NFL

Jerry Jones Just Sent a $7 Million Message to Dak Prescott

When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, there’s one universal truth: Jerry Jones is going to do what Jerry Jones wants. Whether that means running the draft, picking the head coach, or speaking to the media at every possible opportunity, the owner is never afraid to put himself in the spotlight. He did that on Saturday night, signing a quarterback other than Dak Prescott to a new contract.

That quarterback, of course, is Andy Dalton, who’s returning to Texas after spending his professional career in Cinncinatti. While the does serve a football purpose, it also sends a message to Dak Prescott.

Jerry Jones and Dak Prescott still can’t agree on a contract

Historically, Jerry Jones is no stranger to spending money. This offseason, however, his negotiations with Dak Prescott are stuck in a deadlock.

Earlier this year, the Cowboys slapped their franchise tag on Prescott. While the parties continued negotiating, they still haven’t been able to hammer out a deal; they seem to be in the same ballpark on money, but can’t agree on a term. The club wants a five-year commitment, but Prescott’s camp is holding firm on four, which would give him another free agent payday during his prime.

While there’s no imminent rush—negotiations can continue into July—some time-based complicating factors have emerged. Prescott isn’t taking part in the team’s virtual offseason program and is now mourning the loss of his brother. While it’s understandable Dak might want to take a step back from the negotiating table, every day he remains unsigned is a day the Dallas Cowboys won’t get back.

Jerry Jones brings Andy Dalton back to Texas

On Saturday night, news broke that the Dallas Cowboys had signed a quarterback. It wasn’t Dak Prescott, though; Jerry Jones inked Andy Dalton to a one-year deal that could be worth up to $7 million.

From a football perspective, the signing makes sense. During his time in Cincinnati, Dalton proved to be a solid quarterback. While he was never able to carry the club to the promised land, he’s more than capable of stepping in during an emergency. As the Kansas City Chiefs showed last year, even teams with an elite starter shouldn’t skimp on a backup.

While ESPN was sure to note that “the addition of Dalton does not affect the Cowboys’ feelings toward Prescott,” the move does remove some of the incumbent’s leverage. With Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci on the roster, Dak could call Jones’ bluff and dare him to start the season with someone else under center; Dalton isn’t the ideal starter, but he’s less of a downgrade, especially if he spends the offseason working with Mike McCarthy while Prescott holds out.

Did Jerry Jones actively engineer this signing to force Dak Prescott back into negotiations or actively replace his incumbent? Probably not, but it will still send a $7 million message. Signing Andy Dalton was a smart football decision, but it does show that the Cowboys have a Plan B if Prescott does hold out or plays poorly on his one-year franchise tag.

What comes next for Dak Prescott?

In an ideal world, Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys would have worked out a new contract before the quarterback’s previous deal expired. At this point, however, that’s nothing but a fantasy. Despite the current impasse, though, it’s hard to imagine that the parties won’t agree to a new deal before the July deadline.

For all of Jerry Jones’ poor decision making, he (theoretically) wants to win football games; it’s hard to imagine that he’ll let Prescott, who represents his best chance at winning, walk away. The same can be said for Prescott. While holding out may seem worth it in the long run, we’ve seen plenty of player balk once they start missing games.

Given the realities of the current negotiation—both sides met at the same table and came within a year of agreeing—it’s hard to imagine that things don’t work out. Signing Andy Dalton, however, does give Jerry Jones a chance to use the nuclear option. Doing so would be a bad move, but we’ve seen stranger things happen in Dallas.