Dak Prescott got what he wanted from the Dallas Cowboys: a long-term contract north of $40 million annually with a no-trade clause and a no-tag clause. Dak Prescott has, as the kids put it, secured the bag. He will be a (very rich) Cowboy for the time being, getting the highest signing bonus in NFL history. Adam Schefter, as always, has the details:
Now, if you know one thing about me, it’s that I’m pro-labor to a fault. After all, Dak is a fellow comrade, plying his skills in exchange for a portion of Jerry Jones’ ill-gotten gains. Now, I won’t get into the fact that Dak Prescott’s signing comes on the heels of Jones getting a ton of cash thanks to the literal suffering of Cowboys’ fans, so it’s the least he could do. But, for some reason, we all have a weird and toxic relationship with the salary cap across all sports.
First off, let’s talk about our language surrounding what makes a “bad” contract. A bad contract, from our perspective, is when a player gets a ton of money. Why? Why is that the idea? It’s not our money. And this isn’t a salary cap-caused peccadillo, it’s present across all sports, including baseball, where no salary cap exists. Instead, we are conditioned to look at cash as a zero-sum game; one person getting overpaid means the rest of the team must suffer. Calling a large contract a bad contract comes down to our crab bucket mentality. It’s wild that Major League Baseball started this trend because, at the time, the league had literally no salary cap. Crying poor was literally just because a team didn’t want to spend money, instead of being constrained by salary cap concerns.
And, because of our weird relationship to billionaires money, we lionized the A’s for it. Subsequently, it “revolutionized” baseball.
Now, the NFL has a salary cap, so it makes things a little bit more complicated when evaluating a contract. We still say things are bad when a player gets overpaid (in our estimation) because it screws up the salary cap balance. Talking heads lionize Tom Brady for leaving cash on the table for his teammates. Drew Brees never left a penny, and the Saints still backed up the Brinks truck on a regular basis. Why? Because the Bensons are willing to financially deal with the fallout of bumping against the salary cap as much as they are willing to deal with, uh… a different type of fallout. They recognize that the salary cap is as solid as the Pirate’s Code and will make the money machine go brrrr to make sure that the Saints stay competitive and operational.
The Saints are a tacit admission that if you try hard enough, and you care to spend enough, the NFL functionally has no salary cap. How often do teams cut good players they want to keep? Hardly ever, it’s usually picking at the edges of high-priced guys where the team is really using salary concerns as cover to outright cut a guy that they don’t want around anymore.
Dak Prescott isn’t that guy. It’s easy to see how much Prescott meant to the Cowboys last season. The Cowboys tried replacing him with a player widely considered to be the most average starter in the NFL. With Prescott, the Cowboys’ offense averaged 32.6 points per game in 2020; with Dalton, they averaged ten full points less than that: 22.6 points per game. That’s the difference between leading the league in scoring in 2020 and coming in tenth-lowest in scoring. He’s worth the money.
Dak Prescott is a good contract. It’s a great contract. Why? It’s great that the Cowboys paid Dak… for everyone. The next step is getting more owners who understand how to maneuver with the salary cap to make sure people get paid and the team stays winning. Don’t lionize Tom Brady leaving money on the table; Gisele Bundchen is worth half a billion dollars. Instead, lionize Dak Prescott, a guy who finally, after years of jerking him around, forced the Jones family to pay him. Therefore, if Jones is serious about winning, he will keep Prescott around, and start to pay players like the Bensons by kicking cap obligations down the road. Start kicking that can if you want to win, Jerry. You have your quarterback, now put together a winning team.
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