Dak Prescott could play out contract year: What it means, plus five early 2025 landing spots for Cowboys QB

by 24USATVMarch 27, 2024, 4 p.m. 21
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Actions speak louder than words, they say, and the business of the NFL is no exception. Especially when it comes to quarterbacks. Take these two recent examples: The Minnesota Vikings told us they desired Kirk Cousins' return. And the Pittsburgh Steelers told us they were committed to seeing more from Kenny Pickett. But once the 2024 offseason really got underway, the Vikings let Cousins cash in elsewhere, and Pittsburgh sent Pickett packing in favor of not one but two perceived upgrades.

Now it's the Dallas Cowboys' turn. Just weeks ago, ninth-year veteran Dak Prescott all but guaranteed he'd land a new long-term deal ahead of the 2024 season: "It'll happen," he told reporters, saying "both sides understand" the importance of an extension. Apparently not. While there's a lot of time between now and September, NFL Media reported Tuesday that Prescott and the Cowboys are in fact on the same page -- except with the understanding the quarterback is on track to play out his current contract in 2024.

What does this mean? For now, nothing. Prescott is locked up through 2024, and his current deal includes a no-trade clause. CBS Sports HQ senior NFL insider Josina Anderson also reports Dallas is "not presently charting a path" to let Prescott hit the market, with intentions of hopefully resuming contract talks down the road.

But no talks are "imminent," per Anderson, and rarely are proven longtime starting quarterbacks allowed to enter a contract year; Cousins did it with Minnesota in 2023, and it's no coincidence he now wears different colors. With a no-tag clause also embedded in his current contract, Prescott is quite literally headed for 2025 free agency, with no extension offers on the table from Dallas, and no signs of any coming in the near future.

The Cowboys, at least for the time being, appear content to let Prescott do as coach Mike McCarthy (and predecessor Jason Garrett) have so often been forced to do under owner Jerry Jones: perform under the threat and/or reality of dwindling job security. So much can happen across a calendar year in the NFL. Coaches can change. Contract talks can reignite. Contenders can emerge and vanish. But in light of this latest development, it'd be foolish to discount the possibility of Prescott following in Cousins' footsteps and becoming the next big-name signal-caller to explore the open market come 2025.

If that's the case, keeping in mind that countless circumstances can change between now and then, here's a way-too-early breakdown of some potential Dak Prescott suitors, if the Pro Bowl quarterback shakes free of Dallas:

The Cardinals are publicly and financially committed to Kyler Murray, who's still just 26. But there remain real questions here: Murray has missed multiple games due to injury in three straight seasons, and even when healthy, he's struggled to make substantial leaps as a passer. What if his 2024 goes sideways? Will general manager Monti Ossenfort, who enjoyed the veteran revival of Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee, stand pat? With more than $100 million in projected 2025 salary cap space, he could afford to make a hard decision on Murray if needed, and/or outbid other clubs for a free agent of Prescott's caliber.

They would no doubt prefer to secure a future face of the franchise in the 2024 NFL Draft, but picking No. 12 overall means a trade up for a top prospect could be necessary, as coach Sean Payton recently admitted. What if that doesn't happen? Payton's track record suggests he's more comfortable with a ready-made veteran, a la Drew Brees in New Orleans, and Prescott's got the kind of pocket-managing resume that could entice the head of operations, especially if Denver is going into Year 3 of the Payton era without a defined answer under center. The club is projected to have more than $90 million in 2025 cap space.

Seattle clearly went for new backup Sam Howell because of his long-term upside, knowing incumbent No. 1 Geno Smith may or may not stick around for the long haul. GM John Schneider also isn't necessarily primed to land a top prospect in the draft picking No. 16 overall. But with neither Smith nor Howell a sure thing beyond 2024, odds are Seattle will be exploring the quarterback market again next offseason. If new coach Mike Macdonald has the defense back on track, a team-up with Prescott could be appealing to both sides, especially if weapons like DK Metcalf are still at top speed.

Matthew Stafford re-entrenched himself as a worthy starter with a resurgent 2023, but he'll be 37 after the 2024 season, and he already admitted he's pondered retirement amid an injury-riddled stage of his career. It's also a little hard to envision coach Sean McVay, another win-now leader with an admitted eye on retirement, wanting to totally rebuild the position in the event Stafford walks; hence his recent in-season reclamation projects in Baker Mayfield and Carson Wentz. Los Angeles is primed to still have young skill weapons in 2025, and a chance to be McVay's point guard could really intrigue Prescott.

No NFL team refuses to rebuild quite like the cap-manipulating Saints, and there's pressure on current quarterback Derek Carr to live up to his $150 million deal -- a contract New Orleans can dump in order to save anywhere from $11 million to $40 million after the 2024 campaign. If Carr doesn't stay put, the Saints don't exactly have a built-in successor, and regardless of the coaching staff's fate, Prescott could make sense as a proven replacement. The best part: This would represent a homecoming for Prescott, who was born and raised in the state of Louisiana, and might also prefer the NFC South's path to the playoffs.

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