In August 2017, Matthew Stafford signed a five-year deal for $135 million, becoming the NFL’s highest-paid player. In the four years leading up to signing that deal, he threw for 17,496 yards, 107 touchdowns and 54 interceptions, good enough for a completion percentage of 63 and a quarterback rating of 89.9.
This came shortly after Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million contract, making him the NFL’s highest paid quarterback, and, by extension, its highest-paid player. At that point, he played in 47 career games, amassed a 60.9 completion percentage, threw for 11,194 yards, 81 touchdowns and 31 interceptions and averaged a quarterback rating in the high 80s.
That was right after Andrew Luck became the NFL’s highest paid quarterback after 55 career games, in which he threw for 14,838 yards, 101 touchdowns and 55 interceptions, for a 58.1 completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 85.
Cowboys starter Dak Prescott is up for a deal now, and in three years as a starter, he has put up 10,876 yards, 67 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. His average quarterback rating? 96. Not to anger those who are religiously opposed to including a quarterback’s win total in this same breath, but Dallas has two seasons of 10-plus wins and one 9–7 season in those years (and two playoff berths). It is not all because of Prescott, but it was certainly a higher plateau they would have reached with either Connor Cook or Paxton Lynch.
The point I’m trying to make here is that, if you’re a quarterback in the neighborhood statistically—if you’re one of those guys—you reset the market when you sign a new deal. That’s how quarterback contracts work. That’s how the system runs, unless you’re the Eagles and Carson Wentz and you squeeze a guy looking for long-term security who is coming off two season-ending injuries. Jimmy Garoppolo also jumped the market after seven career starts, 2,250 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. So why are we all of a sudden expecting Prescott to take a discount? Right now, the market is $35 million APY, with between 76% and 84% guaranteed. He needs to be there, too. He shouldn’t take $30 million. Asking for $40, even if that report has widely been shot down, would not have been outrageous for anyone entering the bargaining table.
The rhetoric surrounding Prescott coming out of Cowboys camp is laughable. Like they’re doing with Ezekiel Elliott, the Joneses seem to be innocently pinning their two young stars as greedy and selfish, dangling them out as shark bait for their These Guys Get Paid Millions To Play Why Aren’t They Out There fan base. I thought Adam Lefkoe of Bleacher Report summed it up well. It’s intentional. It feels like selectively bad politics, and its not helping the coaching staff maximize the end of what seems to be a championship caliber window with their best players.
— SPORTS ILLUSTRATED