The NFL continues to hand out lucrative contracts to its young star quarterbacks, and rightfully so. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs caught headlines by signing a 10-year deal worth up to $503 million. Earlier this month, the Texans handed Deshaun Watson a four-year, $156 million extension to keep him at NRG Drive through 2025. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys should be watching this unfold, knowing if they play their cards wrong, Dak Prescott’s extension demands are only going to increase after his 2020 season. 

The Prescott-Cowboys marriage agreement has been in limbo for so long, younger quarterbacks are gearing for their second contracts at the same time. Prescott isn’t a Lombardi-hoisting gunslinger or quite as explosive as Houston’s dual-threat wonder, but his production in Dallas is undervalued compared to other quarterbacks.

And yes, the new year, new coach, new plan approach does make sense when playing under the $31.4 million franchise tag. After four years, two playoff appearances, and ample weapons to be successful, Jerry Jones would be smart to offer an acceptable long-term deal before it gets out of hand — or worse, out of price range.

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It’s time for the Dallas Cowboys to give Dak Prescott a contract

Prescott’s offseason of negotiations

Prescott and the Cowboys have been in a standoff since the offseason began, each having a justifiable reason on why they shouldn’t budge. Firing left and right in the war room for more money, what it seems to come down to is the length of a deal instead of the cash inside it.

According to sources close to the team, the Cowboys were willing to offer Prescott an average salary of $33 million. The cost? Five more years at “The Star” and the team holding his rights through 2024. Instead, Prescott’s camp has been fighting for four years at the same total price for a higher yearly salary. 

The Cowboys continued to ask for five years. Prescott and his agent believe four is the better option. Wash, rinse, repeat for several months, and you’ll eventually end up at 2020’s kickoff, with no signing insight. In the end, a franchise tag will guarantee the Cowboys’ rights on Prescott through 2020, but nothing more. 

This shouldn’t lead to signs of panic from Cowboys fans that Prescott, the undisputed best value pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, is ready to leave. According to Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams, Prescott plans to remain in the Cowboys’ colors for the remainder of his career. 

“I’m very optimistic,” Prescott said. “That’s business, and there’s all kind of avenues in business of why it might not get worked out. I’m very confident that I’ll be a Cowboy, and as I’ve said before, I plan to be a Cowboy for the rest of my career. This is the place to be, and I’m excited to be a Cowboy more importantly.”

Pressure looming in Dallas 

The 2016 Draft class featured three NFL starters in Prescott (No.135), former first-overall pick Jared Goff and the runner-up Carson Wentz. As their fifth-year options come to a close, Goff has signed a new four-year, $134 million extension while Wentz closed last offseason on a deal worth $128 million through 2024. 

Both those deals can be thrown out the door compared to Watson’s contract — one similar to what Prescott argued for all summer long. And if the Cowboys continue to put off an extension and pull a Kirk Cousins 2.0, that will only lead to them owing Prescott more for the short-term option. 

Related | The 2020 Cowboys can reach the Super Bowl if they stay out of their own way

Cousins, a two-time franchise tagger with the now-Washington Football Team, made roughly $44 million before signing an $84 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018. For Prescott, his price on the tag will only add another $6.3 million to give him a salary of $37.7 million if applied in 2021.

More importantly, Prescott’s production in four seasons outweighs the trio of signal-callers who will all, in theory, remain with their franchises until the next election year. Given little expectations on making an early impact, all the Mississippi State product has done is completed an average of 65.8 percent of his passes, throwing for over 3,330 yards each year, and has 97 career touchdowns. Add his 40-24 record, plus his durability under center, and most teams would have offered a deal ages ago. 

New year, more mouths to feed 

Dallas’ battle with Prescott could only play in his favor with the hiring of new head coach Mike McCarthy. The former Super Bowl champion and chief mechanic in making Aaron Rodgers a consistent MVP contender heads to the Lone Star State as the solution to the problem that was Jason Garrett. More importantly, McCarthy will keep Kellen Moore, who, in his first year as the Cowboys offensive coordinator, led the team to a No.2 passing attack finish, in the same role.

Related | What will the Dallas Cowboys offensive depth chart look like in 2020?

The Cowboys will bring back go-to weapon Amari Cooper as the primary target to pair with 2019 sensation Michael Gallup. Ezekiel Elliott has only finished with less than 30 catches once in his career, while Tony Pollard is a reliable complementary target. And let’s not forget the Cowboys just happened to fall in line to land potential 2020 top target CeeDee Lamb as a luxury pick 17th overall last April. 

Prescott’s coming off his best season in which he threw for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He’ll keep the coordinator that helped him enhance his passing production while bringing in a coach that most view as an upgrade.

The weapons continue to pile up, leading to higher chances for statistical domination. All that ultimately should lead to more wins for the franchise to begin the new decade. 

Prescott might break the bank by 2021

There’s now a deal Prescott can mention when it comes to negotiation. If Jones’ plan to make the playoffs comes true by January, that adds to the asking price. If Dallas finally earns their first Super Bowl appearance since the 1995 season, Prescott will need to open another checking account to afford his new and improved annual salary quota. 

If he sees his numbers increase, Prescott can counter-offer any deal that comes his way. With Dallas looking ready to jump into contention, the price for franchise quarterbacks with a Super Bowl appearance under their belt is more than $40 million. This could be problematic for the team’s long-term status as they sit with only $11.8 million in cap space entering this season and $17.1 million for 2021.   

Prescott will soon be paid. By Dallas? Barring a complete implosion this season, more than likely. Even those close in the know believe No.4’s time is coming to sign on the dotted line. 

“Dak’s been sitting there laughing all the way to the bank with how the Cowboys have mismanaged this thing. He absolutely played his hand perfectly,” PFN Insider Benjamin Allbright said on PFN Weekly Wednesday morning. “Quarterbacks are starting to realize how they can do this and get the max amount of money. He was waiting for Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson to reset the quarterback market anyway.

“They’re working on it. They want to get that done. Dallas wants it done, Jerry wants it done and if Jerry wants it done, it’s going to get done.”

Prescott’s earned the right to be paid a top pocket-passer’s salary after his four-year stint as the Cowboys’ starter. Dallas will have to accept that if they want to keep him around as the permanent solution under center. 

Watson’s new deal only adds fuel to the fire that has already been burning. If the Cowboys are smart, they’ll do what they can to close in on a contract by the midseason mark. Otherwise, those flames could be rising higher in the form of a few extra million dollars to the eventual highest-paid salary the NFL has ever seen.  

Cole Thompson covers the NFL for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson and @PFN365 for all up to date NFL content.