NFL

Dak Prescott Just Lost a $144 Million Gamble

Dak Prescott wanted the shorter contract that would have set him up for free agency after the rich new NFL television contracts kick in to boost the salary cap into the stratosphere. The Dallas Cowboys wanted to lock him into a longer deal.

When they couldn’t find the happy medium, both sides rolled the dice on the franchise tag. The dice came up snake eyes, and it may have just cost the fifth-year quarterback somewhere in the vicinity of $144 million.

Dak Prescott leaves the Week 5 game early

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The Dallas Cowboys were leading the New York Giants 24-23 midway through the third quarter of their NFL Week 5 game when Dak Prescott sustained an injury to his lower right leg.

Prescott was 14-for-21 for 166 yards at the time. In the second quarter, Prescott caught the first touchdown pass of his career on an 11-yard throw from Ced Wilson. The play put Dallas ahead for the first time in a contest that in which they trailed by a 17-3 margin at one point.

Prescott was running in the third quarter when Giants cornerback Logan Ryan tugged him down from the side. Prescott’s right leg was pinned beneath him at an awkward angle, appearing to bend the ankle at an extreme angle.

Teammates and coaches surrounded Prescott as the Cowboys’ medical staff worked on him. Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who had been Prescott’s head coach in Dallas the previous four seasons, came over to check on him.

The quarterback was placed on the medical cart and taken directly for x-rays as backup Andy Dalton, brought in during the offseason while Prescott’s contract status was up in the air, warmed up. With the former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback at the helm, Dallas finished the drive with a 12-yard scoring run by Ezekiel Elliott for a 31-23 lead.

After the brief examination at AT&T Stadium, Prescott was transported to an area hospital for further evaluation and treatment. ESPN reporter Adam Schefter tweeted that Prescott would undergo ankle surgery Sunday night, and the Cowboys revealed later that the injury was a compound fracture of the right ankle.

Dak Prescott has been Mr. Durability as a pro

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Selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft out of Mississippi State, Dak Prescott has been a stalwart behind center for Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys. He won the No. 1 job in training camp as a rookie and has made 69 consecutive regular-season starts.

His completion percentage has never dropped below 62.9% in a season, and he roared to a personal-best 4,902 passing yards in 2019, when Prescott also threw for a career-high 30 touchdowns.

Prescott was off to a blazing start in 2020, too. With the Cowboys playing from behind for much of their 1-3 start, Prescott reached the quarter mark of the season with NFL highs of 137 completions in 201 attempts for 1,690 yards. He had nine touchdowns and three interceptions while amassing a 102.6 passer rating.

The injury to Prescott was a bit of unfortunate irony, coming on the same day that Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith was pressed into action for the first time since Nov. 18, 2018, the day he suffered a gruesome leg injury during a loss to the Houston Texans.

This casts significant doubt on his future

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Dak Prescott’s rookie contract expired at the end of the 2019 season. The quarterback and the Dallas Cowboys were unable to reach an agreement on a long-term contract, so the team applied the franchise tag, setting Prescott up for a fully guaranteed $31.4 million salary this season.

The NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported in July that the Cowboys’ last offer had been in the neighborhood of $175 million over five years, with about $110 million guaranteed. The hang-up was widely believed to be that Prescott wanted a four-year deal that would get him to his next negotiation sooner, but after the increased television revenue stream raised the salary cap.

Backing the franchise-tag salary out from the estimated $175 million offer, Prescott was making what amounted to about a $144 million gamble on his future.

Prescott becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season if the Cowboys don’t apply the franchise tag again, this time for $37,690,800.

Now, the severity of the injury will dictate Prescott’s future. However, the likely end to his season leaves Prescott with less leverage in the short term.