Counting the cost of Dak Prescott’s horror injury
Losing Prescott to injury on Sunday is devastating for the Cowboys’ prospects this season, and obviously to him as a player. But as he begins the long rehabilitation process, Prescott will be pondering the financial ramifications of his enforced layoff.
The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is out of contract at the end of this season, having come into this season playing under a one-year franchise tag worth a fully guaranteed $31.4 million.
Before suffering that compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle, Prescott had been leading the league in passing yards, attempts and completions this season.
If he had kept playing at the same level, it has been widely suggested that he could have been in line for a similar deal to the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
During the off-season, Mahomes signed a 10-year deal with the Chiefs reportedly worth up to half a billion dollars.
New NFL television contracts
According to the NFL Network’s Jane Slater in July, the Cowboys had offered Prescott a five-year $175 million contract, with $110 million guaranteed.
During contract negotiations with the Cowboys during the off-season, the 27-year old reportedly preferred a four-year deal so that he would be a free agent sooner, not long after the new NFL television contracts begin — something that will significantly boost teams’ salary caps.
The current television contracts expire in 2022 and, according to CNBC, the new deals could double the NFL’s annual media rights revenue from about $7.5 billion to $15 billion.
Sportscasting estimate that after his season-ending injury, Prescott’s contract gamble and rejection of the $175 million deal may have cost him somewhere in the region of $144 million.
However, this loss is only true if Prescott were never to take another snap, and in any case, only a fraction of the $144 million would be guaranteed. Taking away the $31.4 million Prescott earned by signing his one-year franchise tag contract, the true figure gambled was $78.6 million.
Based on his performances in the first five games of this season though, and the deals taken by other quarterbacks this year such as Mahomes’ mega-deal and the four-year $160 million deal signed by the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson in September, it is unlikely a newly offered deal would be anything below the $175 million already offered to Prescott.
If no deal can be reached again this year, but the Cowboys decide to franchise tag him again for the 2021 season, he will earn $37,690,800.
The comeback begins
There is also the worry that Prescott may not return the same player after a significant injury like this.
Prescott’s elder brother Tad is confident of his younger brother’s ability to bounce back, saying on Twitter: “MVP & Comeback player of the Year in the same season. The fight starts today Lil bro.”
Dallas is bullish that Prescott will make a good recovery.
He underwent surgery Sunday night, and the Cowboys told CNN in a statement on Monday that the surgery went successfully and that Prescott was expected to be released from hospital that same day.
Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ owner and GM, backed Dak to recover fully after the game on Sunday, saying: “I know of no one who is more prepared, from the perspective of mental and emotional toughness and determination, than Dak Prescott to respond and recover from this challenge put in front of him.
“He is an inspiration to everyone he touches. He has all of our love and support. And we have no doubt that he will return to the position of leadership and purpose that he brings to our team.”
Cowboys vice president and Jerry Jones’ son Stephen Jones echoed his father’s thoughts, telling 105.3 The Fan on Monday: “He’s our future. He’s special. If anyone can overcome anything, it would be Dak.
“This is something that our doctors feel good that he’ll overcome and come back better than ever.”
It isn’t just those inside the organization who are confident of Prescott returning healthy from injury.
Dr. T.O. Souryal, former Dallas Mavericks head team physician of 22 years and current medical director at Texas Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Group, told The Athletic that Prescott’s injury is serious but very treatable.
“I am optimistic for several reasons,” Souryal said. “I’m optimistic because Dak is healthy, he’s young, he’s in good physical condition, he will be getting the best medical care available, he will get the best rehabilitation and physical therapy available and he has access to the most modern equipment available.
“Factor all of that stuff together, I am optimistic that his recovery will be uneventful.”
What remains to be seen, however, is how Prescott’s bargaining position might be weakened by backup quarterback Andy Dalton.
The 32-year-old Dalton, who made three Pro Bowls as quarterback of the Bengals during his eight-year stint in Cincinnati, is one of the most experienced backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
If Dalton leads the Cowboys to a division victory and takes them to the playoffs, and even progress deep into those playoffs, the Cowboys are in a more powerful position when negotiating with Prescott. If Dalton fails, then the ball is back in Prescott’s court.
Dalton may try to emulate the success of Nick Foles. As a backup to the injured Carson Wentz, Foles took the Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl victory and won a Super Bowl MVP gong in the process.
After failing to hold down the starting job in Philadelphia, in 2019 Foles went on to secure a four-year $88 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, with $50.1 million guaranteed and worth up to $102 million in incentives.
A year later, he was traded to the Chicago Bears, where this season he has won the starting job from Mitchell Trubisky.