Cow­boys’ QB on crit­ics: ‘It’s al­most com­i­cal’

Prescott ready­ing for con­tract ex­ten­sion talks

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - Jori Ep­stein

DAL­LAS – A Cow­boys’ front of­fice with a young, tal­ented core has de­ci­sions to make as early as this spring.

De­fen­sive end DeMar­cus Lawrence caps off an­other dou­ble-digit sack sea­son af­ter play­ing on the fran­chise tag.

Corner­back By­ron Jones emerges from his first Pro Bowl year en­ter­ing the last sea­son of his rookie deal.

Quar­ter­back Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper will be un­re­stricted free agents in 2020, which also would mark the fifth-year op­tion for run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott.

What does all this mean for Prescott as he looks to lock up an ex­ten­sion?

“I think the team knows how to pay what’s de­served,” he told USA TO­DAY be­fore the Su­per Bowl, “and pay those other peo­ple at the same time what’s de­served with­out be­ing fru­gal.”

The Cow­boys and Prescott, rep­re­sented by NFL agent Todd France, will need to reach agree­ment on what ex­actly con­sti­tutes fru­gal.

Through three years, the Cow­boys have en­joyed a bar­gain on their start­ing quar­ter­back. The 2016 fourth-round pick’s salary cap hit of $725,848 in 2018 ranked 55th among NFL passers. Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers’ av­er­age an­nual value of $33.5 mil­lion clocks in just below 50 (49.2) times as ex­pen­sive as Prescott’s ($680,848). Four­teen play­ers at the po­si­tion in to­tal had cap fig­ures in ex­cess of $20 mil­lion last year.

Prescott’s wide range of en­dorse­ments (which in­clude Adi­das, Beats and Tos­ti­tos) sup­ple­ment a salary mod­est by NFL terms. But as his first chance to ne­go­ti­ate an ex­ten­sion hits this spring, his team will ask: What is he worth?

Prescott doesn’t see Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back Tom Brady’s team-friendly deal, for which he made just $15 mil­lion last sea­son, as a blue­print for his own.

“No­body’s wife makes as much money as his wife does ei­ther,” Prescott said of Brady’s su­per­model wife, Gisele Bund­chen, who earned $10 mil­lion in 2018 and $17.5 mil­lion in 2017, per re­ports. “When Tom Brady isn’t the bread­win­ner in the home, then that’s a great prob­lem to have.

“So in that case, he can do that. He can do his con­tract how­ever you want to do it.”

Prescott has made clear he wants to stay with Dal­las. Cow­boys’ per­son­nel, too, have made clear they see him as their long-term quar­ter­back.

Af­ter that, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Stephen Jones said, there’s only so much lee­way on con­tract de­tails.

“I think the mar­ket is what the mar­ket is,” Jones said from Se­nior Bowl prac­tices late Jan­uary in Mo­bile, Alabama. “We’ve all seen it. So, I think, you know, there’s not re­ally a lot to get a feel for in terms of know­ing what it is. I think the con­tracts are out there for ev­ery­body to see.

“It’s al­ways good to be a quar­ter­back though. Espe­cially one that wins, is a win­ner.”

In three sea­sons, Prescott has won 32 reg­u­lar-sea­son games and one game in the play­offs. He has started every con­test since Dal­las drafted him, and in­juries to Tony Romo (now CBS’ lead broad­caster) and Kellen Moore (now the Cow­boys’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor) vaulted him from fourth-string to first in weeks.

His 67 pass­ing touch­downs through three sea­sons aren’t gaudy — MVP Pa­trick Ma­homes tossed 50 in Kansas City this sea­son — though Prescott’s 18 rush­ing scores rank tops among quar­ter­backs in the league through the stretch.

Prescott en­trenched his starter role as a rookie in large part due to the ball se­cu­rity he dis­played while mount­ing a 23-to-4 TD-to-in­ter­cep­tion ra­tio. He has since slipped, throw­ing 13 picks in 2017 and eight last year in ad­di­tion to 12 fum­bles. But he fol­lowed sev­eral of those turnovers with late charges, set­ting an NFL record for fourth-quar­ter and over­time come­backs (15) by a quar­ter­back in his first three sea­sons.

Prescott en­ters his first chance to ne­go­ti­ate hav­ing won seven of his last eight reg­u­lar-sea­son games, com­plet­ing 71.63 per­cent of passes and ac­count­ing for 16 to­tal touch­downs with just four in­ter­cep­tions dur­ing that stretch.

He points to that suc­cess, af­ter the Cow­boys traded for Cooper, as ev­i­dence against naysay­ers.

“Peo­ple are go­ing to ques­tion, and I want them to,” Prescott said. “I don’t care. I am here where I am to­day be­cause of the peo­ple al­ways say­ing what I couldn’t or could do.

“It’s al­most com­i­cal some­times. If I hear it or al­low my­self to get in­volved in the talk, some­times it’s com­i­cal. But I just keep go­ing out there and just do­ing what I know I can do best.”

GARY A. VASQUEZ/USA TO­DAY

Dak Prescott is 32-16 with 67 TD passes over three reg­u­lar sea­sons with Dal­las.

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