Dak Prescott: What a $35 million per year deal may look like

The Dallas Cowboys are currently negotiating with QB Dak Prescott on a new contract. What are some possible contract structures for the signal caller and what does this mean for the Cowboys as a whole?

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is seeking big money in his next contract, approximately $35 million per year. What could such a deal look like?

In today’s world of growing salaries and bloated contracts for NFL quarterbacks, teams love it when they still have their young quarterback on their rookie contract. They’re not committing as much money to one position as they inevitably will. That money can then go to other positions and begin to build your roster for the future. For the Dallas Cowboys, 2019 may be the final year in which they have that luxury, as Dak Prescott is reportedly seeking a new contract worth $40 million per year. In reality, the actual contract may end up in the neighborhood of around $35 million per year.

Carson Wentz deal

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz recently signed a four-year extension worth $128 million. That works out to $32 million per year in new money. And Wentz has had season-ending injuries in each of the past two seasons. Prescott has had a clean bill of health throughout his career. He has not missed a game since taking over for an injured Tony Romo during the 2016 preseason. That stat alone will likely help Prescott’s annual value push higher and part of why he likely rejected Dallas’ recent offer of $30 million per year, as reported by NFL Network’s Jane Slater.

So let’s dive into Wentz’s new contract, courtesy of Over the Cap, to gather his latest numbers. We’ll then use that as a baseline as to what a new contract for Prescott could look like. (The Nosebleed Seats podcast also talked about the looming showdown between Dak Prescott and the Cowboys and his new contract, and is worth a listen.)

Wentz’ deal is structured in that his salary cap hit does not skyrocket until 2021. He’ll count just $8.4 million, approximately, in 2019 (4.25 percent) and about $18.65 million in 2020 (projected 9.5 percent). But by 2021, his cap number goes all the way up to almost $34.7 million. Wentz then has cap hits of approximately $31.3 million in 2022, $36.3 million in 2023 and $32 million in 2024. Keep in mind, the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2020 season, so salary caps after 2021 are difficult to project.

By comparison for 2019, Prescott will count just $2.12 million (1.06 percent) against the Cowboys’ salary cap.

Dak Prescott possible deal structuring

So let’s say Prescott and the Cowboys agree to a five-year extension. $35 million per year would mean a $175 million extension. There also no reason to think Prescott can’t challenge for at least $70 million guaranteed, as Wentz received about $67 million guaranteed. Recent quarterback deals have reached as high as $100 million guaranteed, including Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. Let’s split the difference and give Prescott $85 million guaranteed. And we’ll estimate Prescott’s signing bonus at around $30 million (again, splitting the difference between Wentz’s deal and those of Ryan and Rodgers), which would add $6 million to Prescott’s salary cap hit each year, since you would divide the $30 million over the five years of the contract.

At a projected salary cap of about $205.8 million, let’s set Prescott at about 13 percent of that, which would be roughly $26.75 million. Subtract Prescott’s $6 million charge from the prorated signing bonus and we’re left with $20.75 million, which we’ll set as Prescott’s 2020 salary.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll add 0.25 percent to each subsequent salary-cap charge, meaning we’ll make Prescott count 13.25 percent against the cap in 2021 and so on to also account for the rising projected salary caps. For this exercise, we are using Zack Moore‘s projected salary cap numbers from his book Caponomics. We’re also using these percentages to allow for Prescott to be among the highest-paid contracts in the NFL, but not have a percentage quite so high in terms of his perceived rank in the NFL. Being around 13 to 14 percent likely puts him, perhaps pretty fairly, in the second tier of quarterback contracts.

Year-by-year projection

So with a projected salary cap of $225.5 million in 2021, 13.25 percent of that would be almost $29.8 million with a base salary of about $23.8 million.

In 2022, Moore’s projected salary cap is $244.5 million. With a 13.5 percent cap hit, that would put Prescott at approximately $33 million and a base salary of $27 million.

For 2023, we go up to a $266.5 million projected salary cap and count Prescott 13.75 percent against the cap, which would equal about $36.6 million and have a base salary of about $30.6 million.

And in the final year of the deal, 2024, Moore’s projected salary cap is $290.5 million. At 14 percent of the cap, Prescott would be holding a cap hit of almost $40.7 million and a base salary of $34.7 million.

Now, while these percentage may seem low immediately, we also are trying to set up this contract for Dak Prescott as best we can to also allow the other big deals to fall, namely Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. And that’s without even talking about the big contract that’s already been signed by DeMarcus Lawrence.

We can also add a roster bonus throughout the contract to control the salary cap hits as well. Wentz has roster bonuses of five million in each of the last two years of his contract (2023 and 2024).

Let’s bump that up to match that of Matt Ryan, who has $7.5 million in roster bonuses in the last two years of his contract. That would keep the cap hits the same for the year but drop Prescott’s base salaries to about $23.1 million in 2023 and almost $27.1 million in 2024. That allows for some flexibility near the end of the contract and potential for another extension should it come to fruition.

Contracts are always tough to figure out, especially when factoring in two other large upcoming contracts. And this was certainly on the simpler side in terms of numbers. Dak Prescott’s next contract may be more complex than this. But this at least shows it is possible, especially with the constantly rising salary caps and how they may rise even faster should the players get a large portion of the revenue in the new CBA.