Dak Prescott

NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Darnold, Cowboys

Imagine a loaded Buccaneers offense with…Jonathan Taylor at running back. It could have been a possibility, as the Buccaneers had their eye on the Wisconsin product during the 2020 draft, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Bucs were armed with the No. 14 heading into that draft, and Taylor was on the “short list” of players the organization was considering with that selection. The team ended up with their preferred prospect, offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, and they traded up to No. 13 to make sure they got the lineman. However, if Wirfs was off the board at that point in the draft, then Tampa Bay likely would have pivoted to Taylor, who didn’t hear his name come off the board until midway through the second round.

“I loved him,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said recently (via Schefter). “He could do it all, and it was just a matter of time — playing behind that offensive line — that he was going to be the force that he is.”

Taylor has obviously had a standout season with the Colts, leading the league with 1,348 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns (naturally, he’s also leading the NFL with 1,684 yards from scrimmage and 18 total scores). Of course, things have worked out fine for the Buccaneers. Wirfs has started all 28 of his career games, while the duo of Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones were more than capable during Tampa Bay’s 2020 Super Bowl run.

Some more notes out of the NFC…

  • Sam Darnold seems to be out of the picture in Carolina, but the Panthers still owe the quarterback $18.8MM in guaranteed money in 2022. The team already paid Denver $7MM to inherit Teddy Bridgewater, leaving the organization with $17MM in dead cap. As a result, Joseph Person of The Athletic believes Darnold will stick around as a high-priced backup vs. being involved in a salary dump. Person specifically cites a 2017 trade where the Texans attached a second-round pick to Brock Osweiler to dump his salary on Cleveland; league sources tell the reporter that “an Osweiler-type trade involving Darnold is unlikely.”
  • Cowboys senior defensive assistant George Edwards is a candidate for the head coaching job at his alma mater, Duke University, reports NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). Edwards was a four-year player for Duke, and he served as an assistant on the Duke staff way back in 1996. He’s had a long coaching career since that time, including a recent six-year stint as the Vikings defensive coordinator. Edwards has been a senior defensive assistant with the Cowboys since 2020. Duke parted ways with David Cutcliffe last month.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com recently tweeted the 10 highest salary cap hits for 2022, and the top three spots all belong to the NFC. Falcons QB Matt Ryan and his $48.7MM cap hit leads the way, following by Packers QB Aaron Rodgers at $46.1MM and Vikings QB Kirk Cousins at $45MM. Other NFC players on the list include Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (sixth, $37MM), Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (ninth, $34.5MM), and Lions QB Jared Goff (10th, $31.2MM).

Cowboys Rework Dak Prescott’s Deal

The Cowboys have converted $6.25M of Dak Prescott‘s base salary into a signing bonus, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). With help from their star quarterback, the Cowboys have carved out an additional $5M in cap space for the current year. 

[RELATED: Cowboys’ Prescott On Track For Week 1]

Injuries limited Prescott to just five games last year, but he posted at least 450 yards between Weeks 2-4. The Cowboys are banking on another hot start from their franchise QB and a season similar to 2019 when he threw for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Prescott agreed to a four-year, $160MM extension in March, keeping him in place for years to come while avoiding the prospect of astronomical franchise tags. The deal made him the NFL’s second $40MM-per-year player, alongside Patrick Mahomes. Since then, Josh Allen has sandwiched himself in between at $43MM/year.

Prescott will make his return on Thursday night when the Cowboys face the Buccaneers.

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Cowboys’ Dak Prescott On Track For Week 1

Good news for Cowboys fans. Quarterback Dak Prescott has had “absolutely no setbacks” in his recovery (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero) and remains on course to play in the season opener on September 9.

Prescott’s ailing shoulder is still healing on schedule and Pelissero hears that he could have even played in tonight’s game against the Texans. But, because there’s little to be gained in exhibition games, the Cowboys didn’t want to take any risks. The plan is to ramp up Prescott’s practice reps next week, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll take the field against the Jaguars on Aug. 29. In all likelihood, the Cowboys will take the cautious approach by protecting Prescott between now and Week 1 against the Buccaneers.

