Shortly after Dak Prescott's sensational rookie season, amid the hoopla of owner Jerry Jones being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Dallas Cowboys brass gleefully resigned themselves to the fact they would one day make a neophyte quarterback the highest paid player in the NFL.
It made sense, considering the excitement surrounding his historic play and the team's 13-3 record. The position he played and the presumed improvement and success going forward would warrant as much.
Well, the future is fast approaching.
The decision might not be such a slam dunk anymore, given Prescott's and the Cowboys' struggles in 2017. But the reality remains the same.
The Cowboys have not only not wavered in their belief that Prescott is their franchise quarterback for the future, but they have doubled down by trying to make changes to the offense to make it more “Prescott friendly”.
If things work out like they hope, the result should take Prescott from the biggest bargain in the NFL to the richest player sometime after the 2018 season.
The numbers are already out there, thanks to the $137 million contract extension signed by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo last week. That deal will soon be surpassed by former Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins on the free agent market and then topped again by expected new deals for Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers.
And of course, that is not even considering what a one-year wonder such as Minnesota's Case Keenum might receive.
For Prescott, all it means is cha-ching.
As a fourth-round pick in 2016, Prescott signed a four-year deal for $2.723 million with a $383,393 signing bonus. His base salary in 2018 is $630,000 and he'll count $725,848 against the cap.
No matter what you think about his accuracy and struggles in 2017, there is no denying he was the biggest bargain in the NFL.
That bargain has an expiration date.
Prescott is signed through 2019, but he can be signed to a new deal after his third full season, which is the end of 2018. He has a $720,000 base salary for 2019. There is little chance he plays for that.
It’s the same route that Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson took after becoming a superstar and surpassing the draft status of an overlooked third-round pick in 2012. He signed a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension before the 2015 season, making Wilson the second-highest-paid player in NFL history at the time.
But there is a huge difference between playing in Seattle and playing for America's Team.
Nobody in the NFL signed more marketing deals since the end of the 2016 season than Prescott. His list of endorsements include: New Era caps, Beats by Dre headphones, Campbell's Chunky Soup, Tostitos tortilla chips, Pepsi, 7-Eleven, it's Nicholas Air, DirecTV, Panini America, Addidas and Dannon Yogurt.
His off-field salary was five times what he made on the field in 2017. Per NFLPA records, he led the NFL in jersey sales from March 1 to Nov. 30, 2017.
Again, that's money for Prescott, but it's also money and cache for the Cowboys.
Earning status as the highest paid player in the NFL is not about being the best player, it's about the timing of the deal.
The timing couldn't be better, considering what Garoppolo got and the expected quarterback deals to come.