Why Jerry Jones is true that Dak Prescott’s contract limits free agent signings

After two-straight 12-5 seasons and earlier playoff exits than anticipated, the Dallas Cowboys will as soon as once more attempt to determine what must be completed to assist this staff attain the following degree. With a protection that has transitioned into among the finest within the league (ranked second in DVOA behind San Francisco), all eyes will probably be on the offseason. We’ll maintain our breath ready for the Cowboys to make the precise changes on offense. In a approach, your complete barometer of the 2023 offseasons hinges on one all-important query, will they add one other playmaker to this offense?

In the event that they do, Cowboys followers will rejoice as the arrogance on this staff will rise. If not, then it’s one other lengthy offseason crammed with heavy scrutiny surrounded by narratives that the entrance workplace will not be doing sufficient to assist their franchise quarterback. And already, the indecisiveness is beginning because it’s unclear if a giant playmaker is coming. On one hand, you will have stories that the Cowboys are focused on making an impactful addition to the offense, after which then again you will have stories that the Cowboys are literally not working on something “big” and going about their normal offseason rigmarole of constructing by the draft and uninspiring free agent signings.

So, which is it?

Truthfully, it appears like we already know the reply to this query. The Cowboys haven’t solely been clear about their lack of want to make large splashes in free company, however they’ve additionally been fairly constant. Because the saying goes, the proof is within the pudding, and the Cowboys simply haven’t been large gamers on the subject of outdoors free brokers. Whereas some followers hope that this offseason will probably be completely different, it’s by no means been extra obvious that it received’t. And Jerry Jones has made it completely clear as to why that’s.

Jerry Jones flat-out stated the Cowboys aren’t in a position to encompass Dak Prescott with the identical instruments he as soon as had earlier in his profession. The explanation for that is simple arithmetic. Throughout Prescott’s rookie deal, his wage accounted for a fraction of a % of the staff’s complete wage cap. Over the previous two years, that proportion has gone as much as 8%. It is going to be 22% of the staff’s cap house this upcoming season. Paying a quarterback some huge cash means there isn’t as a lot cash to go round for different gamers. And whereas the wage cap is fluid and gives flexibility, the Cowboys have proven some degree of self-discipline to not utterly mortgage their future to gamble on short-term success.

Jones’ feedback indicating that they received’t be capable to give Prescott the assistance he as soon as had received us pondering. Simply how a lot of a distinction within the cap house are they compelled to work round, and what is going to the drop off in contribution of the supporting solid seem like?


First, let’s check out the cash. Because the wage cap modifications yearly, we’ll do our comparability when it comes to the proportion of the cap {that a} participant takes up in a given yr. all the principle parts of the offense (2 RBs, 4 WRs, 2 TEs, and 6 OLs), right here’s how the cap sources have been divvied up since Prescott entered the league (Observe: 2020 is omitted from this evaluation since Dak was out for almost all of the yr).

What does it imply?

Outdoors of the full improve we see from Prescott’s bigger wage, we additionally see a few knowledge factors that affirm what we already know. First, the cap house allotted to the working again place jumps up due to how a lot the staff is paying Ezekiel Elliott. Conversely, the staff noticed a drop within the proportion of cap house allotted to huge receivers. Final yr’s complete of 4.8% is comparable to a different low proportion season in 2018. Not surprisingly, these years replicate the post-Dez Bryant and the post-Amari Cooper seasons when the staff moved on from their bigger cap hits and tried to complement the receiving recreation elsewhere.

This additionally confirms what Jerry Jones stated in that the staff isn’t spending as a lot on Dak’s supporting solid as they had been earlier than. This price has dropped about 5% because the final yr of Prescott’s rookie deal in 2019. And with Prescott’s cap hit rising much more this upcoming season, the pie for the supporting solid ought to proceed to shrink.


Now that we all know how the cap sources are being unfold round, how does that have an effect on the outcomes on the sector? To assist perceive this higher, we will probably be utilizing two metrics. The primary would be the approximate worth rating awarded by Pro Football Reference so we will get a way of the person contributions from every participant in addition to the full from their respective place group. We are going to complete up the rating for all of Prescott’s key supporting castmates for annually (once more, excluding 2020).

We will even have a look at offensive DVOA offered by Football Outsiders to gauge a staff’s general efficiency for that season. We’ve included each passing and speeding DVOA scores so we will see the affect of every ingredient of the offense.

What does it imply?

It ought to come as no large shock that when Prescott has expertise round him, the offense hums. Twice throughout his profession, he’s had a complete supporting AV contribution above 100 and in each cases, the Cowboys had been within the high three in complete DVOA and high 5 in each speeding and passing. And when he had the bottom quantity of assist through the 2018 season, the staff was within the backside half of all of the DVOA offensive classes.

From a person contribution perspective, the Cowboys are getting barely much less from the supporting solid than they had been in 2019, but it surely’s not an enormous disparity. The Cowboys’ offensive line has dropped in recent times with out Travis Frederick and the shortage of availability of Tyron Smith, however outdoors of that, there hasn’t been an enormous shift in contribution. What has dipped with Zeke has been changed with Tony Pollard and the excellent play of CeeDee Lamb has helped offset the general capacity of the huge receiver group.

Trying forward, there are causes to be hopeful and anxious. Prescott’s cap hit is one thing they should work with they usually have already got their backs in opposition to the wall. Let’s hypothesize a 2023 outlook that speculates the staff will franchise tag Pollard, place a second-round tender on Terence Steele, and for the sake of releasing up extra money, outright launch Zeke. If these issues are completed, the Cowboys’ cap allocation on offense seems to be a bit like this…

This places their cap allocation with out Dak on the similar quantity it’s been over the previous two years. And that is with none large difference-making addition in free company. Whenever you then think about Prescott’s cap hit, the quantity they should work with is considerably much less.

Now, granted, there’s some wiggle room right here. Prescott will nearly actually see his cap hit decreased by advantage of an extension or restructure, and the staff may match a decreased base wage take care of Tyron Smith to liberate a bit of extra space. Moreover, Zack Martin’s contract can be restructured in the event that they wish to push a few of his base wage into the longer term.

In all, there are methods to liberate some cap house, but it surely nonetheless doesn’t go away a lot room so as to add splashy free brokers to spruce up the offense. The excellent news is that they’ll nonetheless have Pollard and Lamb on this staff, so that they don’t want a significant overhaul. Only a slight enchancment with the huge receiver group can bump their 97 AV rating over 100 and presumably get that offensive DVOA within the high 5 once more.

So, mood your expectations in case you’re hoping for a giant OBJ-type transfer, however on the similar time, relaxation simple realizing the staff doesn’t require a giant shake-up to get their offense again on monitor.

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