Dak Prescott is currently embroiled in a protracted contract negotiation with the Dallas Cowboys. He wants to be paid like a top-five quarterback not only next year, but for the duration of his four- or five-year contract extension.
Determining how much a top-5 QB will make in four years isn't easy because no one knows exactly how big the salary cap will be after the NFL negotiates new broadcast deals in 2021 and 2022. The expectation is the salary cap will grow. A lot. Prescott's agent knows that and is trying to bake it into the latter half of his client's new deal.
Right now, the expectation remains that a new deal will be signed eventually. But there is one concerning stat trend for the Cowboys to consider as they project the rest of Prescott's career. In his rookie season in 2016, Prescott was exceptional against teams with an above-.500 record. In the four years since, however, Prescott has been pedestrian at best against the better squads in the league.
In his first year, Prescott threw for 13 touchdowns and 4 interceptions against above-.500 teams and compiled a 6-3 record, including the playoffs. Since then, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 25-25 and his record as a starter is 6-17. Last year, he had an 8/8 TD/INT ratio and the Cowboys went 1-6 against teams with an above-.500 record.
Of course, you may be asking yourself, well, how do other top-paid QBs fair against quality competition? How do Prescott's stats stack up against those in the pay range he's looking to break into? I'm happy you asked.
Against over-.500 teams both in the regular season and the playoffs (when applicable), Aaron Rodgers had a 12/4 ratio and 5-3 record last year. Russell Wilson had an 11/4 ratio and a 4-4 record. Kirk Cousins had a 15/6 ratio and a 3-5 record. Jared Goff's ratio was 6/6 and his record was 2-4. Tom Brady was 6/5 and 3-4.
Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson, Prescott's QB contemporaries also up for new deals soon, had numbers of 20/4 and 5-2, 10/3 and 5-2 and 12/5 and 4-3, respectively.
While Prescott isn't alone in his struggles against better teams, all of those quarterbacks outside of Goff were better than Prescott against elite competition last year. For the quarterbacks around his same age and stature (yes, Mahomes and Jackson are MVPs, but you get it), Prescott isn't even in the same ballpark.
Against teams with a .500 record or below, Prescott shines. His TD/INT ratio is 64/9 and his record is 29-5. Those are elite stats for sure, but they come against below-average competition. Of course, that's what good quarterbacks do: beat up on bad competition. But putting Prescott in that elite category doesn't fit based on his career performances against better teams thus far.
At the same time, Prescott is only 26 and there aren't many better QBs his age around the world. He certainly has time to develop into an elite quarterback against elite competition and perhaps his new coach (no less a QB whisperer like Mike McCarthy) will serve him well.
The Cowboys will pay him handsomely (likely making him the highest-paid QB ever) based on those realities. But just as Prescott's agent is trying to predict what the salary cap will be in four or five years, the Cowboys have to wonder the same thing. Based on the stats so far, Prescott isn't elite against the elite.