The sixth-year QB threw the ball around before the Cowboys’ second preseason game last weekend and didn’t experience any pain, another promising sign for the weeks ahead.

Injuries limited Prescott to just five games last year, but he posted at least 450 yards between Weeks 2-4. The Cowboys are banking on another hot start from their franchise QB and a season similar to 2019 when he threw for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns.

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QB Notes: Patriots, Dak, Brady, Rosen

Shortly after the draft, Bill Belichick said Cam Newton was the Patriots‘ starter and Mac Jones would develop behind him. Through two-plus weeks of training camp, a competition could be brewing. The gap between Newton and Jones has narrowed, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes. It is not certain if Jones can mount a legitimate charge to unseat Newton for Week 1, but modern NFL history — excepting the Packers’ blueprints — points to this transition happening this season. Newton has never played a backup role as a pro, so it would be interesting to see how the Patriots would proceed if Jones beats him out. If Jones does end up winning the job, Belichick giving Newton a choice to either stay with the Patriots or be released would not surprise Reiss. New England re-signed Brian Hoyer this offseason and has Jarrett Stidham on its roster.

Here is the latest quarterback news from around the league:

  • The Cowboys are being cautious with Dak Prescott‘s injured shoulder, but good news continues to emerge on the sixth-year quarterback. After a strange update by the Cowboys’ Twitter account indicated Prescott would undergo a second MRI, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes that exam took place Saturday and revealed progress. Dak’s ailing shoulder is healing on schedule (Twitter link). Prescott threw before the Cowboys’ second preseason game this weekend and experienced no pain in doing so, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (video link). Prescott is likely to return to practice this week, and Rapoport notes playing in one preseason game is on the table. It does not appear, at this point, Cowboys fans should be concerned about Dak missing Week 1.
  • Kyle Shanahan said recently Josh Rosen was trending downward. The former top-10 pick, who is vying for the 49ers‘ third-string job, took a couple of steps back in recent practices, per Shanahan (via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch). In Rosen’s preseason debut with the team, he completed 10 of 15 passes for 93 yards but threw an interception. When asked postgame about Shanahan’s critique, Rosen said he does not receive many practice reps in the first place, per Branch, who adds it is unlikely Rosen gained ground in his competition with Nate Sudfeld to make the team’s 53-man roster. Sudfeld did not play in the 49ers’ preseason opener. The 49ers keeping both, with the competition’s loser on the practice squad, is in play. But Rosen losing this battle would represent another setback in a pro career filled with them.
  • As you’ve surely heard in recent years, Tom Brady wants to play until age 45. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer recently signed a Buccaneers extension that runs through 2022, and longtime trainer Alex Guerrero said during an appearance on the Adam Schefter Podcast (via Boston.com) his client should not be expected to retire after this season. Guerrero said Brady playing beyond 2022 would not surprise. Brady has kept this door open, though the 44-year-old quarterback has not committed to playing beyond next season.

