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Offseason | 2021

Spagnola: Here's Setting The Dak Signing Straight


FRISCO, Texas – Been reminded of so many things that just make me go …


For right about 23 months, all we seemingly have heard is why aren't the Cowboys signing Dak Prescott? Don't they think he's a franchise quarterback? What more does he have to prove? Just pay the guy.

So the Cowboys do, signing Dak to a robust, if not historic, four-year, $160 million deal, stuffed with a $66 million signing bonus and $126 million in guarantees. Which also includes additional voidable years just so they can spread out the prorated signing bonus over five years and also give them the right to restructure his $20 million 2022 base salary, turning a portion into bonus money that will prorate over the next five years and lower his salary cap hit.

But first thing we then hear is, well, the Cowboys paid Dak too much. Polls are taken on TV.

Seriously? What about all that pay the guy?

Or, for that much, why didn't the Cowboys sign him sooner?

Seriously? Takes two to tango as they say, and I truly believe there were some underlying circumstances road-blocking the way.

Then this one, too, strikes my funny chord: Well, for that much money he had better win a Super Bowl.

Seriously? As if Dak alone is out there playing on the grass courts of Wimbledon. Just because he's signing a huge contract doesn't mean he will now play even better. Wonder if Patrick Mahomes, after signing his 10-year half-billion extension, took grief for not winning this past season's Super Bowl.

And finally, always the ubiquitous: Who won the negotiation?


Hey, they both won.

And these are not solely the perceptions of the fans out there. The media, too, is guilty of playing both sides of the pancake on these matters, TV news anchors relying on live call-in polls to giddily shape opinions.

Ain't it grand to be the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys?

Well, in Dak's case, it darn well sure is. He will pocket a guaranteed $75 million in 2021, coming off his gruesome ankle injury, with the signing bonus and a $9 million base salary. He also is guaranteed $95 million over the first two years, with a $20 million guaranteed base salary next year.

But when you get caught up in all the bluster about this being the largest signing bonus or the largest guarantee in the history of the football world, look at it this way:

First of all, the $126 million is guaranteed over the first three years. If Dak should bomb, the Cowboys could get out after the 2023 season for $26.4 million in dead money. But again, as I constantly remind, when you marry yourself to one of these franchise-type quarterback deals, divorce is expensive.

Here is another way to look at this entire contract. If you add Dak's $31.4 million tag from last year to his current four-year, $160 million deal, that comes to five years, $191.4 million, or an average of $38.8 million a year, so right about the going rate for one of these top quarterbacks.

Or how about doing this for the frugal type on what's the Cowboys' cost for Prescott's consistently high level of play? Add what Dak made in 2019 to that above total, all of $2.025 million, coming to now $193.425 million, and divide that out by six years. That would mean the Cowboys are spending an average of $32.23 million a year on what they project as top quarterback play. Not bad, huh?

However you slice it, they both come out ahead.

Win-win, right? Nobody really loses, but then in the media book of obvious angles, that's probably not one of the chapters. Come on, where is the demanded loser?

Here is another rub in this matter: Many are surprised this deal came to fruition, not just before the start of the 2021 league year, but completed at all.

To that I say, really? While most kept saying that last year Dak was betting on himself by settling for the franchise tag, that he would play at such a high level the price of doing business with the Cowboys would go up. But what didn't factor into the equation was the possibility of suffering a career-ending injury with no future security. With no $50 million signing bonus from a long-term deal put in the bank the next day or a guaranteed of $110 million over five years.

Nothing to turn your nose up on, for sure.

But, like, what if? What if that injury Dak suffered had been career ending? Betting on yourself is one thing. Betting on your health is another when you have 250- to 300-pound guys chasing after you with frothing mouths 60 snaps a game. And don't you know that gruesome compound ankle fracture and dislocation that ended his season in the fifth game last year had to be a sobering experience, physically, emotionally and financially.

Did he really want to gamble on his football mortality another year without future security? I'd think not.

And as I've previously pointed out, go ask his agent Todd France's other franchised client from last season, Pittsburgh's Bud Dupree, who tore his ACL in December. What do you think his free-agent market value becomes on the 17th just three months into his rehab, especially with the Steelers themselves cap-strapped?

Now then, looking at this deal financially, the Cowboys are banking on the new NFL TV contract ballooning greatly, banking on a significant salary cap increase over the next three years. That will help absorb Dak's increasing base salaries, to the $20 million next year, to $31 million in 2023 that fully guarantees on the fifth day of the league year and then the $29 million in 2024 if that contract even reaches 2024.

Because if he's playing at an absolutely-keep level then count on these two dancing over another contract after the 2023 season.

But with this contract structure, the Cowboys are counting on no further pandemic impacting attendance that fractures the salary cap again.

And then there is this, too: Harmony in the locker room. Look, these players were pulling for Dak, right? Just go on social media to see their reaction to the deal. He's the guy. He's the leader that as Sean Lee has said, you'd run through the wall for. Can't put a price on creating positive energy in there.

That's why Dak has become just the third quarterback in owner Jerry Jones' 32 years who has been inked to at least a second contract, Troy Aikman and Tony Romo the other two, and each having signed a third contract, too.

The Cowboys can only hope Dak is playing at a level qualifying a third deal, Lombardi Trophy or not.

Dak, too.


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