Business of Football: Dak Prescott’s injury won’t significantly hurt his career earnings

In the aftermath of Dak Prescott’s bone-chilling injury and reaction on Sunday, many have asked me about his business decision to turn down a multi-year offer from the Cowboys to instead play on a one-year contract with no security beyond it. Here are some thoughts.

We do not know what the Cowboys were offering, but we do know from their contract history that they prefer long deals—the longer the better—with guarantees only in the low-risk early years of the deal. They have previously signed star players to contracts with lengths up to 10 years, which are essentially one- or two-year contracts with team options following that. Amid that landscape, the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes agreed to a 12-year deal, one that only secures $63 million over the next three years (Ryan Tannehill is making $91 million over the same time frame). Wanting both a better deal from the Cowboys and more optionality in his career, Prescott chose to play in 2020 on the one-year franchise tag number of $31 million.

Yes, if Prescott were never to play again or to find himself in a non-leveraged position next March and taking a below-market “prove it” contract, he would have been better off taking whatever the Cowboys offered last year, giving him more than the $31 million guarantee that he has. But ask yourself: Is that really the most likely scenario here? It is not.

Much more likely is that this upcoming February we will be in the same place we were last February: with Prescott a pending free agent and the Cowboys having to 1) negotiate a long-term contract; 2) re-apply the franchise tag, or 3) set him free into a marketplace desperate for young and proven quarterbacks. And my sense is that, as long as his recovery and rehabilitation has gone well, Prescott will again be in a position to leverage, at the least, a franchise tag of around $38 million for the 2021 season.

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