Dallas Cowboys owe it to Dak Prescott (PFN Film Room)

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. During his time in Dallas, Prescott has been severely underpaid. Combine the lack of compensation and an ever-growing quarterback market, and Prescott’s next deal will approach $30 million annually. Is the former fourth-round selection worth it?

Last Friday, Pro Football Network’s Antwan Staley published an article addressing the topic of Dak Prescott‘s next contract. Using statistics and player comparisons, Staley deduced whether the Dallas Cowboys impending investment made sense. You can find those conclusions here.

But we’re talking about $30 million a season. It would behoove us to leave no stone unturned in determining Prescott’s value. This is where the PFN Film Room comes into play.

When deciding to pay quarterbacks top dollar, you better know whether he’s a franchise player or not. If we’re discussing $30 million annually, you’re talking the likes of Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan. Each of which is making $30 million or more a season. What, if any, franchise-caliber qualities does Prescott share with these four guys?

Seeing the whole field

For starters, the quarterback must read a defense before the snap. If you’re incapable of this, you’re not even getting into the NFL. Of all the responsibilities held by a quarterback, pre-snap reads may be the least complicated. After the snap is where things get tricky.

With so many defenses disguising their intentions, quarterbacks are left with far less information to process with the game paused. And by paused, I mean without 250 plus pound defenders trying to snap you in half. Once the play is in motion, there’s more information to process and less time to do it.

The tape is evidence that Prescott “gets it.” What we see here isn’t merely standard professional quarterback activity. This play is indicative of elite quarterback talent. Prescott makes a pre-snap decision to read the right side of the field. More than likely he saw the additional defender to his left. After the play begins, the inside linebacker throws it all off and instead of forcing a throw or panicking, Prescott remains composed.

By waiting until the last moment to show his hand, Prescott kept the safety splitting the two Cowboys receivers. This allows Amari Cooper time and space to operate. Because his technique was imperfect, his accuracy suffered. With that said, the safety may have broken the play up had he telegraphed his actions sooner.

Like the signal callers mentioned above, Prescott is capable of reading a defense before and after the snap. Most importantly, he reacts appropriately, and within the limited time, he’s given.

Making something out of nothing

All the great quarterbacks of now and yesteryear always found ways to make a play. Whether it was buying time, using their legs or ad-libbing.

Coming out of college, Prescott was known for his scrambling prowess. It was his thick frame and physical toughness that scouts praised. But he took a beating in college, and there were concerns for his future health. Regardless, Prescott flourishes with the pocket collapsing around him.

It’s not always about making the unlikely completion, either. Sometimes a quarterback must get the ball into a playmaker’s hands. While making ESPN’s top-10 is nice, highlight reel plays are not the meat and potatoes of an offense.

Great quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning crumble when pressure comes from the interior. On this play, Prescott gains a little separation and finds his check down. Franchise quarterbacks consistently turn the negative play into a positive.

Prescott also possesses a rare ability. Making plays with your legs doesn’t necessarily make you a franchise quarterback, but combined with high-end talent, and it can wreak havoc on an opponent.

If there’s one thing Cowboys fans can count on with Prescott, it’s his mobility. He consistently moves the chains with his feet and buys time for receivers to get open.

Passing when everyone knows you are

The most challenging aspect of playing quarterback in the NFL is obvious passing situations. Whether it’s third down and long or a two-minute drill, there’s no more significant a test. If you’re considering paying a young quarterback 16% of your salary cap, you better be sure he can thread the needle in crunch time.

With two minutes remaining, Prescott delivered in half a dozen plays for the Dallas Cowboys. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows either.

The fumble could’ve derailed the drive. Down one point, the Cowboys needed to get into field goal range with the clock running down. Prescott was lucky to recover his mishap, but not compounding the mistake was the highlight here. Throwing the ball away is sometimes the best play you can make.

After sliding to the left hashes, Prescott set up the final play for a Cowboys winning field goal. The Detriot Lions defense knew Prescott had to win with his arm and that’s precisely what he’d do.

He’s good, but is he worth $30 million?

The short answer is, probably not. But I’d have to ask, what’s the alternative? That’s what makes positional markets in the NFL so frustrating. Prescott may not be a top-3 quarterback in the NFL, but some quarterback-needy team would pay him as such. If Dallas doesn’t reward him, someone else will. Then, the Cowboys are left with what?

The front office would love to let him play his final year out. By doing this, Dallas could avoid further risk and also have the franchise tag at their disposal. What’s more likely is that Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys will agree sooner rather than later. With quarterbacks like Carson Wentz and Jared Goff closing in on blockbuster contracts, the Cowboys could be getting a steal.

It’s hard to imagine $28-30 million per year as being a steal, but in a couple of seasons, it could be. Unless of course Cowboys fans would rather have someone like Quincy Carter or Chad Hutchinson under center.