The Cowboys have Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton to play quarterback this season. There’s little reason to expect that pairing or order to change in the near future.
Well, hold up: There are at least 31.4 million reasons why Prescott will remain No. 1. That’s what the internet failed to grasp or admit when it got cranked up Saturday night after Dalton’s signing to create more drama inside The Star.
Dallas has pledged $31.4 million to Prescott for 2020 through the exclusive franchise tag on the fifth-year pro. That’s 14.4 percent of the Cowboys’ cap, according to contracts site Spotrac.com. He’s in the top 10 among starting quarterbacks, depending on which metric you use (cash or average annual value).
Prescott is trying to get more, of course, and negotiations on a long-term deal continue to drag. The sides have until July 15 to agree on a multiyear pact; otherwise, Prescott would have to play under the tag or hold out and not play at all. Then Dallas could go to Dalton, who is guaranteed just $3 million in 2020 but could make as much as $7 million.
Right now, though, the Cowboys are Prescott’s best bet this late into free agency, even if he winds up having to bet on himself.
And, yes, we’re assuming that the Cowboys won’t trade or release Prescott this spring or summer, because why would they? Prescott is the better player (yes, he is, internet), and according to Spotrac, he’s the seventh-highest paid quarterback in the NFL, based on average annual value right now with the tag (unless he or another QB really gets paid this year; looking at you, Patrick Mahomes).
So, no, this depth chart is staying status quo.
Don’t agree? Think this is a squeeze play by Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones or galaxy-brain capology to strengthen other positions — say, on defense? Just go with the obvious: Prescott gives the Cowboys their best chance to win. Not Dalton, not Cam Newton, not Joe Flacco . . . and not the other QBs on Dallas’ roster: Cooper Rush, Clayton Thorson and Ben DiNucci, who arrived about 15 minutes ago from the draft.
Prescott is 26 and he’s coming off career highs in completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. The Cowboys were sixth in the NFL in scoring offense last season. Dalton has playoff experience, but he’s also 32 and coming off his worst overall statistical season. Yes, the Bengals were lousy under first-year coach Zac Taylor, but Dalton had a hand in that lousiness.
And if you’re into passer rating, Prescott’s was more than 21 points higher (99.7-78.3). Apples to orange helmets? Could be, but that’s still a relevant gulf.
Think of this, too: Jones retained Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator after replacing head coach Jason Garrett with Mike McCarthy. Jerry chose continuity with Moore and Prescott over McCarthy’s philosophy. Even if you think Prescott and Dalton are just game managers, Prescott will still be the better one given his experience in Moore’s system and his status as a team leader.
Here are some closing bits of obvious: Win-now teams crave depth. Jones wants to win yesterday. Dalton represents quality depth behind a young established starter.
That’s the simplest, and best, way to look at this move, instead of how a chunk of the internet is parsing it.