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NFC East Notebook: The implications of Dak Prescott’s deal, Jalen Hurts as a starter and Brandon Scherff

Here are the headlines from around the division from this past week

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NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the ending of one of the biggest storylines of the NFL offseason (and the NFC East) was written this week in Dallas.

Dak Prescott’s contract has been a story since the 2019 offseason when he was playing on the final year of his rookie contract for $2 million. When both parties were unable to reach a deal last offseason and Prescott played on a $31.4 million franchise tag, the story continued. It finally ended this past Monday when Prescott and the Cowboys made a deal.

The Cowboys signed Prescott to a four-year, $160 million deal, including a record $126 million guaranteed. This number is particularly important considering Prescott is coming off a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle suffered in the Week 5 win against the New York Giants last season.

The deal is technically for six years but voids to four in order to help Dallas against the salary cap. It can be worth up to $164 million. It includes a $66 million signing bonus and $75 million in year one, the most in NFL history. The first three years average $42 million per year. Finally, the deal reportedly includes a no-trade and no tag clause.

The resounding reaction on Twitter when the details of the contract came out seemed to be a mixture of awe and respect as many praised Prescott for betting on himself and winning in the end. Prescott dismissed these notions though in a press conference Wednesday.

“If you know my story, where I am from, the support I have had, the belief that people instilled in me, no. As cliche as it is,” Prescott said. “And I will say it again, I am insulted when people say I gambled because you get out what you put into something. I have given so much and I am going to continue to give. That is how you reap the rewards.”

Prescott also gave a shoutout to his former fellow NFC East quarterback, Alex Smith.

“At that moment you are sitting there with that injury and to see somebody who has already done it and did it in worse circumstances, that allowed my mind to say, ‘I can do this. I am going to beat this. It’s just a matter of time,’” Prescott said. “I have to thank Alex, somebody who has overcome that and won comeback player of the year. Congrats to him.”

We’ll circle back to Prescott but let’s first dive into the other headlines from around the division from this past week.

Washington Football Team

While the quarterback question meanwhile remains unanswered in Washington, the team did lock in their top offensive lineman for one more year when they decided to place the franchise tag on Brandon Scherff for the second straight season.

Of course, tagging a player with two consecutive franchise tags is costly for a team. When a a player is tagged a second time, the team has to pay 120% of the previous salary. Scherff played on a $15.03 million tag last season and is therefore due about $18.04 million this season. This makes him one of the game’s highest paid guards and the fourth-highest-paid offensive lineman.

For Washington though, Scherff is worth the expense.

Seth Galina at Pro Football Focus said the following about Scherff:

“Scherff has been one of the most underrated players in the NFL since entering the league, and he’s coming off career-high marks as both a pass-blocker and a run-blocker. Overall, his 86.3 PFF grade ranked fourth among all guards in the NFL.”

Coach Ron Rivera also expressed the importance of retaining their own players in his media availability on Wednesday.

“We want to try to keep our own and we want to show the players that we want to keep our own,” Rivera said. “We have something special in terms of the players that are on this roster that...we want to be able to keep them around.”

As the Football Team continues its QB search, having a guard like Scherff should only make them a more attractive place to play.

Philadelphia Eagles

While news heated up for many teams this past week in anticipation of the franchise tag deadline, Philly remained quiet. No tags, just an ordinary week of more quarterback speculation.

In a new report this week, it was revealed that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie wants Philly’s starting quarterback to be Jalen Hurts in 2021. Here is a snippet of what Chris Mortensen said on a recent ESPN appearance.

“Yes, Jalen Hurts is the guy. Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Eagles, has basically sent the message to his personnel department and Howie Roseman that he wants to do everything he can to help Jalen Hurts be successful and NOT bring in somebody to compete for the job.”

According to this report, Lurie does not want Hurts to even have competition for the starting job. Of course, this could be a smoke screen as teams often try to keep their quarterback situation as murky as possible until the last possible moment. But if this is in fact what Lurie wants, it’s hard to imagine anything different happening. Remember Lurie was the one who was originally in favor of drafting Hurts in the 2020 NFL Draft. If Nick Sirianni wants a different QB, he does not have much of a leg to stand on in his first year as the head coach.

Dallas Cowboys

Back to Prescott. Now that the deal is done and Prescott will spend the next four years in Dallas, what does it mean for the franchise going forward?

Three words: Super Bowl victory. Or at least, that is what the Cowboys hope it means.

“That’s my plan, get a parade in Dallas,” Prescott said Wednesday. “As a competitor, you watch people celebrate, you watch people do what you want to do and there’s not too many more things that light a fire under you than somebody having what you want. And every year we’re not in the playoffs, or we didn’t make that run, that’s just more fire to it.”

Anyone skeptical of how Prescott’s rehab is progressing and unsure of his ability to lead a playoff run can make a judgment for themselves:

Prescott insisted that he is healthy and that he will “be ready when it matters.” Though Prescott is not the important player on the Cowboys, he is effectively the centerpiece. The Cowboys have missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons. They have not reached the Super Bowl in 25 years.

Already, Prescott’s return elevates the NFC East beyond what it was last season. While each of the four teams were almost equally bad, Dallas has already established itself as a standout in the chase for the division title in 2021.