FRISCO, Texas — The reason Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is willing to give a $160 million contract to Dak Prescott — more than what he paid for the team ($140 million) in 1989 — is the quarterback’s ability.
Prescott has improved year over year since coming to the Cowboys as a fourth-round pick in 2016. He has 106 touchdown passes. He has run for 24 more. He has led the Cowboys to two NFC East titles. In 2019, he was 2 yards away from setting the franchise record for passing yards in a season. Before his horrific right ankle injury last season, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 450 yards in three straight games.
But there was another reason Jones was willing to make a $160 million commitment over the next four years that includes an NFL-record $66 million signing bonus.
Jones relayed a conversation he had with the greatest Cowboys quarterback of all time, Hall of Famer Roger Staubach. He asked Staubach if the Cowboys should go after a mobile quarterback or a pocket quarterback.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) March 11, 2021
“Roger said, ‘I don’t have a comment there one way or the other, [but] get somebody at quarterback that the players will follow. That’s the biggest thing of all,'” Jones said. “I’ve had that in my mind for the last five, six years. And that’s been loud and clear.”
The Cowboys have witnessed Prescott’s intangibles going back to the 2016 Senior Bowl when they coached against him. They have seen it every day since he took over for an injured Tony Romo as a rookie. They have seen him play better than just about anyone could have assumed, even though it has not been perfect.
The reaction to the signing internally has been unanimous. Players have tweeted their enthusiasm, and those behind the scenes — from the athletic training room to the video department to the equipment staff — have the same feelings.
“What is so special about him is with all the success he has had on and off the field, he is still first and foremost one of the guys,” All-Pro right guard Zack Martin told ESPN.com. “It’s one thing to be a vocal leader as the quarterback, but he backs it up with how he works and prepares throughout the year. He takes the time to get to know his teammates and understands that no one’s job is too small. He’s everything you want in a quarterback, a teammate and a friend.”
Wednesday’s news conference announcing the contract was in the middle of the afternoon because Prescott, 27, had to go through his rehab work in the morning first. He wasn’t going to skip a session. He wasn’t going to let his teammates think he was slipping.
If there is a celebration of the deal, it will be small and intimate with family and friends. Too much work remains to get healthy and to improve as a quarterback.
“This is more about where we’re going. This is more about what this organization, the future, what I believe in, what this team believes in, all those men that get up every day and make a commitment to make sure this organization wins, that’s what this is about,” Prescott said. “Not to pat myself on the back, but I’m in there working out with those guys, those rehab guys and trying to get better because that’s the celebration. I’m here, we get to work, we get to put in this work to go get what we want, and that’s to win.”
After he got hurt last season, Prescott was still around The Star most days even though he was limited in activity and had difficulty getting around. But he wanted to show his investment to his teammates and coaches.
“At the end of the day, he is our partner in this and certainly Jerry and I have to make tough decisions on how we divide up, if you will, the pie,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “And the right guy has the biggest piece.”
The dollars involved can give the Joneses some pause. In 2019, the top two picks of the 2016 draft, quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, signed megadeals worth $133.4 million and $128 million, respectively. They will be traded from their original teams when the new league year begins March 17.
The Cowboys don’t know how this will play out, but their belief in Prescott is backed up by some of the great players in franchise history, such as Staubach, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and others.
“That’s how I know we got it right,” Stephen Jones said. “You look at his teammates. You look at the people, like a Michael Irvin, who spent time with him, past great players who had that ‘it’ factor. They all love and respect Dak. He’s just got an insatiable appetite to be great, to compete, to lead. Whatever, however you want to put all of that in a box, he has that. That’s why Jerry and I are so convinced that we did get this right. He’s only going to get better from here.”