It's been the summer of scratch for the Dallas Cowboys.
Young outside linebacker Jaylon Smith got a fat extension. Then star tailback Ezekiel Elliott's holdout culminated in a contract that made him the highest-paid running back in the NFL.
That leaves wide receiver Amari Cooper and quarterback Dak Prescott as the next men up at Jerry Jones' ATM. There have already been rumblings that the Cowboys are nearing agreement on a pact with Prescott that would dwarf the contracts handed to Smith and Elliott.
And given how Prescott looked in a season-opening 35-17 win over the rival New York Giants, you're going to be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't think the 26-year-old is worth it.
As Michael Gehlken reported for the Dallas Morning News, veteran tight end Jason Witten indicated Prescott has been all business despite the contract talks swirling around him:
"I just think he's gone to another level with his game. As a leader, he's the hardest-working guy on the team. He's here early. He stays late. He's got personal relationships with everyone on the team. The line of scrimmage, communication, understanding what the defense is trying to do and what our plan is to do against that, everything is just at a higher, higher level.
"Amidst all of the contract [talk], the guy comes ready every single day. Just tremendous growth. I mean, he is the leader of this football team. Ask any guy in this locker room. They'd run through a wall for him."
Prescott was certainly all business against the Giants.
It didn't take the quarterback long to get going. With the Cowboys trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, he found a wide-open Blake Jarwin for a 28-yard score that knotted things up:
He was only getting started.
In the second quarter, Prescott threw two more scoring strikes. First came a short pass to venerable tight end Jason Witten and then a gorgeous fade to Cooper:
Per Fox Sports, Prescott had never thrown for 200 yards in a half entering Sunday's game. He had 256 in the first 30 minutes against New York.
Again, he was only getting started.
Prescott continued shredding the Giants secondary in the second half. By the time he connected with veteran newcomer Randall Cobb for his fourth touchdown pass of the game, the Cowboys were in complete control:
And Prescott was having the best game of his career.
His final line was as good as you can ask from a quarterback: 25-of-32 for 405 yards (the second-most of his career) with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. During a game in which Elliott had just 13 carries and the Cowboys' usually potent ground game averaged just three yards per rush, he carried the offense and led his team to victory.
That it came against a Giants secondary that would struggle to cover a bed with a sheet doesn't take away from just how brutally efficient he was. It was an evisceration by Prescott that effectively put to rest any debate over whether or not he deserves a mega-deal that will make him one of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks.
It was a silly debate, anyway. The reality of life in today's NFL is that if you have a young franchise quarterback, you pay him. We just saw Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams get over $100 million in guaranteed money. Jacoby Brissett got $15 million per season from the Indianapolis Colts, and he was holding a clipboard behind Andrew Luck a month ago.
Prescott is a better quarterback than Brissett ever thought about being. And while he doesn't often get mentioned among the upper echelon of signal-callers, you can make a fairly compelling argument that he's every bit the player Goff is—and quite possibly better.
Yes, Prescott has the luxury of having one of the NFL's best tailbacks and stouter offensive lines at his disposal. But so does Goff. And in any event, Prescott is hardly some "game manager" who just takes two steps back and hands the rock to Zeke.
Since Goff just signed his own extension and entered the pros the same year as Prescott and Carson Wentz, who has also been re-upped on a massive deal, let's do a little comparison shopping.
Of the trio, Prescott admittedly has the lowest passing yards per game at 230.2. But that's only about 25 yards per game fewer than Wentz and Goff. His 7.5 yards per attempt are actually higher than Wentz, who has averaged an even seven.
Prescott has the highest completion percentage of the threesome at 66.4. His plus-46 touchdown-to-interception differential and passer rating of 96.0 (heading into Sunday) are also the highest of the lot. So is his .673 winning percentage as the starter for the Cowboys.
Mind you, Prescott did all this with (for most of the last three years) the weakest group of pass-catching talent of the bunch, and he's the only member of the Three Amithrows (come on, that's clever) who has started all 49 games for his team over that span.
Now, with Cooper and youngster Michael Gallup in Dallas, he has his best arsenal of passing-game weaponry yet, and it showed Sunday against the Giants.
As ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote earlier Sunday, Prescott is reportedly in no huge rush to get a deal done. He has taken out a large insurance policy against a significant injury, and he's reportedly secured endorsement deals valued at upwards of $50 million.
That's a lot of Chunky soup.
However, it might make sense for Jones to crack open the checkbook and get a deal done sooner. There's no question that Prescott, as one of the better young passers in the game, has earned a deal that will pay him well over $30 million per season.
And given the tomato cans the Cowboys face over the next two weeks, including a Miami team that just allowed five touchdown passes and 59 points to the Baltimore Ravens, Prescott is apt to have a few more massive games and drive the price up even more.