What Kirk Cousins has to do with Dak Prescott’s Contract

So, Dak Prescott signed his franchise offer this week. Frankly, I can’t believe it took him this long. When you are an NFL QB that has an exclusive rights franchise offer in your hands, you sign the deal 100 times out of 100.

Here’s a quick link to an ESPN story: https://www.nfl.com/news/mahomes-prescott-among-those-who-most-deserve-new-contracts where they say Dak deserves the deal. The commentary with respect to Dak and the deal with Dallas is “does he deserve the money?”. Or there are comments like “There’s no way Dak deserves $35m per year.”

The reality is that what Dak is “worth” isn’t as important as you might think.

Let me point back to the Redskins bungling of the Kirk Cousins situation. Here’s a very quick version of the story. Jay Gruden comes into the franchise, realizes that RG3 can’t run Gruden’s offense as efficiently as Cousins can. He benched RG3 and promoted Cousins. Their then-pro personnel guy tells Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder that they should extend Kirk Cousins for $15m per year. Was Cousins worth that money? No. But it was an insurance policy. In extending Cousins, the Redskins would a) lock him in at a dollar amount that was less than Andy Dalton was making at the time … and lock him in for 5 years.

What did Snyder and Allen do? Well, the wrong thing of course! They said no because they didn’t want to upset Robert Griffen III. Cousins played well enough to earn a franchise tag (roughly $20m). Cousins signed it in short order. Then they franchised him AGAIN at $24m the next season. Then… they lost Cousins and had to trade their best defensive back and a 2nd round pick for Alex Smith, who played roughly 10 games. The Redskins could STILL have Cousins under contract under that $15m/year extension.

So Why Sign Dak?

The oddity of the NFL is that salaries increase exponentially. With the new CBA, the NFL has its eyes on legalized gambling money and privately thinks the value of the league will soar. What does this mean? The cap space will sore with it. And while we look at $35 mill per year now as steep, the economics of the NFL prove that QB salaries increase exponentially. For example, had Dallas extended Dak last year, they could have had him for $30 mill per season. So roughly, waiting has cost Dallas upwards of 15% if they choose to move forward.

What about Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson? When they get their next deals, they’ll exceed $40m.

The thing with Dak is that I don’t think he’s particularly good. But the Cowboys put an exclusive rights franchise tag on Prescott, they were doing more to sweep him out of town than preserving his rights.

Why Is It Harder To Sign Dak Now?

Because the numbers of an NFL QB are so staggaring, let’s try to make this more relatable. Let’s pretend you’re an up and coming salesperson. Your company respects your talent and they say “Hey, we’re going to give you a one year contract worth $250,000 per year guaranteed.”

Now you see the best salespeople at your company are making $250,000, but you also notice that on average, sales people that switch companies make a 10-20% raise every year. $250k for 2020 sounds great. So you accept the deal.

Now, let’s say a week after you agree, your company hears that its key competitor is ready to give you a raise once your deal is coming up. In fact, they are willing to give you a 5 year deal at a higher salary and gaurantee the deal.

Now, your company wants to lock you in for longer. They say “How about we extend you for 5 years. You’ll make $260,000 every year for the next 5 years. And we’ll gaurantee your first two years.”

So you’re a salesperson that knows another company wants to give you a massive raise and a longer guarantee. And all your current company wants to do is give you a small bump and only guarantee one more year of that deal?

It makes no sense for Dak to sign an extension at this point unless Dallas offers at least $35m per year and 3 to 4 years gauaranteed. And for a guy that turned down $25 million to $30 million last year to play at his paltry 4th round rookie deal salary, you know the guy is going to bet on himself.

The Smart Move

Look, if new coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t want Dak, I’m cool with Dallas letting him go. Paying Andy Dalton $5 million a year for a few seasons and spending money elsewhere isn’t a bad option compared to $35 mill per year for Dak. So I get it.

But… given that the NFL salary cap is going to improve, the best way for Dallas to hedge their bets is to give Dak a deal of about $33m per year and hopefully guarantee 3 years or less. If he doesn’t pan out in the next two years, you can cut him and by then the cap hit won’t be as detrimental because the percentage of cap of that deal won’t be as high.

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