The Dallas Cowboys are familiar with this dance.
When they finally approached Dak Prescott to broach the topic of his inevitable contract extension, they did so with an initial offer in hand. While, officially, it's unknown what their first offer was, there's a new report that suggests the latest offer from the team involves an average annual salary of around $30 million -- per Michael Lombardi of The Athletic -- which lends to a recent proclamation by team exec Stephen Jones that Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott all have .
The problem for the Cowboys is obvious because a $30 million per year offer was more attractive earlier this offseason before two major events took place.
In April, the Seattle Seahawks reset the QB market by awarding Russell Wilson a historic four-year, $140 million extension that includes $107 million in guaranteed money and, two months later, the Philadelphia Eagles raised the floor by granting that quietly exceeds Wilson's guaranteed metric with $107.87 million. That realistically puts the window for negotiation between $32 million AAS (average annual salary) and $35 million AAS, because Prescott isn't apt to accept less money than Wentz, and for good reason.
Despite Wentz having been a No. 2 overall draft pick, and Prescott a fourth-round compensatory selection, it's the latter having bested the former in nearly every category across the board -- from wins to passing yards to completion percentage to yards per attempt to game-winning drives to fourth-quarter comebacks, so forth and so on. It's also in the most important category of them all that Prescott owns the throne, having not missed a single game since ascending to the NFL ranks. Wentz, however, has played only one complete season in three years, and many are concerned about his longterm durability.
Despite all of this, Prescott's rookie contract maxes at $2.7 million -- ten times less than the $27 million Wentz was set to earn on his initial deal -- by virtue of the predetermined rookie wage scale.
He, like other rookies entering the league, didn't get a chance to negotiate his first deal. Now going into the second of his career, the former Rookie of the Year is finally getting a crack at making sure he's on the better side of his next agreement.
This is why it made sense for Prescott to wait the Cowboys out and continue playing the market, ultimately hoping to easily surpass Wentz financially. It's a foregone conclusion Wilson will remain the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history -- at least for 2019 -- but Prescott now sees $32 million annually as the beginning of any fruitful talks. Sure, a $30 million per year offer matches the fifth-highest paid QB in Matt Ryan, but the fact Wentz now makes more than Ryan is a keen reminder of how market value can often supersede accomplishments.
Ryan is more accomplished than Wentz, but the latter will now earn $2 million more per season than the former and garnered $7.8 million more in guaranteed money. So when Prescott reportedly countered the Cowboys' offer with a proposal of his own that came equipped with a $34 million per year salary, no one should've been surprised. Even with the latest news that he wants upwards of $40 million annually, per Jane Slater of NFL Network, it's all just the nature of the dance -- that dictates one party go low while the other goes high. For the sake of being thorough here, an alternate calls the $40 million per year report "all-caps false", per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
Ah, the dance.
The Cowboys aren't floored by any of this, and talks remain ongoing at this time.
"I was happy for Carson, a guy that deserves it, a guy who has been great in this league," Prescott told media once minicamp wrapped in June. "Had an awesome year and potentially, without the injury, wins the MVP. Congrats to Carson. Knowing him personally, he deserves it."
Prescott was wearing a noticeable smile and a Stetson hat when he made the comments, furthering his love for the Cowboys by noting what he had on.
"I've got my cowboy hat on, so I'm a Cowboy,'' he said.
Lost in the rumor mill is continued context, and not simply what's provided above.
Assuming it's true and the Cowboys' offer maxed out at $30 million per year, there are several unknowns that could change the temperature of that number altogether. For example, if the extension is a four-year, $120 million max deal, it'll be met with a cold shoulder from Prescott's representation for all of the aforementioned reasons. If it's a six-year, $180 million, however, it would change everything when adding it to his already scheduled 2019 payout of $2 million.
Allow me to explain.
Although the true four-year extension on Wentz averages $32 million annually, considering he was still under contract for 2019 and 2020 (fifth-year option), his six-year earnings max at $154 million ($25.67 million AAS). Signing Prescott to a six-year, $180 million extension would actually turn out to be a seven-year, $182 million deal, and average out to $26 million annually -- blowing the max on Wentz out of the water while also passing his annual numbers outright, and it keeps Prescott in tow through the 2025 season. Therefore, while the true extension on Prescott would be $30 million, the Cowboys would actually get him at $26 million per year. Contrarily, if you shrink the extension from six to five years, or from five to four, or four to three, the opposite would occur -- with his annual payout skyrocketing.
All of this matters, and it's why solely chasing AAS rumors is mostly an exercise in futility. Even the reported $40 million per year ask could involve a lower guaranteed money amount to offset things, and it's unlikely Prescott will be the first QB to reach that mark, anyway.
By all accounts, that honor will soon go to Patrick Mahomes.
This is an example of how the length of the deal matters as much or more than simply staring at the rumored average annual salary, and then there's the matter of guaranteed money, which is a major talking point that remains cloaked by both sides. With neither the length of contract nor guaranteed money of the offer(s) known, the reported $30 million per year lob from the Cowboys and the rumored $34 million return serve -- followed by a now $40 million spike -- by Prescott can be misleading.
Those numbers demand context to fully understand what's allegedly being turned down by either party, along with just how near or far the two sides are to agreeing on terms. Until further notice, much like with Cooper and Elliott ---- it's all a work in progress.
Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.