sides are still more likely to end up closer to the Wentz-Goff-Wilson models than whatever Mahomes will be guaranteed as part of his deal worth a reported $450 million total. Still, the percentage of guaranteed money — plus any clever structuring — could affect the Prescott negotiations.
We’re entering uncharted waters here with the possibility of a shortened (or canceled) 2020 NFL season, and even if they play, there’s certain to be a league-wide revenue hit.
Hence, the salary cap — which has been going up around $10 million per team per year in the past several years — could go down next year or for multiple years, if the league spreads out the financial hit over a longer period.
Bottom line for Dak, Cowboys
The Mahomes deal dropping when it did likely hurt the Cowboys and helped Prescott.
Even if Prescott ends up not getting close to what Mahomes will, it certainly changed the financial parameters at the league’s most significant position.
That’s leverage for Prescott, even if the two contracts end up looking fundamentally different. It’s doubtful that the Cowboys can convince Prescott to add a year onto his deal with the logic of, well, hey, it’s still half as long as Mahomes’ contract! France likely can hold Jones’ feet to the fire on that one, even if it costs him a few bucks in the interim.
The Cowboys and Prescott have been close a few times in their negotiations leading up to now. And you have to wonder whether Dallas doesn’t regret not coming up a wee bit on its offer to Prescott last September, the point at which they previously appeared to be closest to a deal.
The price appears to have gone up since then, and the clock seems to be ticking a bit faster now.
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