National Football League

Dak Prescott's health is improving, but will the Cowboys get their money's worth?

April 9

The Dak dance is back.

Well, not quite – but Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is back on the field throwing, marking a significant step in his journey toward recovery from the season-ending ankle injury he suffered early in the 2020 campaign.

Prescott's workout videos point to a possible return to training with the team this summer.

While Prescott was rehabbing this offseason, Dallas signed him to a massive, $160 million extension that locks him up through the 2024 season, making him the second-highest paid quarterback in league history.

Prior to being sidelined last season, Prescott was the brightest star on the Cowboys' roster, carrying Dallas with his arm and his legs while the defense struggled mightily. After the QB's exit, it was clear how much of an impact he had, as the team limped to a 6-10 record.

With his return to full strength and his blockbuster new deal, will Prescott feel the pressure to deliver this season?

Marcellus Wiley believes that with a payday of $126 million guaranteed and a record $66 million signing bonus, Prescott will not feel pressure to perform but will deal with self-imposed anxiety.

"I want to give you the contrast between pressure and anxiety … the pressure is in the pursuit of becoming something … he’s checked those boxes. Now in this moment is anxiety. Let me prove that they were right in believing in me. … The anxiety is just trying to live up to what that is, but there are no consequences."

Prescott has built himself quite the résumé as a Cowboy, despite missing most of his fifth season. He has the most passing yards (17,634) and passing touchdowns (106), as well as the highest passer rating (97.3), of any Dallas quarterback through his first five seasons with the team.

Including the postseason, Prescott boasts a 43-29 record as the Cowboys’ starter, and his win percentage of .597 ranks ninth among active QBs with at least 16 starts.

The club recognizes those wins. After Prescott inked his long-term deal, Dallas owner Jerry Jones doubled down on the massive investment in his franchise QB.

"The truth is most anything that I've ever been involved in that ended up being special, I overpaid for — every time, to the end. Anytime I've tried to get a bargain, I got just that. It was a bargain in a lot of ways and not up to standard. ... This was not a test of some sort of 'Can Dak handle it?' or something like that. That wasn't the case at all."

Despite Prescott's track record and Jones' support, Emmanuel Acho isn't sold on the idea that Prescott won't be affected by the pressure.

"Whenever you steal, there's a pressure not to get caught ... if Dak Prescott is overpaid and he underdelivers, he has that pressure to not get caught stealing. Jared Goff got caught stealing by the Rams ... he got shipped over to Detroit. Carson Wentz got caught stealing by the Eagles ... sent him over to the Colts."

There is a high turnover rate for QBs in the league, especially for Prescott's 2016 draft class.

Look no further than the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles, who both took on the largest and second-largest single-season dead cap charges in NFL history to dump franchise quarterbacks Jared Goff ($22.2 million) and Carson Wentz ($33.8 million) this offseason.

Less than three years after leading his team to a Super Bowl in 2018, Goff is in Detroit. Meanwhile, Wentz is in Indianapolis after an MVP-caliber 2017 season in which he all but dropped his team off at a Super Bowl title, with an 11-2 record and 33 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending ACL injury.

Prescott is still on the rise, though, as despite playing only five games last season, he became the first QB in NFL history to throw for at least 450 yards three times in a season, and he became the first to do so in three consecutive weeks.

Prescott has also been incredibly reliable, not missing a single NFL practice or game prior to this injury. The Cowboys went 2-3 with Prescott in 2020, scoring 32.6 points per game, and 4-7 without him, scoring 21.1 points per game.

Will Prescott's star continue to rise upon his return? Or will the pressure impact his game? Either way, the Cowboys will be interesting to watch.

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