In May of 2018, Matt Ryan became the first quarterback in the NFL to make $30 million per season. By the following August, Ryan was surpassed by Aaron Rodgers who signed an extension that would pay him $40 million per season. The next off-season Russell Wilson would sign a $140 million contract with a total value exceeding that of Rodgers' and every other player in the NFL.
Earlier this month, the Cowboys placed the exclusive tag on Dak Prescott taking away his rights to negotiate with other teams. Prescott and the franchise now have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term extension. While we can't say with certainty that Prescott expects to become the league's highest paid player, the fact that the two sides could not work out a deal prior to the deadline for the franchise tag earlier this month suggests that he hopes to be paid in the range of the three previously mentioned quarterbacks.
The question fans are currently debating over is whether he's worth that price based on his performance. The NFL is a league with a short memory so let's take a look at how Prescott's 2019 season stacks up against the seasons that those players had in the year prior to signing their record-setting extensions.
- Prescott in 2019 (16 games): 30 passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 4,902 passing yards, 99.7 quarterback rating, 3 rushing touchdowns
- Ryan in 2017 (15 games): 20 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 4,095 passing yards, 91.4 quarterback rating
- Wilson in 2018 (14 games): 35 passing touchdowns, 7 interceptions 3,448 passing yards, 110.9 passer quarterback rating
- Aaron Rodgers missed seven games with a broken collarbone in 2017 before signing his massive contract extension so it would be more informative to compare his per game 2017 averages to Prescott's in 2019.
- Prescott in 2019: 24.3 completions, 37.3 pass attempts, 304.6 passing yards, 1.9 passing touchdowns, 0.7 interceptions
- Rodgers in 2017: 22 completions, 34 pass attempts, 239.3 passing yards, 2.3 passing touchdowns, 0.9 interceptions
To be fair, all three quarterbacks had achieved more significant accomplishments than Prescott has at these points in their careers. Ryan won the 2016 MVP, and Rodgers and Wilson won Super Bowls in 2010 and 2014 respectively. But players are most harshly evaluated on their performance in the season leading up to their contract offer, and by just about any measure Prescott's 2019 measures up to how all three of these quarterbacks were playing when they became the highest paid players in the NFL.
It's also significant that Prescott is entering only his fifth season. When they signed their current deals, Rodgers was entering his 13th season, Ryan was entering his 10th season, and Wilson was entering his seventh season.