One of the truisms of the NFL is this: If you have a franchise-level player, eventually you’ll have to pay him. If it’s a quarterback, teams should be prepared to reset the market.
The Dallas Cowboys have drafted some excellent players in recent years, but as their rookie contracts are coming to an end, the team has to decide how — or maybe, whether — it can pay all of them.
‘It’s important for these guys to get their worth’
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is heading into the final year of his rookie contract; as a fourth-round pick in 2016, his contract was for four years.
As of right now, his salary for 2019 is slated to be $2,025,000, or 37th among quarterbacks in terms of cash spent. And that’s a significant pay bump, thanks to $1.3 million in performance bonuses he earned via the proven-performance escalator that’s part of the collective bargaining agreement.
Speaking with USA Today this week, Prescott showed he’s learned about NFL business and seems to believe there’s enough for everyone in Dallas to be happy.
“For somebody to say you can only take so much because of the salary cap or you can only do this or that, I don’t know how fair that is to say,” Prescott said. “Because with gambling, with everything going into this league, everything is going to continue to keep going up.
“It’s important for all these guys to get every bit of their worth. I want to see Zeke [Elliott] the highest paid. I want to see Amari [Cooper] the highest paid. I want to see myself up there. And I don’t think any of that is too far-fetched. Because at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, a year or two later, you’re not going to be the highest paid. That’s just the way the game goes.”
Nearly every year, there’s a quarterback contract that changes the market — until the next market-changing deal is signed. The $103 million contract Cam Newton agreed to with the Carolina Panthers just four years ago almost pales in comparison to the $140 million extension Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks signed earlier this year.
‘Success is such a big umbrella’
Prescott has said before he won’t take a so-called hometown discount, and he doesn’t seem to believe that he needs to agree to less to keep Dallas’ roster intact.
“I don’t think it’s fair to sit there and say, ‘This guy can’t get that because he needs the rest of the team,’” he said. “The rest of the team can all get theirs with the way the league is trending.”
He knows that the pressure to produce will increase once he’s signed.
“Success is such a big umbrella in my eyes. I don’t even think about judging myself or taking the pros and cons, pluses and minuses, of what I did to reach that until I hang up the cleats,” he said. “So for me it’s about just being the best I can and making sure I’m getting better each and every year in all those aspects of life.
“It’s much bigger than to say I’ve reached success or I’ve earned my money or earned what people put the dollar amount as worth. It’s bigger than that.”
Prescott has good leverage
“Worth” is a relative term in this situation. There are only a handful of guys like Tom Brady or Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, and none of them is going to another team.
So when a team has a quarterback it believes can help win games, can be the leader and tone-setter it needs and it’s time to agree to a new contract, get ready to write a big check.
Prescott is seemingly Exhibit A. There has been a good deal of discussion, even among Cowboys fans, as to whether he’s “worth” a top-of-the-QB-market contract, or whether he’s a generational talent.
The bigger question is: If you don’t pay Prescott, who’s helped you to NFC East titles in two of his first three seasons, and you lose him, what other options will you have? Are you willing to cycle through a couple of journeymen over a few years until the next great one is drafted? Give up some first- and second-round picks to acquire one?
Yeah, that’s why QBs get paid.
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