Dallas Cowboys

Zeke’s holdout? Why Dak’s contract demand is now gloomiest shadow over Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott is still holding out in Cabo San Lucas threatening to miss regular season games if he doesn’t get a new deal.

But ground zero on the Cowboys’ negotiating front has shifted to the team’s training camp site in Oxnard, California, where quarterback Dak Prescott’s lofty contract demands, depending on whom you believe, have taken center stage.

Prescott has asked for an NFL record $40 million annually on a new deal, which the NFL Network reported and the Star-Telegram confirmed.

That report was shot down as false by USA Today and NBC’s Pro Football Talk.

But it all could be a matter of semantics and posturing.

Prescott didn’t ask for “a straight $40 million but that is what it could get to,” according to a source.

The source also added that it was a “pretty normal negotiating tactic, just a really big number.”

With the season drawing near, Elliott is still in Cabo and there has been no progress with Prescott or a new deal for receiver Amari Cooper.

The Star-Telegram reported in June that Prescott had asked for around $34 million. So the number could have increased.

What we do know is that the Cowboys have offered him top-five quarterback money, vice president Stephen Jones said.

So any report suggesting that he turned down $30 million annually is not surprising.

An offer of $40 million makes little sense other than possibly a sticker-shock negotiating tactic. The figure is far above the exclusive franchise quarterback value of $32.9 million if Prescott didn’t get signed and the Cowboys were forced to tag him in the offseason.

The number also blows away the recent deal signed by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who is the league’s highest paid player at $35 million annually. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is next at $34 million, followed by Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers at $33.5 million, Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz at $32 million and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan at $30 million.

Considering that the top four deals came in the last five months, including Wentz, Prescott was never going to take a $30 million deal that falls in the top five.

Prescott likely didn’t switch from a small town agent in Shreveport to Todd France of Creative Artists Agency before last season to take a below-market deal.

And he certainly isn’t going to take a back seat to Wentz, who went second overall in 2016 when Prescott went in the fourth round to the Cowboys.

Not only does Prescott have a better head-to-head record (3-1), more division titles (2-1) and more playoff wins (1-0), he has more wins (32-23), a better winning percentage (.667-.575), a better quarterback rating (96-92) and more total touchdowns (85-72) over the past three years.

Wentz has also missed eight games over the last two seasons. Prescott has started every game since 2016.

So a number they might eventually agree on is the $32 million that Wentz got or maybe a little more, which is in line with the franchise tag.

Jones has already said there is room to increase the offer from top five money ($30 million).

What is not being disputed is that Prescott deserves to be rewarded with a raise after outplaying his fourth-round contract.

Prescott earned base salaries of $450,000, $540,000 and $630,000 in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively, and is due to get $2.02 million in 2019 in the final year of his rookie deal.

But $40 million? True or not, that’s a stretch.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.