NFC East Notes: Dak, Gregory, WFT, Eagles

The Cowboys went through three offseasons of Dak Prescott negotiations, finally bringing an end to the saga with a monster four-year, $160MM extension for the Pro Bowl quarterback. This drawn-out process ended benefiting Prescott considerably, given his value when the first round of negotiations began in 2019. Dak is now one of the league’s two $40MM-per-year players, joining Patrick Mahomes, and the sixth-year Dallas quarterback cannot be franchise-tagged after this extension expires. When addressing his top regret during his time as the team’s executive vice president, Stephen Jones said he “probably would have signed Dak the first time around; it would have been better for everybody,” via Pat Doney of NBC 5. The negotiations, which began in April 2019, led to a 2020 franchise tag and the QB’s price rising to the point he inked one of the most player-friendly deals in NFL history this past March. The Cowboys still have their fourth-round find locked up long-term, however. They just took a more difficult route to get here.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Randy Gregory has moved into position to be a full-time starter for the first time, being set to play opposite DeMarcus Lawrence on a regular basis this season. The Cowboys’ oft-suspended pass rusher alluded to then-defensive coordinator Mike Nolan preferring Aldon Smith due to “favoritism.” “I felt there was a little bit of favoritism going on … refusing to let me outshine their favorite,” Gregory said in a lengthy story by The Athletic’s Dan Pompei (subscription required). “They knew I could do it, so they did what they could to keep me at bay. I had my times when I was angry. … I truly felt I got robbed of a year last year.” The NFL reinstated Gregory in late October last year. Smith, who started 16 games after making his own comeback from suspension, is now a Seahawk. New DC Dan Quinn said, via Pompei, he was surprised Gregory (27.1 defensive snaps per game in 2020) did not play more in 2020 and added that the embattled defensive end will indeed see more time this season.
  • The Washington Football Team will unveil its next nickname in 2022. That new identity will not be the Warriors, according to team president Jason Wright, who notes discussions the team held revealed “deep-seated discomfort” with that potential moniker. Regardless of what the new name ends up being, the franchise will still use its burgundy-and-gold color scheme.
  • Lane Johnson and Derek Barnett‘s restructures created a sizable chunk of cap space for the Eagles. They now have an additional $14MM in cap space, according to Yates (via Twitter). They are up past $16MM, per OverTheCap. Following the Saints’ lead, the Eagles spread out Barnett’s 2021 fifth-year option salary onto future caps by using void years. Barnett’s base salary is now $990K, with the void years stretching through 2025. The Eagles also used void years in Johnson’s restructure, spreading out the right tackle’s cap hit through 2028. He is on Philly’s books for just a $1.1MM base salary this season.

Dak Prescott Expected To Participate In OTAs, Be Cleared For Training Camp

The second ankle surgery Dak Prescott underwent in December injected a bit of uncertainty into the Cowboys quarterback’s return timetable, but this year continues to unfold smoothly for the sixth-year veteran.

Two months after signing a monster extension, Prescott is expected to participate in the Cowboys’ OTA sessions, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. While Mike McCarthy said Prescott will likely be restricted to individual work during Dallas’ OTAs, the second-year coach expects his quarterback to be full go come training camp.

I have no reason not to think that,” McCarthy said of Prescott receiving full clearance by training camp, via Hill. “I think this week in Phase 2 (of the offseason program) will be a nice step in that direction. He’ll do most things. He’s really had some excellent workouts here in the last couple weeks. I’d see him doing most of the work.”

This certainly represents good news for a Cowboys team now fully committed to the former Offensive Rookie of the Year. The soon-to-be 28-year-old passer’s recovery timetable was to be between four and six months, and Hill notes the December cleanup procedure is not believed to have delayed the recovery process. The Cowboys begin Phase 2 of their offseason program Monday. Phase 3, the OTA portion, begins May 24.

The 2020 Cowboys certainly missed their starter during the final three quarters of the season, after Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle last October. From 2016-19, Dak did not miss a game and established himself as the Cowboys’ franchise QB. The Cowboys let Andy Dalton walk in free agency and did not replace him with a veteran.

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This Date In Transactions History: Cowboys Release Tony Romo

Four years ago today, the Cowboys released longtime quarterback Tony Romo. At least, that’s how the official record reads. Romo — who had ceded the starting job to rookie Dak Prescott in 2016 — retired in order to begin his broadcasting career. 

We wish Tony and his family nothing but the best,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. “As an organization, we did what he asked us to do in terms of his release, and we wanted to do what was ultimately in his best interest and in the best interest of his family. Tony has been a wonderful representative of the Cowboys organization for 14 years, and he left everything he had on the field. He will leave us with many great memories and a legacy of being, truly, one of the greatest players in Cowboys history. We are thrilled for him and his family that he will be able to continue working as a professional in the game he so dearly loves. He is a young man who is just getting started on a long journey in life. All the best my friend.”

