Russell Wilson’s deal proves Cowboys aced Prescott negotiations since 2019

·8 min read

On Thursday, the Denver Broncos announced a new deal that rewarded quarterback Russell Wilson with an obscene amount of money. The club hopes Wilson, who was already set to make an obscene amount of money via the contract he was under when traded from the Seattle Seahawks, will end their carousel of QBs since the retirement of Peyton Manning. The Dallas Cowboys haven’t had to endure this uncertainty. They were blessed to move on from the Tony Romo era to the Dak Prescott era rather smoothly as far as QB switches go.

Romo was consistently hurt, and a woefully under-drafted fourth-round pick was waiting in the wings to take over and continue a window of championship opportunity. The fact Dallas hasn’t climbed through the window is a different conversation than having a QB capable of doing such things with. Prescott is capable, and Dallas was right to pay him a big contract in 2021. That negotiation brought much ire and outrage from the fanbase when the deal landed at $40 million a season. The fake issues were wrong then, but that wasn’t the only thing that was wrong.

Cowboys fans and analysts, including yours truly, have been wrong the entire time. Even before that deal was consummated, there was another large contingent of folks on the opposite side saying Dallas was waiting too long to give Prescott a new deal, allowing it to grow more expensive by the day. It turns out they (we) were wrong, too.

Here’s how it all is woven together.

Wilson's deal pushes Prescott down

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest gripe when Prescott’s deal was announced was that he became the second-highest paid QB behind Patrick Mahomes, and Prescott wasn’t in the category of those upper-echelon guys.

At the time he was paid more than guys like Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and more.

As much as we tried to explain the facts, that certain contingent of fans could not be talked off the ledge.

Quarterback contracts, really NFL contracts in general but specifically at this position, are all about when a player is up for a new deal. Prescott ranking second in average value had nothing to do with whether or not he was a top-2 QB. He was a top-third QB who happened to be up for a new deal. We tried to preach to everyone that he’d soon be knocked down the list by other QBs when they signed new deals and look what happened.

Prescott is now tied for eighth overall, just one season later.

  1. Aaron Rodgers: $50.3M

  2. Wilson: $49M

  3. Kyler Murray: $46M

  4. Deshaun Watson: $46M

  5. Patrick Mahomes: $45M

  6. Josh Allen: $43M

  7. Derek Carr: $40.5M

  8. Matt Stafford: $40M

  9. Dak Prescott: $40M

 

Prescott will likely drop further before his next deal

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Prescott is literally at the bottom of the top tier now and will get pushed down even further when Baltimore gives Lamar Jackson his new deal. He could go further if Cincinnati and/or Los Angeles re-ups Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert after the season.

Within two years it’s entire realistic Prescott’s $40 million per year deal is outside of the top 10; which reiterates the pained takes that had to be tweeted relentlessly when people with sunglasses on in their truck-pic avatars went apoplectic last spring.

At the same time though, many of us on the other side of the fence were dead wrong, too.

Complaining about Dallas waiting too long to sign Prescott

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

In Winter 2018/2019, Prescott was completing his third season. I penned a piece that went into intricate detail that the Cowboys needed to make Prescott a $200 million man and sign him to a lengthy deal averaging $29 million a year. I was virtually booed relentlessly from those sunglass avis. Prescott’s beginning of 2018 was horrid, he was woefully inaccurate and didn’t look like he was going to last.

Only Dallas had kneecapped him with a horrid group of receivers. They traded for Amari Cooper mid year and Stella started finding his groove.

In multiple 2019 articles and numerous tweets I stayed on this perch, thinking the Cowboys were making a big mistake in not paying him as soon as he was eligible for an extension (NFL teams cannot re-negotiate a rookie deal until after Year 3).

But I was in fact wrong; just not for the reasons the antis claimed I was.

Prescott's 2019 demands

In June 2019, we learned Prescott’s agent Todd France was seeking a deal averaging $34 million a year. Here’s what I wrote at that time.

The Cowboys clearly didn’t accept those terms either. And we were ticked off.

Prescott 2019 Demands, Part Deux

As the back and forth went on, with offers from the Cowboys increasing the average value (the part talked about publicly) but falling short in other important areas (re: guaranteed money), the counters were leaked to the press as well. Look at the tweets when in late summer it was bandied about France was countering Dallas’ offers with $40 million a year.

Trust me when I tell you a myriad more reaction tweets have since been deleted.

Prescott bets on himself

(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Following those failed negotiations, Prescott went out there in 2019 and balled on a paltry $2 million salary, proceeding to fall just one-yard short of Dallas’ single-season yardage mark.

He threw for 4,902 yards, 30 TDs and just 11 interceptions. He had a 71.9 QBR, an Approximate value of 15 and lead all NFL QBs in defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. He had arrived and we all decried the Cowboys for not taking advantage of the opportunity to sign him early.

But there was still no deal waiting him. The Cowboys slapped the franchise tag on him, giving him $31.4 million for one season but with no long-term security. The July 15 deadline for a multiyear deal came and went and Prescott went into 2020 and balled out again.

Until a horrific Week 5 injury ended his season (and almost his career). But in his absence, his value was now crystal clear. The Cowboys’ offense tanked and when the two sides returned to the negotiating table in January, Prescott had all of the leverage.

The two sides reached a four-year, $160 million agreement that had two void years to help offset signing bonus allocation, and Prescott was a $40 million a year man.

Fan reactions and why Stephen Jones was right all along

(AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

On one side of the arena were those Oakley-donned detractors saying he wasn’t worth it. On the other side of the arena were those calculator holders such as myself decrying the Cowboys for waiting too long.

But when one takes a step back and looks at the landscape, both sides were wrong.

The Cowboys handled the three years of negotiating exactly right. Here’s why.

Put the pieces together

(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Look at how much Prescott has been paid since being eligible for an extension and is scheduled to be paid through the end of his contract in 2024.

2019: $2.1 million
2020: $31.4 million
2021-2024: $40 million per, $160 million in all

Total: $194 million for six years

That averages out to be $32.3 million per season.

If the Cowboys were entering Year 4 of a six-year deal that paid Prescott just $32.3 million per season it would sandwich him right between the deals that Jared Goff and Carson Wentz currently have, with all three players set to hit free agency again in 2025.

That’s 2016 quarterback class which Prescott has clearly outplayed as Goff is on Team 2 and Wentz on Team 3. The Cowboys got him for basically the exact same price second contract, on top of the discount of his first three seasons being paid at the fourth-round pick price.

If Dallas had offered him that six-year deal at that point, Prescott also would have much firmer footing to demand to be renegotiated next offseason. It still might happen, but “I’m ranked 14th and being paid what Goff and Wentz are at $32 million” hits a lot different than “ranked 11th and paid what Stafford is being paid.”

Add in the fact that the Cowboys likely kept that $30 million ear-marked for Prescott’s extension in investments and had that money make money in 2019… whew.

Folks are going to hate to admit it, but Stephen Jones handled the Dak Prescott negotiations beautifully, from the start.

We were all wrong.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire