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By Michael Aleksandrov and Justin Rivers – Staff Writers
The deadline to sign franchise-tagged players has come and gone, and Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is still without a long-term deal. Over the last four seasons, Prescott has met the challenge of not only being the signal caller of America’s Team but also performing. With Dak Prescott under center, the Cowboys have gone from a perennial 8-and-8 team to one of the best in the league, constantly receiving pre-season Super Bowl hype. Last season, Dak, a two-time Pro Bowler and the 2016 AP Rookie of the Year, played on the final year of his pennies-on-the-dollar rookie deal. Now, he wants his brinks truck. Reportedly, he has already rejected a $30 million per year deal. At the deadline, the team and Dak could not work out a deal supposedly worth between $33 million and $35 million in average annual value. At this point, it appears that Dak is seeking to be compensated as not just a top-5 quarterback but towards the top of the quarterback market; however, is he even worth top-5 money? Here are the Blitz’s arguments for and against it.
Dak is Not worth the $$$ he is asking for:
Prescott is often compared to Carson Wentz, a top-paid quarterback in the league and fellow 2016 draftee. They’ve put up similar stats in their careers; however, before we break down their performances, let’s first analyze their individual teams. The Cowboys are an incredibly well-built team. Dallas has the top running back in the league, the second best offensive line, and a myriad of talented receivers. The Eagles are in a much worse situation. Carson Wentz’s best receivers are Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor (and his mishaps). The team has a better tight end in Zach Ertz, but their offensive line is ranked a mere 14th. Objectively, Dak is on a much better team than Wentz.
Now, let’s compare actual stats. Wentz posted 27 TDs to 7 INTs in 2019. Dak only topped him by three touchdowns (30) but also threw four more picks (11 INTs) on identical completions. Dak – however – blew Wentz out of the water on yards, but it’s not because he’s better. A lot of this has to do with who both quarterbacks are throwing to. Wentz is throwing most of his passes to two tight ends. It’s only expected that Wentz’s tight ends will have less RAC and be less successful on bigger passes because of their limited speed. Dak, on the other hand, has two of the top receivers in yards per route run. They are Dak’s primary targets. The only reason Dallas’ receivers have more drops than Philly is that they are in a higher-volume offense. Consequently, Dak has overinflated passing yards that are more the result of his talented receivers than his own play.
We have to consider how other teams gameplan for both quarterbacks and their offenses. The majority of teams are running blitzes against Dallas in order to stop Ezekiel Elliott. This means more one-on-one for Dak’s speedy receiving corps. This explains why he out-performs other quarterbacks both deep and in the middle of the field. It also illustrates the glaring gap in the middle of the field short- there are more defenders up the middle. Wentz and the Eagles will see more zones due to nobody on the team outside of Ertz and the mobile Wentz being actual threats. Wentz will have a lower QBR in nearly all of the field if his targets aren’t as talented.
Carson Wentz is still performing at Dak’s level despite injuries weighing him down throughout his career and playing in a worse system all over. The former #1 pick is being paid so astronomically high because he has yet to reach his full potential.
Dak Prescott has hit his ceiling after leveling off from his breakout year in 2016. He has overall better weapons than the highest-paid athlete ever, Patrick Mahomes. You can even compare Dak better to Mahomes than Wentz. Both had lower expectations at first and replaced long-tenured quarterbacks. Mahomes proceeded to break the league in his second year winning MVP and followed that up with a Super Bowl last season. He was handsomely rewarded – to say the least. Factor this in, though: Kansas City has a worse defense than Dallas. The team heavily relies on their offense for wins. Mahomes is able to carry the team. He tears up bad and good alike.
Dak, on the other hand, struggles to beat teams above .500. He is .433 against winning squads. In 2019, he was even worse. He was 2-6 against .500+ teams. He was the polar opposite against losing teams, going 6-2. Dak also has yet to find playoff success and is a mere 1-3 in the playoffs. His top-11 defense is not the problem. He is! Prescott has outperformed expectations but is still just above-average. If he was truly elite, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Lastly, it would be errant to assume what a quarterback is paid translates directly to their rank in the NFL. Kirk Cousins currently has the sixth-highest salary among quarterbacks but barely makes the top 15. Are Chase Daniel and Matt Schaub better than former MVP Cam Newton? Their salaries would indicate that. Dak deserves a pay raise, but not any more than he was offered. To his credit, the quarterback knows his situation. Dallas is in win-now mode – granted they have been for the past fifteen years. He may even get what he is looking for; however, it won’t be because he’s worth it. It’ll be because Jerry Jones is desperate.
Why Dak should be paid at least top-5 money: Three words. PAY THIS MAN! Since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the 6-foot-2, 238-pound Dak Prescott is 40-24 as a starter. In four seasons, the former with the 135th-overall pick hasn’t missed a game, and Dallas has won north of 60% of its games. As the signal caller for America’s Team, Dak has a 65.8% career completion percentage, has thrown 97 TDs against 36 INTs, and has added another 21 TDs on the ground. Sure, he’s not the half-a-billion-dollar man, Patrick Mahomes; however, if the NFL has proven anything over the years with Derek Carr and Joe Flacco, it’s that you do not need to be the best to be paid like the best. As such, let’s see why Dak deserves at least top-5 money.