Romo, who was on the verge of his 37th birthday, took over for Phil Simms at CBS. His health, he said, wouldn’t allow him to continue playing football. Still, even with his surgically-repaired back, the nature of his retirement led to lots of speculation. After the Cowboys granted his release, Romo was now free to sign with any team. At one point, he considered joining up with the Jets, but ultimately declined. Over the summer, Romo continued to leave the door open ever so slightly, saying that he wouldn’t rule out returning to the Cowboys in an emergency situation. That emergency call never came in though, and Romo has been in the booth ever since.

In effect, this all played out as a standard retirement. Romo didn’t leave the game exactly the way he wanted to, but he did complete a league-high 69.9% of his passes in 2014, his last full season. All in all, Romo collected four Pro Bowl nods over the course of his career in Dallas while earning upwards of $127MM in NFL earnings alone.


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Latest On Dak Prescott’s Cowboys Deal

The Cowboys used their franchise tag on Dak Prescott on Tuesday, but the move was procedural. Dallas did give Prescott the exclusive tag, per ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter), for the second straight year. However, the two-year saga is still ending. Prescott agreed to a four-year, $160MM extension Monday night.

This move will further protect Prescott against a future tag down the line. A third tag would bump up the quarterback’s price to an astronomical place. A third tag in 2022 would have cost the Cowboys more than $54MM. They finalized a deal Monday, rather than have his second tag price — $37.7MM — on their books going into free agency.

Players have been tagged three times before; Hall of Fame tackle Walter Jones played three seasons on the tag in the 2000s. But the system now calls for a 44% raise from the previous year’s salary. Dak’s extension contains a no-tag provision, but that applies only to this through-2024 deal. Tuesday’s second tag would make the prospect of the Cowboys tagging Prescott at the end of another contract effectively a non-starter. This will give Dak more leverage over the course of his career.

After counting $22.2MM against Dallas’ 2021 cap, Prescott will see his cap numbers spike to $33.2MM in 2022, $44.2MM in 2023 and $47.2MM in ’24, per OverTheCap. Prescott’s 2021 and ’22 base salaries ($9MM and $20MM, respectively) are fully guaranteed, with Joel Corry of CBS Sports noting the well-compensated quarterback will receive his full $66MM signing bonus — an NFL-record figure — by the end of 2021 (Twitter link).

The guaranteed base salaries and full bonus payout being due this year will give Prescott $95MM guaranteed at signing, making for another NFL record. Matt Ryan‘s $94.5MM full guarantee in 2018 previously topped that list. While Prescott’s 2023 salary ($31MM) is guaranteed for injury only, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes it will shift to a full guarantee on the fifth day of the 2022 league year. TL;DR: Prescott is now a far richer man.

Prescott’s total guarantees ($126MM) fall short of Patrick Mahomes‘ ($141MM), and the Chiefs QB still leads the football world with his $45MM-per-year average. But Prescott’s contract has now set records for signing bonus, fully guaranteed money and Year 1 payment. While Mahomes is signed through 2030, Prescott will have the opportunity to cash in again — assuming his play level does not nosedive in the early 2020s — before turning 32.

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Cowboys, Dak Prescott Agree To Extension

The Cowboys’ two-year negotiation saga with Dak Prescott is over. The team announced it has an extension agreement in place with its five-year starting quarterback.

This will prevent Dallas from having to tag Prescott for a second time, at a $37.7MM price, and give the franchise long-sought-after quarterback security. This deal comes after a few reports indicating increased optimism appeared present in Round 3 of the parties’ negotiations. Such reports turned out to be prescient.

The numbers are in. This is a major win for Prescott. Dallas’ QB1 agreed to a four-year, $160MM contract, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Dak will receive an NFL-record $126MM guaranteed, with Schefter adding that the deal will also includes a $66MM signing bonus and $75MM in Year 1 (Twitter link). The latter figures are also NFL records. This monster accord will come with a no-trade clause and will prevent the Cowboys from tagging Prescott again in 2025, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Incentives could bump the deal to $164MM.

