How Important is Dak Prescott's New Deal to Dallas? Super Bowl Important

Cameron Smith

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At long last, Dak Prescott is a Cowboys quarterback, and not just for a season. The headlines will focus on the enormous signing bonus and six-year length of Dallas quarterback Prescott's new contract. The real headline should be on just how big an impact he will have. 

One need not search long to see the difference in Dallas' offense with Prescott under center and when he's on the sideline. Here's how the 2020 season shook out under both categories: 

QUARTERBACKRECORDREAL QBROFFENSIVE PASSER RATINGTDINT
Dak Prescott1-396.37 (6th)101.25 (11th)93
Andy Dalton/Ben DiNucci/Garrett Gilbert5-779.73 (23rd)90.23 (20th)1610

Excuse the statistical anomaly that Dallas actually finished with a higher winning percentage with Dalton, DiNucci and Gilbert under center; that achievement came due to the woeful state of the NFC East. Rather, the team's front-loaded schedule — and its competitiveness against three playoff teams in the opening four weeks — speaks volumes to the impact Prescott had on the team. So does this: He played in barely more than 25 percent of the team's games (he was injured in the first half of Week 5's victory against the Giants), but passed for 36 percent of the team's touchdowns. That's a signficantly outsized influence above replacement level for a single player. 

The other "winning" factor behind Prescott's new deal is in how it's structured. The total value of the deal stands at $160 million over four years, with an additional $4 million available in incentives. Of that $160 million, an astounding $125 million is guaranteed, with the bulk coming via a record-setting $66 million signing bonus. At initial glance, the deal looks like what Prescott was lobbying for behind the scenes: A four-year pact that will allow him to become a free agent again at age 31, when he will still be able to command prime value on the open market. Yet the deal is structured like a six-year deal, with two void years at the end of the agreement significantly easing the salary cap hit on the Cowboys in each year. That leaves a cap hit of just $22.2 million in 2021 despite Prescott's gargantuan signing bonus. 

The void years on the end of Prescott's contract aren't a universal win. They bring with them a poison pill that could eventually handcuff the Cowboys in a serious way, just as they're most at need when transitioning to a new quarterback. 

If Prescott performs, it's highly likely that the Cowboys will desperately try to preemptively extend him, thereby effectively kicking the void years (and the potential cap killer they represent) down the road. 

Such an approach is wonderfully Cowboys, with the franchise focused squarely on what it can do to improve today, even if that does mean sacrificing from tomorrow.