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Whitlock: Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s $160 million contract will earn him a bad rap

Op-ed
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The list of accomplished quarterbacks with contracts inferior to Dak Prescott's is long.

Tom Brady and his seven Super Bowl titles are on the list. So are Aaron Rodgers and his three MVP trophies. Add Ben Roethlisberger and his two Super Bowl rings. Russell Wilson is on the list. Matt Ryan and his MVP trophy are there, too.

In five NFL seasons, Dak Prescott won a playoff game once, beating the Seahawks in a wild-card game three years ago. That completes his list of amazing accomplishments and justifies his status as the third highest-paid player in the league. Only Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes ($45 million) and Buffalo QB Josh Allen ($43 million) earn more than the $40 million average the Cowboys will pay Prescott over the next four seasons.

When the Cowboys kick off the NFL season tonight facing Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Prescott will walk out of the locker room feeling the full weight of a contract that says he can single-handedly turn a loss into a victory.

But can he? Does anyone really believe Dak Prescott is as potent a force as Mahomes, Rodgers, Brady, Wilson, or even Josh Allen?

No one believes that. Nor should they. Prescott is a solid franchise quarterback playing for an owner desperate to prove his former coach wasn't the brains behind the Cowboys' 1990s dynasty. Prescott is overpaid because Jerry Jones is still locked in a feud with Jimmy Johnson.

Desperation compromises decision-making. It turns hoes into housewives, reality TV stars and dementia patients into presidents, and average quarterbacks into lottery winners. This past off-season, Prescott hit the jackpot, baiting Jones into a $160 million contract for production that warranted half of that.

I'm not mad at Dak. He and his agent Todd France should be congratulated for playing Jones like turntables at an old-school rap concert. DTMD, aka Dak and Todd Making Dollars, kept it strictly business, completed unfinished business, conducted business as usual, remembered that business is never personal, and now they're back in business.

I hope you caught my reference to the first five albums of the iconic rap 1980s group EPMD. If not, you get the bozack.

Let me get back to Dak.

He's going to learn that life as a $40 million quarterback is more difficult than life as the underdog overachiever. The 2016 fourth-round draft pick was a feel-good story when as a rookie he replaced an injured Tony Romo and led the Cowboys to a 13-3 season. Everybody loved Dak's underdog story. And for the next four years, the media rooted for Dak to become the next Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, or Joe Montana, late-round quarterbacks who became superstars.

Instead, Dak has more in common with Kirk Cousins, Matt Hasselbeck, and Mark Brunell, late-round quarterbacks who are or were solid NFL starters.

Dak is no longer being paid to be solid. His contract demands that he be great. Happiness is based on expectations. The same people who have been satisfied with Dak's solid performance will now be disappointed when the third highest-paid player remains a solid quarterback. The list of disappointed people will include Dak's 52 teammates.

Excuse another rap analogy, but Prescott will be known this year as the Notorious DAK — mo' money, mo' problems. You're nobody until your teammates kill you.

Starting tonight against the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, Dak's teammates will expect him to be worth an additional touchdown. Aaron Rodgers is going to make $33 million this season. His Packers teammates believe he's worth every dime because they believe he's a touchdown better than every quarterback not named Mahomes, Brady, or Wilson.

Do the Cowboys believe that about Dak?

Everybody always wants more money. Few people want or can deal with the extra responsibility that goes along with more money. Most people make excuses. Most people collapse beneath the weight of heightened expectations.

Oh, they have occasional moments of greatness. But the day-to-day grind of greatness eventually grinds them out.

That's what I expect to happen to Dak over the next two seasons. Forty million dollars is too much weight for Dak. His teammates will be the first to see it. Initially they'll grab the bar and help him lift the weight. It won't take long for their agents, friends, wives, and girlfriends to say: "Why you helping him all the time? He's supposed to be helping you. He's making $40 million."

Once that happens, the feel-good story will disappear. NFL reporters won't be able to ignore the whispers among agents and Dak's teammates that the Cowboys employ an overpaid quarterback. Because of the salary cap, being an overpaid player is far worse than being a bad player. You can bench a bad player. An overpaid teammate costs you money.

Dak Prescott would be a far better quarterback if he had the same contract as Tom Brady. Brady is worth whatever he demands. He's on a two-year deal that will pay him $50 million.

In order for Dak to win in the postseason, Dallas needs a defense that equals its offense. The Cowboys don't have that. Can't afford it. To win consistently, they're going to have to score 30 points per game.

That pressure is going to crush Dak Prescott.
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