Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have reportedly resumed contract talks. While that's a positive development, it's only the first step in the two sides working out a deal. At some point, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys have to just bite the bullet and pay Prescott. It won't be cheap, but it has to get done.
The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Prescott for 2020, which means he'll make about $33 million this season if the two sides don't come to a long-term deal. Given the current quarterback market, that's about what he'll need to make per year in a new contract. The average annual salary among the NFL's top quarterbacks in 2019 ranged from about $32 million to $35 million.
Prescott has been a stabilizing force under center for the Cowboys. In 2019 he had arguably his best statistical season, completing 65.1 percent of his passes and finished with a quarterback rating of 99.7. He set career-highs in completions (388), attempts (596), yards (4,902), years per attempt (8.2) and touchdowns (30). He also finished fourth in the NFL in QBR (70.2) behind Lamar Jackson, Mahomes and Drew Brees.
Whether you think Prescott is a top-tier signal-caller or not, it's clear he's the face of the Cowboys' franchise and, at 26, he's certainly a franchise quarterback. If you have a legitimate franchise player at that position, you have to pay them market value. That's how the NFL works right now and there's no way around it.
We have to assume Patrick Mahomes' eventual contract extension with the Chiefs will blow the top off any other quarterback contract previously signed. So it's in the Cowboys' interest to get Prescott's deal done first. Given the market, he's going to need a deal in the $33 to $35 million range per year.
It's going to hurt for Jones and the team's front office to hand Prescott a contract like that. It will mean the team can't spend money to fix other problems, but that's just the way this goes. In fact, they've waited too long to do it as is. Had the Cowboys locked Prescott up to a long-term deal before or during the 2019 season, they could have used the franchise tag on cornerback Byron Jones. Instead, he left for Miami.
While the two sides need to hammer out details, in the end, Prescott has all the leverage. The Cowboys need to lock him up long-term and will have to shell out a ton of money to do so. There's no point in dragging this out any longer.