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Inside the Dak Prescott contract

Mike Florio and Chris Simms examine the Dak Prescott contract situation and why it hovers over every offseason decision the Cowboys make.

Dak Prescott’s contract easily can be called the best contract ever signed (once it’s officially signed) by any player in league history. The relatively straightforward details of the contract are set forth below (per a source with knowledge of the contract), followed by some analysis of what it all means.

First, Prescott will receive a $66 million signing bonus. That’s the biggest signing bonus ever received by any player in league history.

Second, he’ll have a $9 million base salary in 2021, fully guaranteed. With the signing bonus paid out entirely in 2021, he’ll receive $75 million by the end of the 2021 regular season. That’s also a record one-year payout.

Third, Prescott’s 2022 salary is $20 million, fully guaranteed. That equates to $95 million fully guaranteed at signing, also a record.

Fourth, he’ll receive in 2023 a base salary of $31 million. It’s guaranteed for injury for now, and it becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2022 league year. Thus, to avoid owing him $126 million fully guaranteed, the Cowboys will have to cut Prescott after one year, at $95 million.

Fifth, Prescott has a $5 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2024 league year, along with a 2024 base salary of $29 million. Both payments are non-guaranteed.

The contract includes a pair of voidable years, aimed at giving the Cowboys the ability to cram cap space from the four-year, $160 million deal into 2025 and 2026.

Prescott eventually will have three different protections against the franchise tag in 2025. First, although a no-tag clause is not yet in the draft of the contract, it’s expected to be added. Second, Prescott and agent Todd France insisted on the second tag being applied this year. This makes it, as previously mentioned, difficult if not impossible to ever franchise-tag him again, since it would entail a 44-percent increase over the cap number from the last year of his contract. Third, the final two years of the contract void the day before the start of the 2025 league year, after the franchise-tag deadline. Thus, if all else fails, he can’t be tagged in 2025 because his contract won’t expire until it’s too late to tag him.

At a minimum, Prescott has a three-year, $126 million deal. With no tag available in 2025, the Cowboys will surely try to convert the last year of the deal into a new contract. If not, he gets $160 million over the next four years. That’s $29.3 million more than Mahomes will make over the next four years, and he’ll still be under contract for seven years after that.

The deal also compares very favorably to the first four years of money paid to other top quarterbacks under their current deals. The $160 million payable to Prescott from 2021 through 2024 exceeds the first four years of Russell Wilson’s current deal by $29 million. As to the first four years of Aaron Rodgers’ current deal, it’s $35.5 million more. As to the first four years of Matt Ryan’s current deal, it’s $42.5 million more. As to the first two years of Deshaun Watson’s deal, it $49.2 million more. In comparison to the first four years of the Jared Goff contract, it’s $49.9 million more. As to the first four years of the Carson Wentz deal, it’s $56.1 million more. And as to the first four years of the Patrick Mahomes deal, the payout Prescott will receive exceeds the Mahomes contract by $56.4 million.

Prescott will be back in position to get another deal as soon as three years from now. At the latest, he’ll be on the open market in 2025, free and clear and subject to no tags. He’ll only be 31 at the time; for franchise quarterbacks, 31 is the new 21.