Decisions… Decisions… Decisions… That's what the Dallas Cowboys now face as they enter their bye week for the 2020 season. Not only do they have to take into consideration how they want to finish out the year, but they also have to keep the future in mind as well. It's that future I want to discuss today, especially as it pertains to the quarterback position.
With the way this year has gone the Dallas Cowboys face the tough decision as to whether or not they want to try to retain Dak Prescott beyond 2020 or draft one of the top QBs in the 2021 NFL Draft. With a Top 5 pick in hand right now (third overall) the Cowboys definitely have to consider both options.
One way or another, the Dallas Cowboys 2021 offseason should mark significant change. How much change though depends on what direction they decide to go at QB. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a look at the financial ramifications of retaining Dak Prescott and that of drafting a rookie QB.
Let's get started… Shall we?
Dak is Back! Franchise tag or Long-term Extension?
$37.7 million is what it would cost the Dallas Cowboys to slap Dak Prescott with the franchise tag for the second year in a row. This would make him only the second QB in the history of the league to play on the franchise tag for two seasons, the other being Kirk Cousins (2016, 2017). That's a hefty price tag to pay for what could be a one-year rental, especially for a player coming off a serious ankle injury. But, it's still probably the more affordable option for the Cowboys compared to locking Prescott up long-term.
That $37.7 million franchise tag looks a lot more reasonable compared to the kind of money Dak Prescott and his representatives will likely be seeking for his next contract. The Dallas Cowboys have Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson to thank for that. Both players reset the QB market with their contract extensions this year, which at the very least gives the Cowboys better parameters to work with. That of course is both good and bad.
The Chiefs will be paying Mahomes $45 million annually for the next 10 years and Watson will be making $39 million per season with the Texans. Prescott's next contract will likely fall somewhere in the middle of the two, which means it wouldn't be all that surprising to see him sign a deal that earns him approximately $40 million annually. Prescott being two years their senior and coming off a serious ankle injury could lessen that a bit, but that's a pretty accurate ballpark figure regardless.
2021 NFL Draft: Benefits of a Rookie QB
Loss after loss continues to firmly cement the Dallas Cowboys draft position in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. As things stand right now they are slotted within the Top 5 (3rd overall), which puts them within striking distance of any of the top QBs. That puts both Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields in the crosshairs, but don't overlook Zach Wilson. He's quickly rising up draft boards.
Regardless of the name the Dallas Cowboys could possibly write down on their draft card, the benefits of having their starting QB on a rookie contract could possibly be too enticing to pass up. The biggest benefit of course for the Cowboys drafting a rookie QB would be the financial ramifications, which of course is one of the biggest factors in personnel decisions.
The Miami Dolphins are on the books for just $5.5M in cap for No. 5 overall pick Tua Tagovailoa this season. Cincinnati is on the hook for $6.5M for No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow this season. Now I'm no math expert, but that equates to approximately $31 million less the Dallas Cowboys would have to pay to retain Dak Prescott either on the franchise tag or long-term extension.
That $31 million in savings could be utilized to re-tool and restock the rest of the roster. That could be invested in several more starting caliber free agent additions instead of being used to retain Prescott. Financially speaking it makes sense to turn to a rookie QB, but that's a decision the Dallas Cowboys will have to decide for themselves.
An argument can be made the Dallas Cowboys wouldn't be wrong to go one way or the other. Moving on from a known commodity like Dak Prescott for an unknown one no matter how highly rated they are coming out of the draft no doubt carries a little bit of risk. However, the small risk involved could be offset by the amount of salary-cap space created by having your starting QB on a rookie contract.
As much as I like Dak Prescott I'd be hard-pressed not to draft one of the top QBs in the 2021 NFL Draft if I were the Cowboys. That previously mentioned $31 million in savings could then be utilized to upgrade several of the “need” positions with sure-fire starting caliber free agents. In doing so that would lessen the need to hit on as many draft picks, although those still remain extremely important.