FRISCO, Texas – Stability at quarterback is the key to long-term success for any NFL franchise. But coming into the 2020 offseason, there will be quite a few teams who, if they want to keep their current quarterback under center, are going to have to prove it.
To no team is that more apparent than the Dallas Cowboys.
The upcoming potential class of free agent quarterbacks includes two future first-ballot Hall of Famers and a handful of established pass throwers with uncertain futures. Dak Prescott falls right in the middle of those two categories. His best years are likely ahead of him, and if his first four years are any indicator, the ceiling on that future is tantalizingly high. That's why the Cowboys have made clear he's in their long-term plans.
Elsewhere around the league, neither Tom Brady nor Drew Brees are currently under contract for their respective teams (New England and New Orleans) next season. It's hard to imagine either in a jersey other than the ones they've shattered various NFL records while wearing. But both players are over 41-years-old, and decisions will have to be made. The most difficult possibility to face, particularly for Brady who will be 43 at the start of next season, is the notion that all the significant accomplishments those two players will ever accomplish with their current teams have already been achieved.
Just as tricky of a determination is needed by teams with quarterbacks who have fared well in the NFL but haven't shown the consistency to suggest they are a franchise building block. Players like Tennessee'sRyan Tannehill (or the player he replaced as a starter, Marcus Mariota) orTampa Bay's Jameis Winston or New Orleans' Teddy Bridgewater or perhaps Washington's Case Keenum. Will these quarterbacks remain on their respective teams, and if so, how much should reasonably be invested in them?
Prescott, meanwhile, could eventually sign the largest contract of any quarterback this offseason precisely because the Cowboys don't consider him to be in the same tier as the Tannehill's and Winston's of the NFL. All signs point towards him signing a deal that suggests they consider him having a career more similar to Brady and Brees.
This week Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said Dallas considers working a deal out with Prescott to be "urgent" for the Cowboys in free agency. "That's our No. 1 priority this offseason," he said.
It's possible that the Cowboys could franchise Prescott this season and roll over negotiations into next year if a long-term deal isn't reached by the tag deadline, but Prescott will be 27 at the start of the 2020 season, and now seems the right time to lock him into a deal making him a franchise quarterback. Last season, Russell Wilson signed a four-year contract with the Seahawks that paid an annual salary of $35 million and made him the highest paid player in the NFL. Some reports have suggested Prescott will expect at least that amount in his next contract, though neither side has publicly commented on the negotiations.
Prescott is coming off his fourth season in which he threw for 4,902 yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and three rushing touchdowns. By comparison, in his fourth season, Wilson threw for 4,024 passing yards, 34 passing touchdowns, eight interceptions, and one rushing touchdown. Wilson, however, had already won a Super Bowl for Seattle at that point.
Recently hired head coach Mike McCarthy has already stated that he's "excited" to work with Prescott. "I think he has an incredible foundation to build off," McCarthy said. "And our offensive system will be built around making the quarterback successful. That's the way I've learned it. That's the way I believe you play offensive. We have a great one here to work with."
In four years, Prescott has led Dallas to the postseason twice and recorded a playoff victory over Wilson and the Seahawks in 2018. When the Cowboys eventually reach a long-term deal with Prescott leading the future of the Dallas Cowboys, they'll do so hoping that he has a significant impact on the future of the league as a whole.