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Helman: What Does Wilson's Deal Mean For Dak?


FRISCO, Texas – The entire world has lost its mind with one quick stroke of the pen.

That's what it feels like, anyway. And as the football world digests the news of Russell Wilson's contract extension, it's easy to understand.

In the final hours of his self-imposed signing deadline with the Seahawks, Wilson inked a four-year extension worth $140 million, including a $65 million signing bonus. The deal makes him the highest-paid player in the league, as was widely expected would happen.

A deal that size is bound to send shockwaves around the league, but even more so in cities where quarterbacks are eying extensions – cities like Dallas, for instance.

Yes, Dak Prescott is inching closer and closer to the fourth and final season of his rookie deal. And while we wait to see whether the Cowboys sign him to a long-term extension, the money being spent in Seattle certainly gives us plenty to think about.

Before anyone starts screaming, let's get this out of the way: no, at this current moment in time, Dak Prescott is not the same caliber of quarterback as Russell Wilson. During his seven years in the NFL, Wilson has proven himself again and again as a dynamic playmaker through the air and on the ground. He had a solid case to be the league's MVP in 2017, when he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns while simultaneously accounting for 36 percent of the Seahawks' rushing offense. That doesn't even include his 8-5 playoff record or his 2013 championship.

Prescott has some significant achievements on his resume three years into his career, but most would agree he hasn't quite reached that level as of yet.

Here's the thing, though. An important fact gets lost in the discussion of just how good Dak Prescott is: it doesn't honestly matter all that much.

Contract values are determined much more by the market than anything else. If you don't believe that, consider the fact that the NFL's highest average salary has been set eight different times in the last three years. All eight of those records were set by quarterbacks, and not all of them have accomplished as much as Dak Prescott – looking at you Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins.

The point being: the sooner you simply accept that Dak is going to get PAID, in capital letters, the easier this will all be.

Now, what will it look like? That's harder to say. Ironically, I went to sleep on Monday night planning to write a column about how good it would be for the Cowboys if the Seahawks were unable to get Wilson signed this offseason.

That dream is dead now, and instead the Cowboys will have to negotiate in a world where Wilson is making an average of $35 million per season during the life of his extension.

Does that mean Dak will set the standard when he signs? Not necessarily. There are a ton of factors to consider. Age is a big one. At just 25 years old with a July birthday, Prescott is a good deal younger than many of his quarterback contemporaries. If he's willing to sign to a longer deal – say, six or seven years – that could push the value of his contract up while keeping his average annual salary down.

Or perhaps in the interest of maximizing his value, Dak might sign a shorter deal with a higher average value. If he wanted to cash out again when he turns 30, that could be a smart way to play it.

However they decide to proceed, it'd be in the Cowboys' best interest to get a deal done sooner rather than later. And Wilson's extension just serves as evidence.

Quarterbacks get paid, and when they do they tend to set the market. You're lying to yourself if you don't think Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, having guided their franchises to Super Bowls, aren't going to earn a hefty pay day in the near future. For that matter, the Kansas City Chiefs are allowed to begin negotiating a new contract with Patrick Mahomes as early as January. What do you think those numbers will look like?

Signing Dak now means the Cowboys get their quarterback under contract before the market blows up any further. It also allows them to start the clock ticking on Dak's cap hit, which will allow them to weather the storm better as the salary cap increases.

What's the alternative? Regardless of how you feel about him, it's a good bet Dak Prescott will be the Cowboys' starting quarterback for the next two years. Even if they let him play out his rookie year, that would almost certainly result in a franchise tag – which will likely be worth roughly $28 million in 2020.

From that point, they could sign him long-term at a higher price, or they could start looking for another quarterback. Either way, that decision is two, perhaps three years off.

In the time it could take that to play out, they could work their way through a Dak extension. In this day and age, we all know that only the first three or so years of any NFL contract are guaranteed. If the Cowboys sign Dak this summer, they could be in a position to move on by 2021 or 2022 if for some reason they needed to.

In the meantime, they can save themselves some money by spending it now. No, Prescott isn't a perfect prospect. The hope will be that he continues to evolve as he works through his second contract.

But if any player has given cause for confidence he can do that, it's Dak. Scoff if you want to, but the intangibles we talk so much about at the very least guarantee that the guy's not going to get complacent when he gets his contract.

He's the best option facing the Cowboys for the foreseeable future, and Wilson's contract only emphasizes the point that he's going to get more expensive.

With those thoughts in mind, the Cowboys might as well go with their guy – and quickly.