Cowboys aren’t as foolish as previously rumored with Dak Prescott

In an otherwise quiet offseason for the Dallas Cowboys, the team is taking a risky approach to star quarterback Dak Prescott's contract.

Carolina Panthers v Dallas Cowboys
Carolina Panthers v Dallas Cowboys / Tom Pennington/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys still have not signed quarterback Dak Prescott to a contract extension. Entering the offseason, an extension seemed to be a guarantee.

Prescott is entering the final year of a four-year, $160 million deal signed in March 2021. At the time his current contract was signed, Prescott's $40 million per year deal was the second-richest in the NFL. Since then, Dallas has restructured the contract on four separate occasions, with the most recent restructure resulting in a $55.4 million salary cap number for the 2024 season — the second-highest salary cap hit in the league behind Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson ($63.9 million). 

At this point in the offseason, the expectation was that the Cowboys would let Prescott play out the 2024 season on his current deal and risk letting him leave next offseason. The Cowboys have not closed off the potential to consummate a deal with Prescott this year, according to CBS Sports' Josina Anderson.

Cowboys haven't given up on contract extension with QB Dak Prescott

"While there’s currently no offer or imminent talks, the team is not presently charting a path to let Prescott go to free agency, despite some chatter to the contrary," Anderson posted on social media.

The news shouldn't be surprising. Before the Cowboys can start making any big-money deals, they need to figure out how to lower their quarterback's salary cap hit.

The Cowboys may be "America's Team," but they are still beholden to the league's salary cap spending limit. They currently have just $6.7 million in cap space, which isn't even enough to sign the team's upcoming 2024 NFL Draft class. To make matters worse, lucrative contract extensions are looming for star wideout CeeDee Lamb and linebacker Micah Parsons.

Prescott's contract contains a provision that prevents Dallas from designating him as a franchise or transition player in 2025, which means he could leave the team in free agency if he plays out the upcoming season on his current contract. Even if the Cowboys want to move on from Prescott in 2025, it wouldn't be a clean split. Due to void years added during contract restructures, the Cowboys will be left with $40.4 million in dead money if Prescott leaves in free agency.

The Cowboys have sat idly by as 10 of their 2024 free agents signed with other teams, including star running back Tony Pollard and future Hall of Fame left tackle Tyron Smith. Four players signed with the Washington Commanders, a division rival. Dallas has been scrutinized a lot for their dormant offseason, but the team needs to be wise with its expenditures.

In 2023, nine players earned first- or second-team All-Pro honors. Prescott led the league in passing touchdowns, linebacker Micah Parsons had a career-high 14 sacks, and cornerback DaRon Bland led the league with nine interceptions, five of which he returned for touchdowns — an NFL record. Ultimately, none of it mattered — the Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Wild Card Round.

It has been 28 years since the Cowboys last hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. If the Cowboys don't handle their finances properly, that number will likely reach the 30-year mark.

It may be quiet in Dallas right now, but storms are brewing on the horizon.

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