In 2016, seven quarterbacks were taken ahead of Dak Prescott, but I am only going to compare him to the top-2 quarterbacks taken: Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Here are their career statistics compared to Dak’s:
|Player||Jared Goff||Carson Wentz||Dak Prescott|
|QBrec||33-21 (.611)||32-24 (.571)||40-24 (.625)|
|Total TDs (Passing + Rushing)||93(87 + 6)||100(97 + 3)||118(97 + 21)|
|Yds (Y/A)||14219 (7.6)||14191 (6.9)||15778 (7.6)|
|Pro Bowl Selections||2||1||2|
|First-Team All-Pro Selections||0||0||0|
|Super Bowl Appearances||1*||1**||0|
|4th Quarter Comebacks||6||6||8|
|Coach(s)||Jeff Fisher (2016)Sean McVay (2017-Present)||Doug Pederson(2016-Present)||Jason Garrett(2016-2019)Mike McCarthy(Present)|
*In Super Bowl LIII, the high-powered Rams offense disappointed, and Jared Goff was a large part of it. He went 19-38 passing for 229 yards and an interception in a 13-3 loss to the Patriots.
**Wentz only played in 13 games in 2017, and he was placed on IR in Dec. 2017; as such, he was not the starting QB for neither the last three games of the season nor the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. In the last three games of that season without Wentz, the Eagles went 2-1 with Nick Foles as their signal caller.
The stats speak for themselves. Compared to the other top quarterbacks in his draft class, Dak is the better player. Having played in every game since he was drafted, he’s clearly durable, and, as we hear so often in the NFL, the best ability is availability. Having accounted for more rushing touchdowns and yards than Goff and Wentz combined, Dak is also more dynamic and more of a dual-threat. This makes his durability even more impressive, and that’s not it!
Regarding the rest of Dak’s statistics compared to Goff and Wentz, he has more wins, a higher winning percentage, more touchdowns, a higher completion percentage, more yards, and he is tied for the highest yards per attempt. He’s more clutch, too. On his resume, he has more 4th-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives than the two aforementioned quarterbacks. Even more to Dak’s credit, he has performed on this level despite having Jason Garrett as his coach – arguably the worst coach when compared to McVay and Pederson. You would think that with these superior stats Dak would have been compensated better – let alone comparable – to Wentz and Goff.
|Player||Jared Goff||Carson Wentz||Dak Prescott|
|Current Contract||4yrs, $134 million||4yrs, $128 million||1yr, $31.409 million|
|2019 Salary in aav (rank)||$33.5 million(tied for 3rd)||$32 million(5th)||$608.848 thousand( > 1000th)|
To call Dak Prescott a bargain over the past four seasons would be an understatement. The Cowboys have had the best quarterback from the 2016 NFL Draft for pennies. Thanks to being top picks and having already received monster extensions, Goff and Wentz have yet earned nearly $50 million and $40 million respectively in their careers. On the other hand, Dak has only garnered about $5 million in his career. Last season, Goff’s and Wentz’s respective salaries ranked in the top-5 of quarterbacks in average annual value, while, in the same category, Dak had a salary ranked outside of the top-1000 players in the league.
Now that i’ve compared Dak to the top quarterbacks in his draft class, let’s regard how his stats stacked up against the top-5 highest paid quarterbacks in 2019:
2019 Stats: Dak Compared to Top-5 Highest Paid QBs in 2019
|Player||Dak Prescott||Russell Wilson||BenRoethlisberger||Aaron Rodgers||Jared Goff||Carson Wentz|
|2019Salary Rank(aav)||> 1000th||1st||2nd||3rd||3rd||5th|
|Total TDs (Passing + Rushing)||33(30 + 3)||34(31 + 3)||0(0 + 0)||27(26 + 1)||24(22 + 2)||28(27 + 1)|
|Yds (Y/A)||4902 (8.2)||4110 (8.0)||351 (5.7)||4002 (7.0)||4638 (7.4)||4039 (6.7)|
In 2019, the Cowboys challenged Dak Prescott to go out and earn a long-term contract, and he PERFORMED! With a sufficient offensive coordinator behind him, he was second in passing yards; he was third in passing yards per game; he was fourth in completions and passing touchdowns; and he ranked in the top-10 in pass attempts and passer rating. In comparison to the top-5 highest paid quarterbacks last season, he had comparable stats. He threw for the most yards, the highest yards per attempt, and the highest yards per game.
Last season, the Cowboys were top-ranked in yards last season. Regarding their passing offense, they were top-5 in points scored and passing first-downs, top-10 in completions, and top-2 in passing yards. With Dak under center, the Cowboys have won the division twice and have only ever finished as low as 2nd in the NFC East.
With the way the quarterback market is structured historically, you do not need to be the best player at your position to be paid like the best. At 26 years old, Dak has already proven that he is a franchise quarterback. In the NFL, if you have a franchise quarterback, YOU PAY THE MAN! Therefore, Dak deserves to be paid – certainly not Mahomes money but definitely paid at least top-5 money nonetheless.
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