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Spagnola: Don't Forget These Dak Bottom Lines


FRISCO, Texas – If we saw this once during Super Bowl week, and continuing into this week, bet we've seen it at least 100 times:

The Dallas Cowboys plan on franchising QB Dak Prescott, of course, according to sources.

Good grief. You don't need sources to scroll that.

Just common sense.


If the Cowboys don't come to terms with Dak on a long-term deal by the time the March 10 deadline arrives to reserve his expiring rights with a franchise tag, darn right they will tag him. And with that, then they remain eligible to continue negotiating a long-term deal up until July 15.

But then, who cares about that fine print.

Because, as we've come to know over the past 60 years of the Cowboys entire history, there is no more salacious topic out there than the Dallas Cowboys and their quarterbacks.

Heck, start from the beginning, George Halas and the Chicago Bears drafting Don Meredith for the Cowboys in 1960 when the expansion Cowboys were established after the 1960 draft, then trading the SMU quarterback to the Cowboys so the Dallas Texans of the upstart American Football League in the same year, now the Kansas City Chiefs, would not steal him for the AFL.

Then the Cowboys selecting Craig Morton with the fifth pick in the 1965 draft after taking a 10th-round flyer the previous year on Navy Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, who had a five-year military commitment. Then Meredith's retirement and Morton and Staubach fighting it out for the starting job. Staubach's surprise retirement after the 1979 season.

The saga of Clint Longley, the 1974 free agent out of Abilene Christian, the same year the Cowboys took a flyer on Arizona State quarterback Danny White, who first signed with Memphis of the World Football League, then coming to the Cowboys after the WFL folded before the 1976 season.

There's been the battle in the 1980s after the Cowboys, behind White, lost three consecutive NFC title games, between White and Gary Hogeboom, head coach Tom Landry announcing after training camp in 1984 that he was replacing White with Hogeboom as the starting quarterback, only to misspeak at the press conference, saying "Phil Pozderac" was going to be the starting QB instead of the starting right tackle. Then White returning as the starter in 1985, the Cowboys trading away Hogeboom to the Colts in 1986.

Then drafting Troy Aikman with the first pick in the 1989 draft, only to spend their 1990 first-round pick in the supplemental draft a few months later to grab quarterback Steve Walsh, Jimmy Johnson's guy at the University of Miami. A blockbuster trade of Walsh in 1990 to the Saints. The controversial drafting of Quincy Carter after Aikman retired following the 2000 season. Carter's fall from grace during training camp in 2004. Tony Romo's starting arrival midway through the 2006 season for the next nine seasons.

And the previous last chapter, fourth-round draft choice Dak Prescott taking over for the injured Romo at the start of the 2016 season, the Cowboys deciding to stick with him during that 13-3 season and Romo calling it quits in 2017.

Now this.

Anyone want to dispute the juiciness of this topic, Cowboys and quarterbacks?

First of all, Dak isn't going anywhere. Either the Cowboys sign him to a long-term deal, or he plays for the guaranteed $27 million franchise tag. That simple.

Now there is this narrative developing out there accusing the Cowboys of dragging their feet on signing Dak to, say, a five-year deal. That they are trying to low-ball him, undercut what's considered market value for a quarterback of his caliber.

But we don't know that for sure. That's merely an assumption and will continue to be until we find out how much Dak and his reps are asking for. What if they are asking for considerably more, wanting to become the highest paid quarterback in the NFL by gobs?

This all comes down to what true _market value_ for Dak really is. Not the total, big-dollar package that gets publicized, but what the real, _guaranteed money_ is. The fine print.

Now, we've done this previously, probably last offseason or training camp when this Dak contract stuff erupted. So let's refresh.

Example: Last year Philadelphia signed Carson Wentz, their 2016 first-round pick, to a four-year, $128 million deal. Simple math says that averages out to $32 million a year. But remember, first of all, that Wentz still had one year left on his original contract, with a $720,000 base the Eagles had to honor. So really, Wentz was playing for nearly $129 million over five years, or an average right at $25 million a year.

Also, the fine print on that deal says the Eagles, and this is important so pay attention, were guaranteeing him $108 million over those final four years. And if you include the 2019 base, and divide that out over five years, comes to just less than $26 million a year. Plus, the Eagles can get out of the contract before the 2023 season for $15 million in dead money. There is $65 million of that $128 million in non-guaranteed money.

You with me?

Dak want that? Market value.

Or take L.A.'s Jared Goff under the same premise. Four years, $134 million package, also having to pay his 2019 season under his original contract. But of the $134 million, only $110 million is fully guaranteed. That's a $27.5 million a year. And the Rams also have a 2023 out, only costing them $5 million in dead money.

Want more?

Russell Wilson signed a brand-spanking new four-year, $140 million deal, but with $107 million guaranteed. That's $26.75 million a year.

And while everyone makes a big deal over Kirk Cousins' three-year, fully-guaranteed $84 million package, that comes to $28 million a year.

So Dak? Again, what's fair market value?

If you look at the records, since the start of the 2016 season Dak is 40-24. Goff 33-21, Wentz 32-24 and Wilson 40-23-1.

And when it comes to playoffs, Dak is 1-2, Wentz 0-1, Goff 2-2 and Wilson 3-4 the past four seasons. Oh, and Cousins 1-1 the past four as well.

So there is the contract nitty-gritty, and remember, if Dak plays under the 2020 franchise tag, that should be in the vicinity of $27 million guaranteed. So right at what these other guys are averaging in guarantees within their existing contracts.

Problem is for Dak, there is just no signing bonus tied to the tag, meaning instead of getting like $20 million tomorrow, he would not total his $27 million guarantee until after Game 16. And as for the Cowboys, they can minimize Dak's yearly cap hit by paying him that signing bonus amortized over the likely five years of the contract.

Not sure either side wants to play hardball. Just want to be fair. And in the long run, fair benefits each.

So my advice to you guys, beware those creepy crawlers.