As the Cowboys’ playoff hopes slowly wither away, Jerry Jones remains defiant that the team’s long-term future at quarterback has already been secured.
In the hours following the Cowboys’ home loss to the Titans on Monday night, Jones didn’t just commit to coach Jason Garrett for the remainder of the season. He also committed to giving oft-maligned quarterback Dak Prescott an extension even though Prescott’s rookie deal doesn’t expire until after the 2019 season.
“Listen, Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan, via the team’s official website. “He’s young, and he’s going to get extended.”
Prescott, 25, can be extended after the season, but he still has another year to go under his rookie contract, which would pay him only $815,849 — an absolute bargain for a quarterback who’s flashed greatness, been more disappointing than great over the past season and a half, and remains a polarizing quarterback on a team that has bigger issues than their quarterback.
In 2016, Prescott played well enough in relief of Tony Romo that he stole his starting job and went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year while guiding the Cowboys to the playoffs. Over the past season and a half, Prescott — along with the rest of the Cowboys offense — has regressed. Since the beginning of last season, he’s completed 62.9 percent of his passes, averaged 6.9 yards per attempt, thrown 32 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, and generated an 87.4 passer rating. So, it’s not like Prescott has been bad. He’s been fine.
And it’s worth noting that the Cowboys haven’t provided Prescott with a friendly environment. Until massively overpaying for Amari Cooper before the trade deadline, the Cowboys’ best receiver this season was Cole Beasley, who is nothing more than a better-than-average slot receiver. The play-calling remains predictable and awful — with Monday night’s game serving as yet another example of the Cowboys’ insistence on running the ball on early downs to set up third-and-longs and their refusal to help Prescott by calling for zone-read type of plays with Ezekiel Elliott.
That doesn’t mean Prescott is blameless in his stalled development — with Monday night’s game also serving as a perfect example. Prescott played relatively well, but his two turnovers, including an interception in the end zone that let the Titans back into the game, doomed the Cowboys.
All of this is just a long-winded way of saying, the Cowboys have problems unrelated to Prescott and Prescott isn’t a sure thing. That’s what makes it unnecessary for the Cowboys to already commit to Prescott. The Cowboys could get another look at Prescott for less than a million bucks next season instead of already giving him a long-term extension. If he submits another uneven season, they can just franchise tag him to get another season out of him without committing to him for the long-term. But the Cowboys, based on Jones’ comments, appear to be willing to skip that step and rush straight to a long-term, pricey contract.
Under his current contract, Prescott is an absolute bargain. But if the Cowboys pay him big money and he maintains his decent but not great level of play, he’ll lose all his value.
The Cowboys do have a ton of cap space, but with Prescott, Zeke, and Cooper needing extensions in the near future, they’ll be forced to pay up if they want to keep this core around. If the Cowboys do commit to Prescott, they need to figure out a way to build an offense that plays to his strengths. That would probably involve a philosophical change, which would likely involve a coaching change — something that Jones hasn’t been willing to do for the past couple seasons.
The point being, the Cowboys have long-term questions that need to be answered. That much is clear. It’s just not clear if the person answering those questions is fit to do so.
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