The NFL now has two $40MM-per-year players — Prescott and Patrick Mahomes. While Mahomes’ $45MM-per-year deal is a Chiefs-friendly accord, in that it is a 10-year pact, Prescott’s tops Deshaun Watson‘s contract ($39MM AAV) in terms of traditional quarterback pacts. Prescott’s 2021 cap number will be $22.2MM, Schefter tweets. The Cowboys will use two void years to help with signing bonus proration, Schefter notes (on Twitter).

After haggling with Team Dak for nearly two years, the Cowboys made an aggressive push to finalize this deal Monday, Schefter tweets. The team became more amenable to a shorter-term Prescott pact, per Ed Werder of ESPN.com (on Twitter) this time around. The Cowboys had previously sought a five-year contract for their quarterback; that ended up prompting Prescott to play last season on the tag. The team’s newfound urgency surely stemmed from the March 9 franchise tag deadline.

Prescott, 27, became extension-eligible after the 2018 regular season ended. The former fourth-round pick and Offensive Rookie of the Year played the 2019 season on his rookie deal and played the 2020 slate on the tag. A day ahead of this year’s deadline to designate franchise players, the sides concluded this arduous process. By avoiding the $37MM-plus payment clogging up their cap, the Cowboys will have more free agency funds. It took an incredible financial commitment to do so.

When Prescott first became eligible for an extension, the NFL had not seen a player land a $35MM-AAV pact. Russell Wilson did so in April 2019. No $40MM-per-year player emerged until Mahomes’ summer 2020 extension. By moving into a third offseason of negotiations, Prescott was able to secure a tremendous agreement — compared to where these negotiations started. And he did so after suffering a brutal ankle injury last October. Prescott underwent a second surgery in December but is expected to be ready for training camp. The Cowboys’ inability to compete without Prescott last season may only have increased their QB’s leverage.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Prescott is not held in the same esteem as Mahomes or Watson. But Kirk Cousins was certainly not viewed as a top-tier quarterback when he secured a then-record $28MM-per-year contract in 2018. Cousins used the two-tag scenario to pave a path out of Washington; the Cowboys paid up to stop Prescott from following such a route.

The Cowboys must now build a competitive roster around this contract. They spent much of 2019 and ’20 authorizing extensions for core players; they now have Prescott locked down. The team will be banking on the next round of TV deals producing significant cap spikes in the near future — a matter on which Jerry Jones is well informed. That coming to pass would help the organization assemble a strong team around Prescott going forward.

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Cowboys, Dak Prescott Talks Going Well?

We heard yesterday that Dak Prescott and the Cowboys had resumed negotiations on a long-term extension with the March 9th franchise tag deadline looming. Dallas fans will be happy to know that it sounds like those negotiations are going well.

Talks are “progressing” and have been “more productive than they have been” in previous months, sources tell Calvin Watkins of The Dallas Morning News. Obviously if they can’t agree to a deal the Cowboys will tag Prescott and then they’ll have until July to work something out, but the word recently has been that Jerry Jones is hoping to wrap something up quicker than that to give the team clarity entering free agency.

Interestingly, Watkins also sheds a little more light on the second surgery Prescott had in December. That procedure was apparently to “clean up previous problems in the right ankle,” and wasn’t related to the devastating fracture he suffered in that same ankle back in Week 5.

Watkins notes that team officials say it was merely “to strengthen the ankle,” and wasn’t a setback or new injury. Additionally, he writes that Prescott is expected to be ready for training camp in July. In the report from yesterday, we heard that Prescott isn’t looking to top Patrick Mahomes, but is instead probably looking for something in the ballpark of $40MM annually.

Mahomes’ new deal gave him $45MM annually, and Deshaun Watson got around $39MM on his extension. No matter what, it looks like things are finally moving in the right direction after a long impasse.

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